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Happy, Hollow

Interview | Happy, Hollow Operates On Love

Based in Austin, Texas, alternative outfit Happy, Hollow’s recently released the music video for “Flowers,” the title track from their debut record.

“Flowers” is a love song, pure and simple. A song about the joy of being in love, where everything is wonderful. The sky is blue, the sun is warm, colors are vibrant, and life is good.

Formed by Virginia Haladyna and Jordan Raines, who are in love, Happy, Hollow is a rare find in the world of music. Most bands are fueled by egos and revolve around bickering and internal power struggles. Not Happy, Holllow. First, everyone in the band likes everyone else and they have checked their egos at the door. Second, Haladyna and Raines run the band like a business. Third, and most importantly, true love has a way of inspiring great music.

I sat down with Jordan Raines to find out more about the band’s influences, how they got together, what kinds of guitars they play, and how they write music.

What’s the band’s musical backstory? And how did you come to get together?

It’s a very unique backstory in our opinions. Not just with how we were formed but how quickly we got moving. Virginia and I (Jordan) met a couple years back when I was performing with another band at a music video shoot at a roller rink in Downtown Austin. I was playing drums at the time for that band and she was one of the videographers. There wasn’t much chemistry at the time. Probably because we didn’t talk much that day. But, a couple years later we started to get to know each other. One thing led to another and we moved in together and a couple times a month we’d only really mention writing music together. We were worried that if we created a band, that things in the relationship would become challenging. But eventually, we wrote our first song, “Sweet Surprise” and showed it to a bunch of friends and family and it got a lot of craze and hype. People were telling us all the time how heart-felt and emotional the song was. With that feedback we bit the bullet and got right into the swing of things. Virginia is an audio engineer so we spent a lot of time in the studio writing and producing these songs. While she recorded I mainly focused on the performance side, recording drums, guitar and bass for “Sweet Surprise” and every instrument but bass on our song “A Drop Of Rain.” Virginia is also the mastermind behind the mixing and mastering of both of those tracks. After we had written about 5–6 songs it was time to add the missing parts. I found Will Howell, our drummer, at my work actually. We were desk mates and every day he would tap to the beat of whatever song was playing. And I don’t just mean 1 and 2 beats with his hands, I mean 16th notes with his feet and hands all over his imaginary drum kit. I was so impressed it was incredible. I brought this idea to Virginia and she suggested that we see him play drums first. I was certain we wouldn’t even need to, he was our guy. Surely enough, a couple weeks later I asked him to come out to our rehearsal studio and it was a perfect fit. Virginia was an acquaintance with Rodrigo Cortes, our bass player, from engineering school a couple years back. It worked out as smoothly with him as it did with Will. This all happened in the span of about a month. From there, we’ve started playing shows, writing new music and filming music videos. It’s been a very easy ride thus far and we don’t plan on slowing the wheels down ever.

Who is in the band (names) and what instruments do they play? Who is the lead vocalist?

Virginia Haladyna — Lead Vocalist/Rhythm Guitarist; Jordan Raines — Lead Guitarist/Vocals; Will Howell — Drums/Percussion; Rodrigo Cortes — Bass Guitar.

What are the dynamics of the band like? Does the band run like a democracy, everybody has a vote and majority rules? Or is it a benevolent dictatorship? Or something in between?

THIS is something I’ve been excited to share. Firstly, Virginia and I run this band like a business. Our decision making process is never a problem. We are the only two that make the decisions. We do the merchandise ordering, the marketing, the booking, the financing, all of it. It’s such a smoother process than a decision having to go through 4–5 people. We’ve each learned that the hard way. This is something the other members OBVIOUSLY love. They’re the easiest people to work with. They show up and rock out and that’s all we wanted when we formed this band. Certainly there will be times when our brains are a little fried and we need some help figuring something out but that is a rare occurrence. It’s always a 50/50 thing with her and me.

What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

We’ve never (as of yet) gotten into trouble as a band! I think that’s because we operate like a business and not a bunch of partiers who destroy venue property, shatter cocktail glasses and smash beer cans after every show.

What are the three things you can’t live without?

Our dog Winslow, Truly Spiked Seltzer, and each other.

What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

I’ve been on a big Bob Seeger wagon for the past week or so. So, I’d blast “Old Time Rock & Roll” in the shower. The car is a different story. Might go back to my early 2000 years and blast some Taking Back Sunday with the windows down and my sunglasses on.

For Virginia, she blares “I’ve Never Loved a Man (the way I love you)” by Aretha Franklin in the shower so loud our neighbors can hear. And “Rhiannon (Live at Jorgensen Auditorium 1975)” by Fleetwood Mac in the car still so loud our neighbors can hear.

What musicians/vocalists influenced you the most?

