No More Hiding Behind The Drum Kit: Laurie Spector Goes Solo As Hothead

By Alison Baitz

"Hothead is kind of like my biggest fear," says Laurie Spector, the D.C. punk musician gone solo.
"Hothead is kind of like my biggest fear," says Laurie Spector, the D.C. punk musician gone solo. Laurie Spector

Laurie Spector isn’t new to D.C.’s punk-rock scene. She’s made noise with garage kids Foul Swoops, joker punks Dudes, the scrappy Peoples Drug and Ian Svenonius’ sassy group Chain & the Gang, among others. But over time, playing in other people’s bands began to feel stifling to her.

hothead-sister-polygon“I love playing with my friends and stuff, but after a while it just felt like I didn’t know how to collaborate with other people and still maintain my own voice,” says Spector, 28.

So the Bethesda resident decided it was time to pursue her own thing. She borrowed a name from a Captain Beefheart song and started up Hothead, her journey into slightly terrifying solo territory.

“Hothead is kind of like my biggest fear,” says Spector, who plays guitar, drums and bass. “I can’t hide behind other people, I can’t hide behind the drums or whatever. I have to sing, I have to do everything. It’s been this tremendous boost to my confidence.”

On Hothead’s rangy debut — out soon on D.C. label Sister Polygon — Spector bounces around from hazy garage to borderline country, focusing on somewhat traditional songcraft, in contrast to her earlier, noisier bands.

“I’m really interested in figuring out how to write songs from a really traditional point of view — folk, blues,” Spector says. “I was just like, ‘I want to sit down with an acoustic guitar and play an old-fashioned song.’”

Lyricism doesn’t get short shrift, either, as Spector explores emotional territory she skirted around in previous groups — a direct product of her transformative time in therapy.

“The sound itself I think I’m still figuring out, but ultimately it’s supposed to be a songwriting project… where I really think about the [lyrics] and try to express feelings that I feel or that people I know feel,” the musician says.

The multi-instrumentalist brings her family into the project, too, using cover art inspired by her grandfather — who loved to doodle — and recordings of her grandmothers speaking and playing music. She says the focus on family symbolizes a ruling concept in people’s lives: love.

“Honestly, every single song’s about love,” Spector says. “But a universal kind of love, not some sort of romantic or possessive kind of love.”

Spector admits that she still finds it difficult to take herself seriously in her new solo format. But Hothead’s debut has prompted her to think optimistically.

“I was like, ‘OK, I did that in three months,’” Spector says. “Think what I could do in a year.”

Hothead plays Jan. 8 at CD Cellar Arlington.

The original version of this post said Hothead’s debut arrives Jan. 15. It does not have an official release date yet. The post has been corrected.