Interviewer Adrian Hextall (Writer \ Review \ Photographer – MyGlobalMind)
Fresh from a supporting slot on the recent Wildhearts PH.U.Q. anniversary tour, Hey! Hello! headlined the Friday night at ‘The Nightmare Before Halloween’ with Hollis Mahady now front and centre as the permanent vocalist. Hollis’ other band and the one that brought her to the attention of Hey! Hello!’s founder Ginger Wildheart, Love Zombies then played the following night. With a Japanese Hey! Hello! tour coming up before some UK dates in December culminating with Ginger’s Birthday Bash in London on December 17th, there’s naturally a bit of a buzz about Miss Mahady and co.
MGM spoke to Hollis in advance of the recent London Wildhearts gig where Hey! Hello! opening the show
MGM: The energy, the buzz I think is probably the right word as well, behind the band at the moment, it’s up there at the same level as The Wildhearts were when they first came out.
Hollis: Oh, wow. Well, that’s a compliment, thank you. Really?
MGM: We’ve never seen Ginger this energized about any project as he is with Hey!Hello! And it’s the introduction of you that seems to be driving it. What does it mean to you?
Hollis: Well, it’s crazy. Just to have someone like Ginger’s approval or belief behind you makes you feel so good too, you know? And I think he’s energized and excited because, our energies, when I first met him I remember we had the same necklace. It was weird. I know a lot of people have this but we had it. I lose everything but I’ve never really lost this one and we both had it. And when I met him I was just like, energies, just certain people bring your energy up or down and our energy’s frequency really like kind of…
The first day I ever met him when he showed up in the studio to produce Love Zombies; I had the necklace on. I hadn’t really even known that much about him except that he was in The Wildhearts because I’m from America and I didn’t really grow up with them or know them. So it was weird.
MGM: When was the first time you met him? Was it last year at Camden Rocks?
Hollis: Yeah, like a little bit probably before that. What year was Camden Rocks?
MGM: 2014, I think was the first time you played?
Hollis: Wasn’t it May.
MGM: I think it was June.
Hollis: Yeah, I think I met him a little before that. Yeah, and he saw us for the first time I think like The Black Heart (one of the 20 or so venues used during Camden Rocks each year) or something and the Hawley Arms, I remember, yeah he was there. So it was around that time. Well the first time we ever met him was when he produced for us.
MGM: And how did that come about? Why did he pick up on Love Zombies and agree to produce? Did you approach him? Or did he find you?
Hollis: Yeah, well our manager, Steve (Strange of Strange World Management) , had known Ginger for a long time and has been a huge fan of The Wildhearts for years. And I remember, our band Love Zombies, it was hard to pinpoint, it was kind of punk but we always had like a poppy edge too… so he was always trying to find us who would be a good fit or produce our E.P. He was like, ‘I think the Wildhearts, we should listen to him. Maybe I can get Ginger to do it….. Maybe I CAN get Ginger to do it.’ And he did and that’s when it all started.
MGM: Fantastic, fantastic. So out of that relationship obviously, you become the new lead singer for Hey!Hello!
Hollis: Yeah. (giggling) – It’s worth noting at this point the smile on Hollis’ face is ten miles wide. Clearly very happy indeed at getting the position.
MGM: Is your set list at the moment predominately the new material as opposed to say the album number one. Have you already gone into the studio, and done a lot of work on new stuff…
Hollis: No, we haven’t recorded the final stuff yet; we’ve recorded some demos. The set we do now, there is one new one and then another one we do Honour (from Ginger’s G.A.S.S. campaign), so there’s a possibility of doing another one.
I would love to rerecord one of the old tracks and there’s always a possibility. I guess most of the set is actually from the first album, because that’s all we have. But he’s (Ginger) really excited about the new one. And I am too because I love the current album, it’s awesome. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t like the music but to infuse your own thing into it. Because you’re singing [songs from] the old singer and all that stuff. So I’m excited about the new album. Because I get to put my voice on it and thoughts and all that.
MGM: And are you working on it as a team or are is he coming to the table with it all pre-written?
Hollis: No, that’s what’s really cool about it. He really made it clear and adamant that it’s a group effort and Ginger is one of the best song writers ever so we’re all like no…you write it because ours isn’t as good. But he wants us to be a part of it, so I’m writing a lot of lyrics and The Rev who’s not on the tour because he had a baby; I keep saying he had a baby. He didn’t have a baby, his wife had a baby. You know what I mean, that’s news in itself.
MGM: That’s the best excuse for not coming on tour.
Hollis: It’s the only; life is the only one…but I guess death too. But all of us at this time, it’s a joint effort because he really does want it to be a group. I don’t really know the process but this one I know they wanted, I wasn’t here I was in LA, they went into and recorded the full demos. It was the full band, but I think on the last one he played everything
MGM: He did. Apart from the vocals.
Hollis: He did everything. But this was more of a live, like all of us are going to be playing our parts.
MGM: When do you anticipate going to the studio’s recorder?
Hollis: We have the date set. We’re going on next week. (Fans following the band will have subsequently seen many updates showing studio progress with Album 2 to follow shortly).
