Tampa’s Sick Hot is a blast from the past, but in the absolute best way possible. Inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Rush, the group, comprised of Nik Wilson (guitar/vocals), Cory Bernardi (drums) and Chris Erickson (bass), is bringing back the sweet sounds of the 70’s. Chock full of screeching guitar solos and passionate vocals, Sick Hot puts modern twist on a classic sound, creating a dynamite dynamic you don’t want to miss out on. Carly recently had the chance to catch up with Nik and Cory about their latest EP, thoughts on modern rock, and plans for their dream tour with Ozzy Osbourne. Check it out below!
GMAT: It’s nice to meet you guys! So to start with a basic question -- how did Sick Hot get started?
N: I got hooked up with Cory through our manager. Cory knew Chris in high school. He came and auditioned, and just fit right in.
C: Yeah, Nik’s the oldest member of the band. There was originally a different singer, bass player, and drummer. None of them were consistent and would all constantly change. I knew Jim because he was my drum teacher for, like, three weeks. However many years later, he called me and was like, “Hey, I know a band that needs a drummer.” So I was like, “Okay, I’ll check it out.” So I came and watched them play a show, and after that, I connected with Nik because we liked a lot of the same music. Later on, our bass player at the time basically quit, and I had a friend from high school who was like the best bass player I knew. It was the perfect fit.
GMAT: That’s so cool how it fell together like that! So, when I first heard about you guys, I’ll admit that I was super excited. It was really cool to see a modern band take on this classic rock-inspired sound in their own way. Led Zeppelin is obviously a big influence on you guys, based on the covers you’ve done. Who are some of your others? What parts do you tend to pick out and incorporate into your own music?
N: Rush is a big one! They’re really technical in their parts. I like Aerosmith, and the attitude that they portrayed onstage. I also like Deep Purple a lot, and Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne -- all of those 70’s hard rock guys for sure. But also a lot of blues and other styles of music too.
C: Yeah, we all listen to, like, the same five core bands: Aerosmith and Rush and Zeppelin and all that. I particularly like prog rock bands, like Yes and early Journey. I also like some later 80’s bands. I like Living Color, especially their drummer; he’s probably the biggest influence on how I play. Me and Chris also really like funk and jazz, so a lot of the influence comes from that too. Chris especially likes psychedelic stuff and the Chili Peppers. The rhythm section both has a similar influence.
N: Me and Chris both really like Jeff Beck too, so we get that funk, jazz, and blues stuff from that as well.
GMAT: Sounds like a great mix! So, congrats on the release of your EP, Lost and Forever Gone! I heard you worked with producer Shawn Kyle on that, who's been described as a ‘local legend producer.’ What was that experience like?
N: It was cool! At first, we recorded our songs how we had them. In the studio, he saw the potential that they had, and helped us rework it a bit. It made the songs a lot better. We rewrote lyrics and parts and moved some things around. Overall, they were still the core of the original song, so he helped us with that. He really showed us how to bring a song out and how to record it properly and use the right gear. We got to use a lot of his gear which was really cool because we’re all crazy about gear and vintage stuff. It was like being a kid in a candy shop!
C: Yeah, in the original form, even the names are different now. What Shawn basically did was dissect the songs and cut down parts and help us rearrange certain aspects and make it just a more solid, coherent piece.
N: Yeah, not all over the place anymore!
GMAT: That’s interesting to hear. You capture that eclectic sound so well throughout all of your songs, like with the guitar solos in “House of Delight” and the acoustic opening in “In The End.” Are there any elements you’d like to add or explore more throughout your music moving forward?
N: On the EP, we used organs for some of the songs, which we had never done before. That was really cool, because it brought out a different sound in the songs. Next time we go into the studio, I want to experiment more with mixing and learn how to mix them on my own.
C: Yeah. I like the mix it has now, but it could have had a more raw, classic style to it. Now, it’s a bit cleaner than I think it should be. It could be a little grittier, so I definitely want to experiment with a proper tone. I’m always down to add more instruments and different sounds and qualities too!
GMAT: Those little experimentation are always super interesting to see play out. Was there anything else that you weren’t expecting to happen?
N: Yes! I didn’t know Shawn was going to pick apart the songs like that! One day, I showed up at, like, ten in the morning, and he was like, “Alright! Rewrite all these lyrics!” And I’m like, “Oh my God.” It took us, like, five hours to really write a solid thing. It’s good to have somebody to tell you that your ideas aren’t good.
C: Yeah, as a drummer, I was there the least, which kind of surprised me. We really had all of the drum sessions done on the first day, and that was it. I thought I would have more work to do than that!
GMAT: It’s nice that it was a quick take, though! So, you guys are from Florida, which has a really popping scene right now. How is the music scene in Tampa different from other parts of the state? Do you feel it has impacted your sound or your experience as a band in anyway?
