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Central Illinois rockers Hotter Than June is back, planning a new album that's 15 years in the making

Close-up vertical black and white headshots of five band members are spliced together side-by-side
Hotter Than June
Hotter Than June got back together last summer, after breaking up in 2008. Now, they write, record, mix and master music as a completely virtual, asynchronous band. They haven't even gotten together for a new photo — using Photoshop to create new imagery to promote the band.

When Kankakee-area rock band Hotter Than June formed in 2005, they found early and fast success in central Illinois' music scene.

Three years later, the band had broken up. They moved on, put down roots and had families. Lead singer/songwriter Josh Humphries moved back home to the Twin Cities, where he’s raising his family and working full-time as a claims adjuster for an insurance company.

Humphries kept writing songs, but it wasn’t the same. Last summer, Hotter Than June got back together and they're quickly churning out new songs and finishing the ones Humphries had collected in notebooks for more than a decade.

“I don’t know if I was the one who started the apology train or somebody else started it, but I definitely was like, hey, look, I was a jerk back then,” Humphries said in an interview. “I wasn’t expecting anything back in return but then everybody kind of jumped on that train.”

The rest of the band still lives near Kankakee. One is in law enforcement, two work for a sound company and one is a maintenance technician at a pharmaceutical company. Ice broken, the guys started communicating through group text (which, of course, wasn’t a thing when they broke up in 2008).

“And then I was like, man, with technology the way that it is now, we could be a band again,” Humphries said.

Hotter Than June put out two new singles this summer and is now gearing up for their first album release in 15 years — without ever having one band practice or studio session. The revival looks and sounds different than those 20-somethings playing in a garage band. As an entirely DIY, virtual band, they write, mix and master songs through group text and Google Drive.

It's not about fame

People have asked them if getting back together is about trying to get famous. “That was our goal back then,” Humphries said. “We wanted to quit our day jobs. We wanted to be rock stars.”

That’s not really the goal anymore; they just want to make music.

“Art is meant to be shared,” said Humphries. “Whenever you’re writing and recording and you’re spending all this time getting it perfect — it’s kind of like if you had this painting you were really proud of, you would want to show it to your family and friends and neighbors. We have technology today where that’s possible. Instead of knocking on my neighbor’s door, I can send it to him in a text. We don’t care if we get millions of streams. I’m totally fine just being a local central Illinois band. But I want people in central Illinois to hear our music.”

Humphries is getting out to play shows again, too. He’s scheduled for a couple of acoustic sets with Marcos Mendez on Saturday at Station Saloon and Oct. 7 at Nightshop. But don’t expect the full band to play concerts any time soon; they are perfectly content squeezing music into the nooks and crannies of their already full lives, each of them working at their own pace.

Those who “knew them when” will find an evolved sound from the earlier iteration of the rock band, which was deeply steeped in post-grunge emo crossed with influences like Blink-182 and Dashboard Confessional. It’s still unequivocally Hotter Than June, with Humphries’ vulnerable lyrics layered over a matured and slightly softened vibe.

The newest single, “Sweet Revenge,” draws from Humphries’ experience being sent to a mental institution as a teenager.

A dramatic account
Of traumatic events that
Led to this so called
Tough love initiative
Skeptics and scholars and even my father said
It’s what’s best for now.

But he also reflects on that event from the perspective of a parent with his own teenager — better understanding the complexity of his parents’ decision and reflected in the song’s second verse.

It's ironic how things worked out in the end
A life full of surprises that rarely make sense
A diagnosis and bottles of more medicine
It's what's best for now

“Fast forward all these years and I’m a dad,” Humphries said. “You see things a little differently. Things aren’t as simple as I thought as a teenager. That’s where that song came from. You only were seeing a piece of it, and you didn’t see the full picture.”

Stream Hotter Than June's new singles, "Glass Water Pill Swallow" and "Sweet Revenge," wherever you get your music. Josh Humphries will play solo, acoustic versions of the band’s new songs 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2 at The Station Saloon, 1611 Morrissey Dr., and 8 p.m. Oct. 7 at Nightshop, 517 N. Main St. There is a $7 cover at Nightshop.

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Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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