MGM: Yeah? So how long do you think before everything is released?
Hollis: That I don’t know. I think it’s going to be early next year. Early to mid-next year.
MGM: Is there an approach? Do you guys know how it’s going to be put out to the people? He has obviously this habit with pledge music or self-funded and things like that.
Hollis: I think he might be doing that again. I’m not 100% sure, so I don’t want to misquote or anything. I think he might doing the Pledge thing again, which would be cool. I think he is. It’s always the Pledge thing, right?
MGM: So what’s the reception been like on tour?
Hollis: It’s been so good. I didn’t know what to expect when we went in. I forget how many people actually have the album. Because when I look at everybody singing it, I’m like wow, this is…it’s actually been out. People actually have it and want me to sing it. No, it’s been great. Every show gets a little better. And especially for myself because we did Download and one other show. So the first part of this tour was only my third show. Now being on the seven shows in the last couple of days I feel better on stage.
MGM: You feel pretty comfortable.
Hollis: I felt good from the beginning. But I just feel my way around with the band because it’s new but it kind of just clicked I think.
MGM: Obviously based on residency and everything like that does this mean now you draw a line under this, you’ve got to hot foot it back to the U.S. or are you over here for a bit longer in case of the recording process?
Hollis: No, I’m going to be here for awhile. We’re working on the permits and legal stuff like that. But I’m here legally with a permit and all that so I’ll be here until December at least. As long as I’m working then I’m able to stay here, it’s ok. So we’re doing the album for three weeks, and we’re doing another tour in December. And then I’m doing stuff with my other band [Love Zombies] so I’m busy. Which is good; so I have to stay here.
(At this point, Hollis pauses and looks in the dressing room mirror – pre gig, she’s not yet in her stage gear) God, I look awful. I’d better make sure…this is just audio right?
MGM: (Laughing) This is just audio. Don’t worry. But, Love Zombies. You had just got to that point where you’re starting to make a big name for yourself, the E.P.s are coming out, the reaction from at least The Wildhearts fan club, is all very positive. It’s all continuing?
Hollis: Yeah. So, you mean for Love Zombies?
Hollis: Yeah, it was weird. It was kind of like, they’re all like, ‘Hey wait a minute, you’re going to join another band?’
MGM: It’s got to be a big fear for the guys, doesn’t it?
Hollis: Yeah, but the thing is when I first stepped into it, I didn’t even know what to expect. Ginger was like ‘Do you want to do Hey!Hello!?’ To be honest I didn’t even really know what it was. Everybody texted me: ‘Did you get my text? Do you want to be in Hey!Hello!? or ‘Do you want to do it?’ Yeah, sure, yeah because it was Ginger. I was like yeah…anything I’ll do with him, you know?
He told me it would be really good for Love Zombies and at the time I said I think it would be really good exposure and if it happens through this platform then, you know. I’m not leaving my Love Zombie boys behind but if this is a route that’s going to help because the music industry is so hard we could sit with the Love Zombies and you don’t have help and you don’t have a big name or something it’s so hard.
MGM: You need the launch pad don’t you?
Hollis: It’s so hard. I have to make them rest assured, I’m not going to forget about them; It’s not like that. If this takes off then I’ll come back and get you. Or vice versa who knows? Love Zombies, we just put out a single that’s really good and like, I don’t really know but in this kind of case…you wait your whole life and then nothing. Then all of a sudden you could do things you want, like two really good things.
MGM: No, I can understand that. At the end of the day, if you can juggle this, it can only work in your favour. It’s good exposure for everybody.
Hollis: Ginger has said he wants everybody to win. But he said, ‘I’m not going to be happy if Love Zombies aren’t successful too.’ We want everybody. And there’s enough time. It’s just when you’re focusing on when I’m touring with these guys then you do other stuff with Love Zombies. You just make things work, you know what I mean?
MGM: How does it work with your relationship with the guys? Because you’re U.S. based. When we were talking to you and the guys at Camden Rocks, the majority of them are U.K. based.
Hollis: Yeah, but I’ve been living here. So I’ve been living here for over two years so I’m pretty much U.K. based at the moment. Home is U.S., that’s where I feel at home but here, I’m pretty based here. I’ll see them live. They’re coming tonight, well two of the guys are.
MGM: They’re going to turn up to see you tonight?
Hollis: Yeah, they’re excited. They adore Ginger obviously and stuff so they’re excited about everything and we might even be opening for the Wildhearts next time – Love Zombies.
MGM: Are you playing at the Halloween show? As the Love Zombies?
Hollis: Yeah, both. Hey!Hello! is Friday and Love Zombies is Saturday.
MGM: So that’s a win-win isn’t it?
Hollis: Yeah, exactly. It’s all good.
MGM: You’re going to be shattered by the time your done.
Hollis: I know. Luckily they’re only half hour sets at the moment so it’s not that bad.
MGM: Where do you see this going? Where do you hope it will go? Where do you think your market is, I would suggest. Obviously you’ve got your Wildhearts fan base which embrace you wholeheartedly…that would be fair. What about the world market? Where do you see the bands making their biggest impact?
