From AXS.com & James Wood.
Self-defined as an American Rock ‘n’ Roll band named after a Bob Dylan song, Hollis Brown brings a combination of great songwriting and inspired musicianship to their music and live performance. It’s a philosophy that’s worked well for the Queens, New York quintet and one certainly reflected in the band’s brand new album, “3 Shots”.
Produced by Don Dilego and recorded at Velvet Elk Studios, “3 Shots” finds Hollis Brown once again firing on all cylinders. Songs like “Cathedral” seem almost ethereal in sound while tracks like “Sandy” find the band tastefully channeling their inner Lou Reed. Then there’s the bluesy “Rain Dance”, which originally began as an unfinished song by a true legend – Mr. Bo Diddley. Pure magic.
With the release of “3 Shots”, Hollis Brown is about to embark on a lengthy tour that will take them through the end of the year.
Hollis Brown is: Mike Montali (lead vocals/guitar), Jonathan Bonilla (lead guitar), Dillon Devito (bass/vocals), Andrew Zehnal (drums) and Adam Bock (keyboard/vocals).
AXS recently caught up with Mike Montali to ask him about ‘3 Shots’, touring, gear and more!
AXS: How would you describe the new album, “3 Shots” and how it compares to some of your previous work?
Mike Montali: It’s an album full of songs that we are really proud of. We made a choice to pick songs that stand for something and songs that represent what we like about music. It’s a different kind of album than our first one, “Ride On The Train.” That was intended to be raw and indie, which we were at the time. This one is a bit of a modern step up. It reflects where we are now in life.
AXS: What was the songwriting process like for this record?
MM: It’s kind of different for every song. Jon Bonillia and I wrote most of the record together and I wrote a few songs during the past few years on the road. They all have a different story of how they came to be. Little nuances and stuff that give the recordings life. Usually, Jon brings a feeling or a chord progression and then I’ll imagine it up and bring it to life with whatever the story or feeling is along with a structure.
AXS: I’d like to ask you about a few songs in particular and get your thoughts on them: ‘Cathedral’.
MM: “Cathedral” was started by Jon. It sounded a lot like a prayer so I wrote it as one lyrically. We wanted to make it sound holy or a bit more reverent.
AXS: “Rain Dance”.
MM: ‘Rain Dance’ was collaboration with the Bo Diddley Estate. They had these unfinished recordings that Bo had been working on and after they saw us live they asked us if we wanted to take on a fun project and finish one of the recordings. Of course we did!
MM: I remember I wanted to be like Lou Reed and write a song that only had two chords. One that didn’t change but whose words and chorus melody were so strong that it didn’t matter. In pop music and rock and roll things don’t really change too much. There’s a driving beat and then the vocal moves while the band keeps people moving. It’s about wanting what you can’t have and falling in love with who you shouldn’t.
AXS: What was the recording process like?
MM: It was quite an experience. We shacked up with our producer, Don Dilego at Velvet Elk Studios. It’s his home recording studio in the Poconos and we just kind of disappeared from society for a few weeks. We’d usually start recording around noon and would pretty much just go until we couldn’t stand anymore.
AXS: Can you tell me a little about your tour plans?
MM: We will pretty much be on the road the rest of the year. We have a May tour in the Midwest and South and then we have a 33-city American tour with The Counting Crows and Citizen Cope before heading to Europe for a headlining tour in October.
AXS: Why did you decide to name the band Hollis Brown?
MM: We named it after a Bob Dylan song. We didn’t know why at first. It just sounded right and I was tired of arguing about band names [laughs]. But the more we play the more it makes sense because our sound is American Rock at its core. With us it’s always song first, and who better to reflect that lineage of American music than Bob Dylan – the best songwriter ever!
AXS: What’s your guitar of choice for live performances?
MM: I have been playing a D’Angelico Ex-175. It’s got a Bigsby and is a real rock and roll guitar. Just handles real nice and gives you that warmth for driving a rhythm.
AXS: What excites you the most about the new album and this next stage of your career?
MM: I’m excited to see and hear what people think about it. See how it’s received and then meet everyone we can on the upcoming tours promoting it. Right now, I’m living out a dream!