I’ve been playing music for about 15-years now and have been influenced by several musicians since then. At the beginning it was more Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads (Rest in Peace), and even some Eric Johnson in the early years because of my Dad. Now since I’ve acquired my own music taste, I become inspired by any musician who’s doing their own thing and getting great feedback from it. One of these people I can think of is Matt Halpern of Periphery. He’s a fantastic drummer and all around nice guy who is amazing to watch live but also amazing to just keep up with through social media. He runs his own business outside of Periphery and I’ve always thought that was really cool. To have more than just music.

For Virginia, “obviously Stevie Nicks.” She grew up loving Fleetwood Mac, who was introduced to her by her Mom. She’s always been inspired by the power she brings to the stage. She’s great at mixing femininity and strength on the stage. Virginia’s Dad also introduced her to Etta James whose song “At Last” was one of the first songs she learned how to sang. She has a big connection to her music.
Her older sisters showed her more late 90’s, early 2000’s music which is still some music she’s influenced by to this day. Artists like, Arcade Fire, Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie.

What is your musical background?

I’ve played guitar since 3rd grade. Started playing classic rock and blues, then more punk rock stuff as I got older and then just focused on writing my own things. Later I picked up the drums and performed and toured with a band while doing that but found my way back home behind a guitar which is always where I’ve been most comfortable.

For Virginia, she’s been singing for as long as she can remember. Her parents enrolled her in vocal lessons at an early age because it was something they saw she enjoyed. From musicals, to talent shows and then to School of Rock bands. She’s done it all. After high school she went to school for Audio Engineering and Producing. That’s been the routine for the past 4-years. She even juggled those two things with song writing in Happy, Hollow. Now, she’s put the production side of things aside in the back seat to focus solely on bringing her songs to life.

What kind of guitar do you play? And why?

I play a couple of different guitars but my main guitar is a Fender Jaguar HH. I love the way it can split the pickups. Being able to control things like that on the fly are very useful on stage. Makes my playing sound a little more diverse.

Virginia plays a Fender Telecaster (we both love Fenders). It was her first electric guitar and she loves it dearly. It was a love at first sight kind of thing. She picked it up after playing an array of different guitars and just knew it had to be the one.

What kind of drums and cymbals does your drummer play?

Will plays a Pork Pie Hip Pig in Red-Gold Duco along with Zildjian A Custom cymbals with the exception of the Zildjian A Sweet Ride.

What’s the story behind the band’s name — Happy, Hollow?

We liked the idea of naming ourselves words that oppose each other. Really because we have two different personalities and are often referred to as opposites.

Where do you find inspiration for your songs?

This is a harder question to answer. We write songs a LOT. So, we usually just go about how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking about. It’s easy to write sad songs and that’s not something we wanted to do a whole lot. We wanted to draw from an emotion that isn’t really talked about as much in songs right now, which is Happiness. We like expressing our love for one another through our songs. Obviously, there are times where we are feeling a little down so we do get a little more on the darker side of things with the songs that come out that way. But overall, the inspiration just comes from the feeling of wanting to express ourselves. It’s what we do best.

What is your songwriting process? Does the music come first and then the lyrics?

It’s been pretty inconsistent. With some of our songs I would write the bones and structure of the songs and Virginia would add the lyrics and melody to it after it was composed. And that was easy but we noticed the songs kind of feeling the same as one another. So now we just let it happen naturally. Virginia has been writing a bunch of lyrics and melodies that she brings to me and I then find the chord progression and notes on guitar or bass and then one by one we piece that all together.

I really like your new song, “Flowers,” and the video. What inspired the song?

Thanks! Virginia wrote the words for this one and I wrote the music. She wrote the hook “I got flowers from you every time i turn around” in her car actually. She said “I was thinking about how many times you’ve gotten me flowers” when she came up with it. From there it was heading in a lovey, feel good and happy kind of vibe which I think we did a good job with.

Your sound has been described as guitar pop and alt-rock. I hear elements of dream-pop and jangle pop in “Flowers.” How would you describe your sound?

Sound is so subjective, ya know? When someone finds out we’re in a band they first ask for the name and style. It’s always felt weird saying “alternative rock” or “guitar pop” or “Indie” to me. So i’ve just been saying “Rock and Roll! Come out to a show and listen and then tell me what you think we are after, I’d love to know!” If I really had to put a pin on something though, I would say Alternative. That’s just because each song we write is totally different than the one before. We don’t want to be labeled in any category. We just to write fun rock and roll songs that people can dance and bob their heads too.

Will you be touring in the near future? If so, where?

That’s the plan! Nothing scheduled as of right now. We’re still working on overcoming Austin, Texas. There are a lot of great musicians and artists here. Once we climb our way to the top, we’d like to get out and explore the east and west coasts and of course the amazing Midwest. Hopefully everywhere, to be honest.

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Randy Radic is a former super model who succumbed to the ravages of time and age. Totally bereft of talent, he took up writing “because anyone can do it.”

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