After a Years-Long Journey, Illuminati Hotties Finally Made the Record We’ve Been Waiting For

When the record label Illuminati Hotties was signed to started to fall apart, the band’s mastermind, Sarah Tudzin, was knee-deep in crafting the highly-anticipated follow-up to the “tenderpunk” outfit’s 2018 debut, Kiss Yr Frenemies. With the writing on the wall spelling out a pretty unideal circumstance, she decided to step back and try to get her bearings. 

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“I mean, it was definitely crazy—it was completely unexpected,” Tudzin tells American Songwriter. “I had been working on our new record in between touring and working on other people’s records, kinda putting everything together piece by piece. But when all the label drama went down, I kinda had to hit ‘Pause’ on everything. I didn’t know what was going to happen next… and the way the label responded to the whole situation was by not really responding right away… so, they immediately became inactive online.”

With her hands tied due to her contract, but no clear path forward, Tudzin thought on her feet and quickly came up with a solution: she made Free I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For, a separate album than the official “follow-up” she had been working on prior. 

“My thinking had shifted to: ‘What can I do to get out of my contract? What’s an exit agreement that’ll work for everyone?” she explains. “It seemed obvious—I owed them a record, but I knew it couldn’t be the one I had been working on, I couldn’t put all my eggs in that basket. So, Free I.H. came to be and it was pretty immediate—it was out, like, three months after we turned the masters in.”

With Free I.H. out and under her belt, Tudzin got the opportunity to refocus her energy—partnering with Hopeless Records, she launched her own imprint: Snack Shack Tracks. With that team supporting her, she got the chance to go back into the studio and finally make the album she had wanted to make all along. Titled Let Me Do One More, the LP dropped on October 1.

With a signature, modern indie sound, the songs lining Let Me Do One More constitute an introspective window into Tudzin’s world. Written almost entirely before the pandemic hit last March—but completed this year after all the fallout from the record label drama settled—the tunes also straddle a line between two periods in her life. 

“At first, it was a little weird to go back in,” she says. “I had to record some stuff and put the finishing touches on it… but so much had happened in my life. I was like, ‘Well, this isn’t really me right now…’ So, I went back and kinda recontextualized everything for myself. After that, I started to appreciate the songs for what they are. And now, doing press and interviews and stuff, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, there is some good stuff in this—I’m proud of it.’”

It’s true that there’s a lot to be proud of—stripping back the context that usually dictates the way folks talk about things, Tudzin does a tremendous job of speaking to universal phenomena and personal turmoil simultaneously. A song like “Threatening Each Other re: Capitalism” is a great example of that—it captures some of the dystopian energy of living in a society crippled by class inequality while never stepping too far beyond the lens of personal experience.

“When I wrote that song, there were two ideas in my head,” Tudzin begins. “One was the personal narrative—a really small, keyhole-sized view into someone’s life. Then, there’s also this huge, global perspective, commenting on how we’re all being manipulated by the mass market and consumerism. I think those things weave together in a really poetic way. We’re all sorta forced to play the game a little bit—capitalism supports certain people, but the majority of the world is being stomped on. Yet, in order to have a roof to live under or just have food to eat breakfast or whatever, you have to play the game.” 

Likewise, another of the record’s highlight tracks—“u v v p”—walks a similar line. Utilizing the romantic imagery and tropes of the American West, it paints an image of a grand, society-wide experience, all while framing things in a concrete, personal lens. Plus, the tune ends with a wonderful spoken word part from one of Tudzin’s friends: Buck Meek.

“Buck!” Tudzin exclaims when the song was mentioned. “I was really trying to make this sort of Motown, girl-group sounding thing… but then I got stuck on the intersection where country music and surf music meet each other. Then, getting Buck was the cherry on top. Initially, I thought I wanted this deep cowboy voice, but then I realized that Buck’s voice would be perfect. Luckily, I pitched the idea to him and he was excited to do it. The whole thing was a wild journey!”

While Tudzin was just talking about “u v v p,” her final statement rings true for the entirety of Let Me Do One More—from start to finish, the years-long journey leading up to this record has been an incredibly impactful one. Finally getting to share this labor of love with the world, Tudzin feels like an old weight has been lifted off her shoulder… but a new fire has been lit beneath her too.

“After a record comes out, it’s such a weird feeling—you have all this press and build up and stuff, then it finally comes out… and you just kinda go back to normal life,” she said. “With this one, I’m just so thrilled that it seems like it’s doing all the things it’s supposed to be doing. People are buying and streaming it, which is awesome. All you can really ask for when you put out music is that people listen to it, so that’s really exciting. So, I feel good… and now, it’s time to figure out what’s next!”

Illuminati Hotties new album Let Me Do One More is out now—watch the music video for “Pool Hopping” below:

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