How did you guys all meet? Why did you guys pick that name as your band’s name?
JEFF: DK, Dave, Erik and I all met in college, where we studied theatre. Music was more of a hobby then than anything else; it was just something we did for fun when we were hanging out. When DK met Rob, the same pattern repeated itself, Rob was introduced and we started jamming… eventually the jams got more serious and we could see them going somewhere. We gigged for some time without a steady drummer, until we auditioned Justin before our CMJ show last fall.
ROB: In terms of the band’s name, we had kicked a few ideas around but nothing had stuck yet— finally, “The Hollows” popped up in my head one night. I guess I was thinking about spaces between things, or between notes, specifically—the “hollow” places between sounds or musical intervals. A “hollow” or a “holler” is also an Appalachian colloquialism for a wooded valley between two hills or mountains, which is arguably a setting that some of our songs might invoke… we liked it for its simplicity, and because it’s open for interpretation.
Talk to us more about your performances at Rockwood Music Hall.
ERIK: In a word? Cozy. In every way in which that word can describe all things good about an intimate venue.
ROB: We’ve had two shows at Rockwood Music Hall so far, and a third coming up in July. What I like most about Rockwood is the vibe. When you walk into that place, it immediately feels like they take music seriously there. The venue is set up so that the stage is the center of attention, almost like an altar or something. Plus, I’m a sucker for lightbulbs with a vintage-filament look.
DAVE: Yeah, it’s got this supper-club vibe with the low-hanging balcony seating… classy. And selfishly, I’m fond of any venue that boasts a baby grand.
DAN: It can be a challenge, given that the space is that small, but it allows us to play some of our more intimate songs, which is always nice. The sound there is really wonderful and it’s just a lot of fun being that close on stage with the band. It lends itself to a certain amount of silliness, which we thrive on.
JEFF: We are no strangers to performing on stages with tight quarters. There are six of us, and we all play two or three instruments each, leaving just enough room to stand in one place and play. I think I’ve only been smacked in the head twice at Rockwood, and almost got pushed over once. But once we’re all crammed on to the stage and start playing, we’re always pleased to hear such a unique, warm sound. It’s such an intimate setting, like playing for your friends in the living room.
What are your musical influences?
DAVE: They’re all over the place, really. We definitely formed The Hollows over a mutual love for Dylan, The Band, Neil Young, Tom Waits, CCR… but after that it pretty much turns into a melting pot, from King Crimson to Akron/Family to Rosetta Tharpe to Coltrane to Chopin… we agree on some things; others we don’t– but the one thing we really have in common is that we all listen to a ton of different music.
What makes your sound different from the others?
DAN: I think what makes us different is that we have multiple songwriters in the group, so what’s influencing us is constantly changing– and because of that I think it’s hard to pigeonhole us, which in my opinion is one of our greatest strengths.
What are your hobbies?
DAVE: One used to be music, but that’s getting to be more and more of a full-time job lately, which makes me feel pretty lucky. It’s sort of swapped places with acting, which is what many of us went to school for and what used to occupy most of my time. I still act on occasion though, so I guess if anything that’s more like a hobby these days. I also do a good bit of reading, and I like old movies.
DAN: In my spare time I like to write as much as possible. Mostly for theatre. I have a few plays and ideas for plays that I am currently developing, and it’s exciting to be constantly trying to create a world that you are responsible for.
ROB: My hobbies used to include improv, camping, busking. These days, between my job in the cast of Avenue Q off-Broadway, and The Hollows, I don’t have time for much else! I love being outdoors and going for hikes, but I’m also the kinda guy who likes to sit by himself and write until the wee hours.
JEFF: I play a lot of darts. It’s a great way just chill and spend time with your pals. It’s hard to do better than a giant plate of chicken wings, a frosty brew, and a gentlemanly game of arrows.
ERIK: I’m a huge sports fan. I think its because I love good, old-fashioned, healthy competition. There is also a lot to be learned from elite professional athletes about dedication, working as a team, pushing those around you to be better.
What are you looking to spread with your music?
ROB: Most of the music I hear on the radio doesn’t feel very authentic. A lot of prepackaged bullshit, basically the same songs over and over again. It’s not even the messages of the songs that rankle me. It’s just a sense of artists saying things they don’t believe or care about. If I could spread anything with our music, it would be an aesthetic that is authentic to who we are, not one that tries to cater to Top 40 radio.
JEFF: The main ethos we share is “Together, Together.” It really sums up the way we feel about each other and all our friends and family. We try to spread a feeling of brotherhood, trust, and understanding. We want everyone who hears our music to live the best way they can; with their heads up and looking forward to the next level.
How you see the Folk and Americana music scene these days?
ERIK: I see it best when I’m sandwiched on a tiny stage in between a mandolin player and a banjo player.
ROB: Some people think the Folk/Americana scene has become a little inundated in the last few years. But to me, every folk band is different. Just look at the Grammy nominees for best folk album last year. There’s a world of difference between Gillian Welch and Fleet Foxes. And the music of The Hollows, regardless of genre label, is unique from other bands. Even song to song, there’s a ton of variety in our music.
What has been one of the funniest moments you guys have been in or took part?
DAVE: Relatively early in our life as band, we played The Knickerbocker Theatre in Holland, Michigan, where four of us went to college… but it was during finals week, and the show was kind of thrown together at the last minute, so there wasn’t much publicity. It was awesome, because your name’s on the marquee, the sound is great, and you’re playing this big, historic, old 500-seat theatre… but then for the last song we asked them to turn the house-lights up so we could see the audience, and there were like 40 people in the room. It was pretty damn funny.
