Photo By: Tess Graham
Chicago alt-soul band Hollyy warms our hearts with their passionate vocals and retro-inspired grooves in their latest EP Miss The Feeling. The release is a skillful blend of something old and something new, embodying a vibrant Memphis soul sound full of heartache and visceral emotion that cannot help but transmit that feeling out into the world for others to see, hear, and feel. Although this isn’t the band’s first EP, Miss the Feeling is their unyielding introduction into a world that needs unapologetically honest music.
Formed in summer 2018, Hollyy consists of Tanner Bednar (vocals), Brandon Couture (guitar), Peter Giere (keyboard), Rafe Soto (drums), and Dominic Zeier (bass). Ones To Watch was able to chat with the band about Miss The Feeling’s creation process amid a global pandemic.
Ones to Watch: With this being the first EP the band has released since your debut “Letters From Lawndale,” what are some things you all have learned about the production and creative process that made this an easier release?
Tanner: I think we’ve mostly just all grown as musicians and songwriters during that span between projects, which is great. We’ve also changed our process quite a bit for the better. Rafe has really souped-up our basement studio into a magic music-making space, which we love and hold super dear to us. This EP was also the first time we worked with a producer, and it was truly the most incredible experience. We owe a lot to our friend/producer Nick Boyd for this work.
Brandon: This EP was a much more collaborative songwriting process than our first EP as Holly,. We all contributed songs and helped shape each other’s ideas. Once someone brings an idea forward, it becomes all of ours, and we all put in a lot of care to make each song the best we can make it. It takes a willingness to feel exposed and accepting of how someone else is going to hear what you write.
Rafael: I think we’ve all learned a thing or two about collaboration and how we can change certain aspects of a song and get something brand new out of it that plays to our strengths.
This EP is full of retro, warm tones that still touch on themes and feelings of loneliness, lost love, and more. To you, what is this EP about?
Brandon: It’s a reflection on times past that you once longed for and trying to find your way forward.
Tanner: Miss the Feeling is kind of a perfect literary send-off for acknowledging you’ve been stuck in a rut for a while as well as just not feeling yourself and getting back to that point of being internally content again. It could translate to human relationships or emotional struggles not involving human relationships, and I like that.
Rafael: I agree with Brandon. It’s about being able to let go of moments in your life.
What was your favorite song from the EP? Why?
Tanner: I love all my children equally hehe. But I have found that rocking out to the end of Turn it Around has been rather therapeutic during quarantine. So I guess that??
Brandon: Beach is one of my favorites to play live, we’ve been playing it back to back with Miss the Feeling, and it’s really fun.
Rafe: I also enjoy the miss the feeling/beach medley because it’s super fun to play.
Pete: Like anything, it depends on the mood. The ending of “Beach” has a very dreamy/jazzy vibe and has been fun to expand and jam on musical ideas.
How do you feel Hollyy has evolved not only as a band during the pandemic, not only in regards to your sound but overall?
Brandon: This time has really affected my writing for sure. This year has been challenging on many people, and the future is so uncertain for so many. People need something to look forward to, and I’ve found myself trying to write about that pain and confusion of not knowing which way forward is.
Rafael: I think it’s helped us really streamline our process and figure out what we absolutely have to do in person and the things we can collaborate remotely on. Our writing process usually takes place in person but it has found its way to a million different messaging and document apps, I think this gives us the chance to reflect multiple on what we’re writing.
What have been the biggest struggles of trying to record this EP during a pandemic?
Brandon: Luckily, we finished a lot of the recording for this project before the lockdown, but it’s forced us to find other ways to push our new music while not having the ability to promote it live. It’s also changed how we’ve had to work on our next project, moving to virtual meetings and writing from our respective homes.
Tanner: Yeah, it’s honestly been super cool to see how we’ve adapted to essentially being a virtual rock band these past seven months while still being very efficient and productive with our tunes, writing, and releases. Personally, I have really enjoyed the challenge of needing to get creative to find different outlets of marketing and content pushing during the Covid-era, and we have a super supportive and talented team that helps us out along the way as well, so that’s been great.
What would be a dream collab or feature for a future Hollyy track?
Tanner: We’re ready to get down in the writing trenches with Stevie Wonder or Anderson .Paak at ANY point!
Brandon: Kevin Parker from Tame Impala would be incredible, as would the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio.
Rafael: Probably Gwenno or Dex Romweber.
Pete: I think we’ve talked about having a rapper put down a verse on a song before. I’ve been listening to a lot of Action Bronson lately, so I would have to put him.
The EP not only goes on a sonic journey but a visually artistic one as well. In all the music videos, fans have seen a mysterious driver in a vintage car driving into the sunset and towards an unknown destination. Who is the artist, and how did this concept come to be? Is there a deeper meaning, or was it just something the band thought looked cool?
Brandon: The artwork is meant to elude themes of escapism and finding your own way forward, which I think are some of the more subtle themes in our music. When I drive alone, I often find myself having intense internal conversations with myself, often to reflect on something that might be bothering me.
Tanner: Yeah, the artwork is definitely super purposeful with some underlying meanings and symbolism, and that’s something that I’m glad came together for us in the end, and people are catching on to and deriving their own ideas of what it may mean. We had talked about using the car and the geographic locations to help depict escaping and longing for new and better days. We played with the concept of colors and backdrop settings to allude to what lyric meanings may be included in that single as well. All in all, our friends Lucas and Ariel from Brazil (two super talented artists, by the way) helped us out with these images, and we’re super happy we got to use our friends’ work for these.
In a time when touring and live shows are on pause, what does Hollyy plan to do from here? Live stream concerts? Do y'all plan on pulling a Flaming Lips move and encourage people to go to shows in bubbles?
Brandon: Giant bubbles would be incredibly fun! We’ve been finding ways to get together, make some videos and live stream, and certainly plan on continuing, but our big focus now has been writing and working on the next project. The one benefit to the pandemic is it’s given us a lot more time to write, and we have a good number of songs that have piled up now. It’s helped give us something to look forward to and work towards.
Tanner: Yes, I think nothing says giant bubble mosh pit quite like the intro to Miss the Feeling. I would love to try that out one day. But to piggyback off of Brandon, we’re absolutely just enjoying the writing process right now, staying safe + healthy, and looking forward to creating more and more music with each other while we’re stuck in the dystopian universe. One day we’ll play a normal, carefree live show again :)
Who are some “Ones To Watch” you would recommend people to check out?
Brandon: Chicago is an incredible hub for local bands. Ratboys, Divino Nino, and Sen Morimoto are some really incredible artists that have been crushing it lately.
Tanner: I think some of these artists are going to start/continue to make some noise over the next year: Neal Francis, Fat Night, MICHELLE, and Qari.
Rafael: Lately, I’ve just been listening to a ton of roots reggae, so checkout Desmond Dekker. I am stoked about the new Fuzz album though.
Pete: I think right now, everyone should check out Wyatt Waddell. He has an absolutely incredible mix of RnB, soul, and hip-hop to his sound. He’s also from Chicago, so that helps too!