Armed with the prowess of longtime alt-country storytellers and a heartland rock style built over years on the road, Tallahassee band Whiskey in the Pines is entering into the latest chapter of their careers with their new track, “Hotel Bar.” To inaugurate their latest work, the band returned to a longtime fan favorite, newly pulled from the archive and reworked into a moving paean to hotel bars across the country.
The track came about as a combination of, “Mexican food, copious amounts of alcohol and perhaps a little magic,” as frontman and songwriter David Lareau describes with his characteristic self-effacing humor. Born out of reflections on life on the road, the song came to Lareau in a strike of inspiration while on vacation. Sitting at an Orlando hotel bar, fragments of lyrics came together in his head and were quickly transferred onto a nearby bar napkin. There they sat until Lareau, fresh off the night shift, stumbled into the song’s Rolling Stones tuning at his home studio. With the assistance of a little whiskey and a spliff, he began piecing the track together.
As Lareau describes, he’s “a rock n’ roll kid that ended up writing singer-songwriter songs.” After signing his first record deal at 19, he’s spent over two decades crafting music to move you, paired with a rebel core. Few better descriptors apply to “Hotel Bar,” with its dogged tales from the road and its lonely lyricism. Over forlorn fingerpicked guitar, Lareau tributes hotel bars and their solitary occupants, finding beauty in his fellow lonely faces. Lareau himself is far from alone, though; backed by Kelly Chavers on guitar, Aaron Halford on bass, and Erik Wutz on drums, the band builds into an emotive climax as they pose a simple question: “How does it feel when you’re away and on your own?”
“The lyrics essentially tell the true story of my life on tour; missing people back home, finding solace in the company in the hotel bar, and watching people find company in random strangers. It also shows the loneliness one can feel going to a hotel room alone when you know you could be going to bed with someone you love. To me there is something hauntingly romantic about that. I love it, and I love the hotel bar.”
Unsurprisingly, Whiskey In the Pines is intimately familiar with life on the road and the hotel bars that accompany them. Since debuting with their 2018 EP, Sunshine from the Blue Cactus, the band has shared their 2019 follow-up, Aloha Motel, a darker foil to the band’s road-worn Americana, and their latest EP, Acoustic Sessions From Gasoline Alley.
Meanwhile, the band has been steadily gaining the ears of critics and fans alike, earning acclaim from PopMatters, Americana UK, B-Sides and Badlands, and other tastemakers. All the while, Lareau has been running his own general goods store for men in Tallahassee called The Southern Pines, weathering the storms of family, finances, and, most recently, the pandemic.
Now the band is back, and they say they’re ready to “knock the dust off the boots and to strap on some new denim.” This summer Whiskey in the Pines plans to return to the studio to work on new music. Lareau says the band is ready to “continue to grow, write, record, and keep putting out music that we feel people want to hear and, obviously, drink a little whiskey.”
Frank Keith IV