Locals: Kevin Hollo learns to let go, have fun in summer-loving Montauk Trash
Even though it's the dead of winter, expect the sun to make a welcome cameo when Montauk Trash visits Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar for a weekend concert.
On its debut, Happens Every Summer, the band bounds through a half-dozen surf-garage cuts that sound better suited to a beach barbecue than the frozen Ohio landscape, which, according to singer/founder Kevin Hollo, was precisely the point.
“It was February 2014 when I was writing the album and recording it with [engineer] Jonathan Hape (who also plays drums in the band), so it was pretty cold then, too,” said Hollo, 35, in an early January interview at a downtown coffee shop. “We don’t get that much great weather and let’s-party-and-do-what-we-want-to-do-and-raise-hell-outside time, so you have to maximize it. And the music I was writing [for this project] felt like summer.”
Taking inspiration from everything from the Beach Boys to 1960s girl groups to Jamaican music, the cerebral Hollo, who has a master's degree in creative writing, tried to keep things simple both lyrically and melodically.
“With a lot of the lyrics … it was very much like, 'I’m going to write them at this moment, so whatever comes out is going to have to work,'” he said. “I was like, 'How do I not think about this?' It was this really cool practice of not caring as much about the lyric, and making a pop song that’s gritty and tough and sleazy and touches on these great American ideas of cars and girls and surfing or whatever. It gave [the music] an urgency.”
Prior to launching Montauk Trash, Hollo moonlighted in a comparatively studious alt-country band, though he never felt entirely comfortable laboring over his songs.
“There’s nothing wrong with writing a powerful, emotional ballad. And kudos if you can do it well; I just never felt like I could,” he said. “My natural energy is boisterous, and I’m kind of a clown. It was like, 'This is what I should have been doing the last four years.'”
The Cincinnati-born frontman gravitated toward music at an early age, initially taking up the bass because his ear was naturally drawn to the low end. It wasn't until recent years, however, that he made his first attempts at songwriting
“I was playing reggae and bluegrass, and initially it was like, 'Can I write a reggae song? Can I write a bluegrass song? Can I emulate the stuff I listen to?'” Hollo said. “As a songwriter, it takes a while for anybody to figure out who they are and what they’re trying to say. I’m done making these huge, grand gestures. I want to make people laugh and have fun, and letting that out on the page and in the songs has felt totally natural.”
Photo by Meghan Ralston
Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar
10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16
26 E. Fifth Ave., Short North
ALSO PLAYING: Room & Board