Try looking backwards and forwards at the same time. Okay, stop trying— you’re going to hurt yourself. Let The Hollows do it for you. They’re fully aware that they’re standing on the shoulders of giants, and they’re blazing a path ahead with the musical equivalent of a flamethrower. These frontiersmen of the New York City roots-rock scene have been creating an old sound that sounds new— or maybe the other way around— since 2009.
When you first see The Hollows take the stage, you will find them out of place. They will appear to be a ragtag set of traveling performers, accustomed to closing out barn dances and just as likely to steal your prize-winning cow as to wake up next to your sister in a hayloft. It will seem to you that they woke up, one confused morning, to find themselves instead on a Brooklyn street corner.
But when the first notes reach your ears, whether from a sweet and breezy mandolin, a whiskey-tuned banjo, or an unrepentant guitar, it will seem to you that the sound of The Hollows is uniquely New York: a contradictory, harmonic melting pot that takes all of its roots, twists them around, and produces something else, something new. This scruffy ensemble of multi-instrumentalists, made up of Justin Aaronson, Jeffrey Kurtze, Daniel Kwiatkowski, Rob Morrison, David Paarlberg, and Erik Saxvik, might just as soon swap glockenspiels, trumpets, and harmonicas as plug in a squawking electric guitar or an airy, spacey synthesizer. The result is a veritable junkyard of instruments and musical personalities, a carnival on wheels, a one-man band in six bodies that owns the stage with all the mobile, rhythmic ease of a seasoned railroad gang.
When The Hollows first began performing together, they quickly produced a diverse output of material that attracted a local following through several monthly residencies at Pete’s Candy Store, the intimate, longtime Brooklyn venue that served as a launch pad for acts like Will Oldham, Devendra Banhart, Dirty Projectors, and many more. As word spread, the crowds grew, the venues grew to match, and in 2011, The Hollows captured the attention of audiences and reviewers alike with their debut release, Belong to the Land. Critics called the album, recorded at The Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, NY, an “outstanding offering” made by “master craftsmen,” “brilliantly executed… a joy to listen to,” an “incredible debut effort,” and simply “a monster.” The band’s artistic production moved beyond the musical with the release of their first video, “Poor Eyes,” in 2012, and the song was later highlighted in the soundtrack to Bob Giraldi’s short film “A Poet Long Ago” in 2013. (Additional tracks from Belong to the Land also appear in the 2013 feature film Twenty Million People and 2014’s Sun Belt Express.)
Less than a year later, the band continued its “massive momentum” with the release of a self-titled EP, tracked at Brooklyn’s Grand Street Recording and Galaxy Smith Studios, and featured on Spinner, The Huffington Post, MSN, WCBS FM, and MP3.com. A second music video, “August,” premiered a few months later. By now, the band was known for its “ecstatic live shows” and the “melodic, fiery hoedown” they inspired, which prompted the release of a live album, Neverending Show, in 2013: a “fresh breath of true musician sprit” that offered a “soulful, powerful and thick sound” and captured “everything that makes seeing The Hollows live in concert so much fun.”
On June 3rd, The Hollows will release their second full-length album, Between the Water and the Wonder Wheel, tracked at The Bunker in Brooklyn with producer John Siket [Sonic Youth, Phish, Yo La Tengo, Dave Matthews Band], engineered by James Frazee [Beck, Patti Smith, Esperanza Spalding], and mastered by Fred Kevorkian [Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, The White Stripes]. It kicks off with “Mountains to the Sea,” an anthemic blend of folk and raw electricity that catapults the listener into the rest of the album, which is at times thoughtful and meditative; others rollicking and boisterous. “Jamestown,” with its soaring classic rock sensibility, hits hard. “Humpback Heart” will make you want to drive a pickup across the country, only to get out and dance on the side of the road. “Cross Country Call” and “Midnight Band” seem to channel ghosts. “The Ballad of Jack and Vi” is a love song with a range and ambition that could only come from The Hollows, with a crooked cast of characters and a sonic atmosphere that whisks you through the rivers and backwoods of Americana. The final track, “Pioneers,” rises slowly from the earth and burns up into the night sky, the ashes fading like a daybreak dream.
This summer, The Hollows will hit the ground running with their first national tour, with 30 shows announced in 20 states, and more on the way. When you catch them in action, you’ll see an unpredictable barn-burner full of high-octane foot-stomping and exuberant odes to love on the rocks, life on the lam, death on the road, and the fact that there’s still a place in music where fallen angels, risen devils, and even the seediest of back bar characters can all live together in six-part harmony. You’ll dive into the flood and awake drenched the next morning, with a fire in your belly and a song in your head— surprised to find you had a hootenanny hidden in your toes.