Hollis: Hey!Hello! is a little bit more rock and it’s a little harder so maybe more of an adult audience. I think Love Zombies, I always thought was a younger audience because it’s a little bit more poppy.
MGM: They pick up the teen audience then?
Hollis: Yeah, it’s a little bit more poppy and I like my little costume and my cartoons. It’s different. And I say that I think Hey!Hello! is a little bit more of the darker side for me. And then Love Zombies is the lighter side.
MGM: Do you dress differently?
Hollis: Oh yeah, definitely. Have you ever seen Love Zombies?
MGM: Oh yeah, I’ve seen Love Zombies. I’ve seen your Love Zombies outfit. But what about Hey!Hello!?
Hollis: It’s the complete opposite. So there’s light and dark. Everything I do is kind of a bit little more rocky, I think it’s just my voice. But I would say Love Zombies is a little more poppy, fun like happy. And here’s a little bit more darker, I can growl and scream.
MGM: Love Zombies, has for me, got a little bit of the B-52s about them.
Hollis: Yeah! Oh, I like that. That’s cool. See I love that. That’s my fun side but still like you said it could still be rock. Because every time I say that my guitar players like, ‘We still rock!’ Well, we do because it’s live. But on CD, ‘Be Honest’ is pretty poppy. But like you said, I think they could cross genre and all that. Because Ginger he writes rock but he always has those beautiful pop melodies. He’s more pop, you know?
MGM: Do you find he’s enjoying it more because he’s not front and center?
Hollis: Yeah, I think so because I always hear the story that he didn’t want to sing even for the Wildhearts, right?
MGM: The amount of interviews that come with that, he always says that ‘I don’t want to be the singer’.
Hollis: Yeah, he’s probably happy about that. Like anything when you get new people involved, like in the beginning of Wildhearts, I’m sure. But you get sick of it and see the same people after awhile you probably want to try something else. Not that you’d leave it but new energy is refreshing.
MGM: I know exactly what you mean. You need that variety, you need that reaction from different people don’t you.
Hollis: It just does. Like if you’re married for 30 years…And I think that’s why he’s energized because I think it’s like something he can do it all again.
MGM: When you come on tour in December, you’ll have done the album by then or at least recorded most of it. So should we see a big switch in terms of set lists do you think? Because you’ll want to perform the new stuff I imagine?
That’s the vision of what the band should be like going forward.
Hollis: I just have a feeling it’s going to be different. Because having a live feel to it all, I think it’s going to be a little bit heavier and rockier.
MGM: Rather than him having to record the drums, and the bass, and the guitar, and putting the vocals over the top?
Hollis: Yes. So it will have more of a feel to it, more like a real band.
MGM: More raw.
Hollis: Yeah, but I love the whole album. I think it’s awesome. You play everything, I love it. The songs are so good.
Hollis: I might have some of the demos, they’ve been rolling around in my head the whole tour, like some of the melodies and stuff. Hopefully it will be just as good or better.
MGM: Are you psyched about the show tonight (Shepherds Bush)
Hollis: Yeah! London’s, I think it’s almost sold out but it’s getting there. I’m really excited. We’ve all been looking forward to London I think the most because all our friends are able to come too now, right? Don’t you think? But they’ve been great.
Throughout the chat with Hollis, Toshi has been quietly wandering around the back of the dressing room, trying not to make too much noise or interfere but it would be wrong to ignore him so we pull him into the chat as well.
MGM: So what does it mean to you Toshi? You must be enjoying this. The profile for Hey!Hello! now is just rising and rising and rising. How do you feel about everything? It’s got to be going the right direction that you’re hoping for.
Toshi: Exciting. And then for me, seeing that Ginger enjoys himself. Having started the band again everyone’s a really tight unit. We are all looking to the same direction, we are motivated, enthusiastic about everything. It’s kind of refreshing again.
MGM: Everybody’s energized. It is fresh, it feels new. It doesn’t feel like you’re retreading what you’ve done previously.
Toshi: It’s a whole new thing for us.
MGM: How are you coping with Chris? (Catalyst who is filling in for The Rev whilst off on paternity leave) And the live line up? Is he doing ok?
Toshi: Yeah, he’s ready, he’s enjoying it. I don’t know, if this is a weird thing. The better the show we did or are doing, the more I miss Rev.
MGM: The better it is, the more he wishes he was there to experience it.
Hollis: Yeah. So it’s still good already but like he’s a big missing a piece to it.
MGM: But you’ll get him back in December, for the live shows
Hollis: We love Chris, it’s not that but the role was painted for The Rev.
MGM: You couldn’t ask for a better stand-in that Chris though, could you?
Hollis: No, he’s so good.
MGM: The relationship he’s got with Ginger is just second to none.
Hollis: He’s awesome, he’s been so nice and he’s been so good.
Toshi: He’s great.
Hollis: It’s been really awesome to experience him too but we’re excited to get The Rev back. Just think it’s the last missing link.
MGM: He going to look so tired (from fatherly duties) when he comes back with you guys, isn’t he?
Hollis: Poor guy.
MGM: As stage time approaches, we’d better let you go – thanks so much for the time today.