N: Sick Hot is friends with a lot of the indie bands and a lot of the bands in Tampa in general, because we kind of have to play with them. Some of the bands that I went to high school with, so I’m really good friends with them. But the music scene is different, because you have all these indie bands. It’s either indie or metal, and we aren’t either of those things, so we’re kind of the oddball band.
C: Yeah, it’s really funny to go to a concert where there are a bunch of bands playing with us. 90% of the music scene is indie, and way more mellow. So you’ve got, like, two of these indie bands playing with this whole separate vibe, and then we come on and basically destroy the stage. And then another indie band comes on after us, and it’s kind of back to where we started! It’s very strange.
C: Yeah, it’s hard to find another rock band to play with us! There’s so much indie, and I have no issue with that; it’s a good genre. There’s just a lot of indie in Tampa.
GMAT: Still staying in that Tampa realm, I wanted to talk about the music video for “Lost and Forever Gone.” It has such an interesting concept, and one that I think about a lot for sure. What inspired you guys to pay tribute to the lost rock clubs around your city?
N: A couple weeks before we started shooting it, we were talking about Greta van Fleet and Rival Sons and all of these newer bands that are bringing the modern classic rock vibe back, It was kind of like having the torch passed from the older guys. I think it started out from that. Cory was kind of like, “Let’s do a tribute to all of the older bands and all of the older venues in Tampa.”
C: Yeah, it started off, aesthetically thinking, about where it would look cool to film a video. We were thinking about abandoned buildings around town that aren’t really used anymore. These abandoned venues aren’t abandoned -- they’re just repurposed. It was cool for me, research-wise, to find out where all these places used to be and how these really popular clubs are now a car dealership or a Walmart. I got really into that!
GMAT: Yeah, it’s so weird to see what time does to these places and these memories. I was curious to hear what you thought about this revival of classic rock. You mentioned Greta van Fleet, and there’s all these other bands, like the Struts and the Lemon Twigs, who are bringing this vintage 70’s sound back. How do you feel about that rise? Do you think that the spirit is being kept alive?
N: Oh, we’re all for it! Personally, I love the Lemon Twigs, like you mentioned. I love Rival Sons, and Greta van Fleet is good and the Struts are good. Cory actually drove the Struts to the Orpheum one time!
C: Yeah! The car in that one music video - I got to drive them around!
GMAT: What! That’s crazy!
N: Yeah! But we’re all for it! It’s bringing rock n’ roll back. A lot of those older bands really like them and have commented about these bands. Like, Elton John commented about the Lemon Twigs, and Robert Plant commented about Greta van Fleet. Even a band like Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown -- Brad Whitford from Aerosmith was really into them. It’s really cool that the older guys are approving of them. It’s good for us too, because we play that style of music, so hopefully it will work out with us.
C: Yeah, I think it’s good as long as it doesn’t get to the point where it’s just blatantly copying those older bands. I’m almost kind of seeing a parallel with movies and reboots and stuff like that. As long as it’s something that’s new, I’m all for that.
GMAT: Yeah, for sure! As long as it stays original, which I feel like a lot of these bands are doing a good job of. If you had the chance to follow one of those bands or artists on tour, dead or alive, who would it be?
C: Oh snap. (laughs).
N: Honestly, I would want to follow around late 70’s/early 80’s Ozzy Osbourne to see how crazy he was. I just love that man. I want to see how he was back in the day.
GMAT: He’s wild! I just saw that new Mötley Crüe movie on Netflix, and there’s this one part where he’s snorting ants off of the ground. It was crazy.
N: Oh yeah! (laughs).
C: That’s a tough question!
N: I feel like you would be more on Prince.
C: Yeah, that’s good. Any era of Prince. If I saw “Purple Rain” live, I would just cry immediately.
GMAT: Those are some solid answers! So, what can fans of Sick Hot expect in the future? Is there anything that you’re looking forward to coming up soon?
N: We were talking about recording a couple of new singles and releasing them maybe a month apart. Just do that while we’re working on another EP or something like that -- something bigger.
C: New material is always on our minds! We’re always trying to get out as much as we can within an agreeable amount of time, while keeping a consistent flow. We’re also supposed to be going on a tour of the East Coast in a couple of months. It hasn’t been solidified yet, but it’s in the works.
N: Yeah, we’re planning on late July/early August. We’ll probably go to Nashville and back. That’s where we’re trying to get right now.
GMAT: Those are all great things to plan for! Lastly, is there anything else that you would like us to know?
N: If you want to find out more about our band and what we’re up to, follow all of our social media, which is @sickhotband. That’d be great! We’re also in a 97X contest right now, so go vote! That’s on our social media too.
C: Yeah, our primary thing is Instagram, so any announcement or any show or basically anything we do is up on there!
Keep in touch with Sick Hot on social media!
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