ERIK: If you have ever seen us play in TriBeCa, NYC, you have seen The Hollows at the height of music performance absurdity. Broken strings, terrible sound, beer spilling on instruments, people knocking over mic stands… the best times I’ve ever had are some of the occasions in which we’ve been least “successful” in performance.
DAN: I think in general, just the unpredictable nature of playing live music is hilarious. When someone forgets the lyrics to his own song, or you start a song and simply have to start over because it was that bad. All those little mistakes that remind you that you are human being, and it’s okay to laugh, are great.
Can you tell us more about the process recording and working on this new self-titled EP, and its release date?
DAN: The EP is out June 26th, with a release party that night at Brooklyn Bowl. As far as the creative process… the songs themselves were written pretty quickly and then over the course of about two months. We just continued to play with them until we had something that we could all agree was right and ready to lay down.
DAVE: We really had no plans to record so soon after our first album, but The Deli Magazine was kind enough to nominate us for their “Artist of the Month” campaign, and our fans really came out of the woodwork and voted us the winner— the prize was recording time. So with the LP it was a very long and involved process: “We have all these songs, which ones are better for recording, how are we going to arrange them, how is the studio version going to differ from the live version,” et cetera. For the EP, it was more: “Hey, we have a few hours of studio time. Cool. What are our best three new songs? Cool.” I’m not even sure if we had played them all live yet before recording them.
ROB: Yeah, the writing process for the EP was more streamlined than it was for the album. I think that happens naturally when a group of musicians moves into the next phase of their development; things just come together more easily. And because the EP songs were still relatively young when they were recorded, that kept a freshness to everyone’s playing… less over-thinking.
Are there any plans for the near future?
DAVE: We’re gluttons for punishment, in that we’re all still balancing this with day-jobs, but I feel we’re really at our best with a fire under our asses. We just shot a new music video for “August” off the new EP that will be out very soon. (It’s fun to do video due to everyone’s theatre background; we can really rely on our history and the expertise of our friends to achieve some pretty cool results.) Beyond that, once this EP is out I’d love to hunker down and map out a route and a budget for a small tour this fall. We’ll also be doing CMJ again, as well as a bunch of other shows in October including the third annual Americana Pie Festival, which will be at Littlefield. In the meantime, we’re workshopping new material constantly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re ready to record Album Two within the coming year.
How was it to play at CMJ in 2011?
JEFF: It was great to be a part of. We played a showcase at Hiro Balltoom, which is a really cool space. But the best part for me was using my artist pass to just zip around town and see as many free shows as I could. There was an intense energy in the city that week; can’t wait for this year.
What’s a song you can’t stop listening to?
ROB: ”The Mindeater” by Bonnie Prince Billy and The Phantom Family Halo. Also “The Best of Jill Hives” by Guided By Voices.
ERIK: ”Dr. Dedoverde” by Cypress Hill on Los Grandes Exitos (“Greatest Hits” in Spanish).
DAVE: I’ve randomly been listening to a lot of Benjamin Britten these past few days: in particular, his choral compositions A Boy Was Born and Friday Afternoons. I wish I could say I happened upon him on my own, but his music’s featured in the new Wes Anderson film, which I saw last week– when I got home, the songs were still in my head so I looked them up. He was an English classical composer who started writing in the ’30s.
DAN: A song that I keep coming back to time and time and time again is “You’re A Big Girl Now” by Dylan, the acoustic version, before he rerecorded it for Blood on the Tracks. It illustrates in my mind the simplest and most honest way to invoke the idea of love and loss, and how you move on from those two things.
If someone who’d never heard you wanted to listen one of the band’s songs, which one would you pick?
ROB: Our songs are all very different, and I don’t know that one song would clue a listener in to all the sounds we cover in The Hollows. But if I had to choose one song, I would be torn between “Old Brown Dog” and “Youngblood”… OBD captures our acoustic, bluegrass-inspired side, and “Youngblood” shows our electric, gnarly tendencies. Both tunes also show off the skills and personalities of all the band members.
DAN: Tough call, as our sound is constantly changing and evolving, but I would probably say “August” off the new EP. I think it’s a wonderful blend of country, bluegrass, gypsy, and something else that I’m still trying to put my finger on.
DAVE: Yeah, that’s a tough one– with a constantly rotating arrangement of instruments, singers, and songwriters, we tend to mix and match genres as well. The title for Belong to the Land comes from its track “Sticks and Stones,” which has been rather anthemic for us as a band for some time. I also think that “Jepson Creek” off the new EP shows us moving in an exciting direction. There’s also a new one that no one’s heard yet, “Dead Rabbits,” being worked on right now in rehearsals, which I think people will really be into.
Do you feel you guys are moving in the right direction?
DAVE: As fast as our little legs can carry us.
JEFF: Absolutely! Things are really picking up for us. More people are hearing our music than ever before and we are writing new material all the time. Music videos and other projects are constantly in the works. I’m at a point in my life where I couldn’t be happier bringing into the world the ideas that have been bouncing around in my mind.
ROB: Not only are The Hollows moving in the right direction, we’re boldly striding into new territory: the uber-right direction! (Not politically, of course.)
ERIK: If we keep leaning on each other trust that we will be supported by each other, the sky is the limit.