Hollis Brown may be a new band to many, but the New York group has actually been working together since they were teenagers. After years of honing their craft, the band has finally released their debut album, Ride on the Train, via Alive Records.
“It feels like we’ve taken our whole lives to work on it,” says frontman Mike Montali. “[Guitarist] Jon [Bonilla] and I met in high school, and we wrote a ton of songs then. But as Hollis Brown, it was our first opportunity to make a full album on an official record label. It was our first real chance, and we felt we had the potential to do something worthwhile as musicians.”
Working in a Nashville studio over the course of 12 days, the quartet (along with the help of producer Adam Landry) wanted to avoid too much production on their first effort. Recording the tracks live, Montali says that, “There are no edits. We were really proud of that.”
The album’s title track was quite memorable for the band. “‘Ride on the Train’ was a fun one because it was an example for me of how the studio is such a creative place,” Montali reveals. “We were able to create this Latin bass line, which is what inspired the song originally. I was riding on the subway in New York, and there was a mariachi band that boarded who started playing music. So I started to think up melodies that I thought would go with the sound.”
Aside from talking about experiences in the studio, the Hollis Brown guitarist chatted with Boxx Magazine about how female musicians have influenced his sound, taste and overall inspiration.
Who are some of your favorite female musicians of all time?
“Carole King, Joni Mitchell, those singer-songwriters are some of my favorites. I just love songwriters. The rest of the band would probably say Blondie. Being from New York, they’re just a badass group. And of course anyone with a voice like Aretha [Franklin]. They’re probably pretty obvious and not too original, but they are people who we admire. I like Patti Smith, too. I wouldn’t say Patti Smith necessarily because of her music, but I think the artist that she is is great.”
How have these female artists inspired you and your music?
“People like Patti Smith or Janis Joplin, you just realize they don’t give a fuck, you know? They don’t care what you think about them. They are just who they are, and they’re independent and confident and sure of the artist they want to be. And that’s always something we’re trying to be because we don’t want to be influenced by outside pressures or act a certain way or make a certain song to fit with this commercial or something. We just want to be who we are as artists. And that’s very respectable in women artists who were pre-television era because it was really hard for them. They had to really stand out and be who they are—not even just in their work, but in their persona.”
What would you recommend from one (or more) of these particular artists?
“I like the Joni Mitchell ‘California’ track. For Fleetwood Mac, it would have to be the whole Rumours album. Obviously Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ or anything she’s ever sung really. I also love Janis Joplin’s album Pearl.”
Are there any female musicians on your radar now that people should check out?
“We listen to Adele a lot. She’s fantastic. I like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I saw them perform live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, over the summer. They were just awesome, and she’s one of the few people of her age who’s still doing it and performing that style of music the right way. There’s a new girl called Clairy Browne and the Bangin Rackettes. She’s from Australia, and she kind of has an Amy Winehouse thing. She’s one of those girls who gets onstage, and you can’t help but look at her. You know who else was like that? Linda Ronstandt. I never saw her live, but she has a voice that’s as big as a house. She’s this thin white girl but sings like she’s got the biggest voice in the room. I like women who do that. That’s why I like Adele. I like girls who sing with everything they have in them.”
If you could collaborate with any female artist who would it be?
“I would probably have to say Adele. I’d also like to work with Tina Turner.”
Buy Hollis Brown’s album Ride on the Train here.