Interview: John Flynn (Hollow)

 

Blistering, brooding brutality: better known as the steam-rolling, teeth-cutting trifecta that St. Louis, MO’s Hollow (formerly Hollow Heart) strives for daily. As promising as that may sound to the unassuming ear, even the most casual of listeners likely can’t help but wonder what must seem so original about this particular quartet. That’s where dynamicism comes into play and we’re happy to report that Hollow’s particular rebranding of themselves and their respective take(s) on metalcore runs it down to the last wire. Meticulous and melifluous, Hollow’s attention to detail is nothing short of immaculate- and not a damn thing is spared. Grooving riffs and tight-knit, bouncy percussion mesh seamlessly with subtle atmospherics and overtly dystopic lyricism throughout their new endeavours, particularly in the release of their new single “Anomaly.” Visceral, vicious, and vehement, “Anomaly” features a trademark cinematic appeal within the violent fervor of metalcore- a combination that altogether casts a chilling- but in no way uninviting- effect on the listener’s ears.

The buck, however, does not stop with just the single.

With more music underway, Hollow sets a marked course through their oversaturated genre in their hotbed of a hometown, eviscerating any and every obstacle or lackluster mediocrity that dare stand in their line of fire. Their devilishly delicious musicality is set to culminate in their hard-hitting release of their debut album Home Is Not Where The Heart Is– a mascerating, grating take on the microcosms of modern society as we hurl ever closer towards a dauntingly absurdist future.

Hence, the intrigue; Hence, our piqued interest.

We had the immense pleasure of sitting down with bassist John Flynn to explore the depths and folds of Hollow’s lyrical analyses on the rippling effects between socio-political climates and personal livelihood, as well as a discussion on the directionality of both HINWTHI and the band as a cohesive unit as they surge towards an undoubtedly explosive future.

 

Ouch That Hertz!: Hey, John! Thanks for being on the site with us! How’s it hanging? 

John Flynn: I’m doing great! Thanks for having me on!

OTH!: So, let’s  delve into all-things related to Hollow. I recently took a listen to your new single, “Anomaly.” I have to say, it was clever to release this track just days before ‘Earth Day,’ given its latent contextual environmental messages. Is this a theme that you plan to expound on further? Or are y’all taking a broader approach to the concept [and harrowing reality] of desertification and dystopia as Hollow continues to enter the studio?

John: The album is pretty diverse lyrically, so not all of them share the same concept. But, there is actually a track right before “Anomaly” that plays around with the theme of technology and its part in desertification. They go back-to-back really well. I think the dystopian thing is always a cool subject to work with, so I’m sure we’ll work with the idea again on future records.

OTH!: I think what I enjoyed most about the track (instrumentally) was how atmospheric it felt- amongst all this aggression, there’s this visceral, unsettling notion of internalized bleakness (sans angst) that comes through beautifully in your melodies. Musically and lyrically, you manage to invoke cinematic imagery in likeness to Mad MaxThe Matrix, and Metropolis– all of which are painted as ‘absurdist’ (in the sense that the realities and plausible future realities are far too real). Was this your intention with the track and- aside from current climates- what did y’all draw [lyrical and instrumental] inspiration from?

John: I’d say it was very intentional. We started to write lyrics for “Anomaly” just after I had seen the latest Mad Max film in theatres and I had just loved the imagery. So, you hit the nail right on the head- all of those movies were inspirations. There’s also a lot of great novels that you can go back to, like Fahrenheit 451 and Anthem. “Where will we go when the lights go out” was actually an allusion to City of Ember.

OTH!: While we’re on the subject of new material, why don’t you tell me a bit about your upcoming debut album Home Is Not Where The Heart Is and the writing process for this album in particular?

John: We actually started writing this album 3 years ago. There were a lot of changes going on in the band and people were really stressed out. As a collective, we kind of wanted to cut loose on the record and get a little more personal with a lot of the content, especially about all of the stuff that had been going on in our lives. So, everyone stockpiled riffs and song ideas for months while we worked and saved up. We finally started to fit everything together when we met up with our producer Chris Galvez for the first session of recording. He’s a fantastic dude and I think that mulling over everything really helped us convey the amount of frustration that was felt leading up to that point. We started digging deep into all kinds of stuff beyond the lyrical concept that “Anomaly” had: ex-band-members, religion, and even politics got involved.

OTH!: I have to say, that album title draws on a lot of suggestive concepts for me, personally. It seems to capitalize on a certain amount of displacement that is as external as it is internal- to literally be forcibly removed and/or pushed from one’s habitat and the surrounding altogether abandonment that one must face within a refugee’s conditions. It seems to directly tie back into the etymological definition of an anomaly- literally “unevenness.” Is this play on both the psychological and physical warfare involved in such displacement an intentional one? Or is that a victim of circumstance? 

John: The title of the album is actually a lot more personal than that. It’s actually lyrics from the first track on the record, which is about getting evicted from my home. I had just moved into my first place with a couple of people and my girlfriend. Long story short, there was an issue with a roommate, a lot of threats and messed up stuff happened, and we couldn’t get the dude to go. So, we stopped paying and got evicted. I’ve moved around a lot growing up and I was so looking forward to finally having a place of my own, and this dude just gutted that dream so early. I was absolutely furious and I think it shows in some of the more visceral lyrics in that track, especially where the album title comes from.

OTH!: While we’re speaking of ‘unevenness’ and ‘abnormality,’ let’s fixate on something outside of theoretical extrapolation: musicality. In an age where the playing fields are levelling out, so to speak, in terms of artist-to-fanbase outreach and oversaturation in multiple genres (might I add that, in particular, the St. Louis scene is BRIMMING with metalcore), how do you view Hollow when stacked up against the competition? How do you personally remedy this situation for yourself and your band?

John: You have to have a plan from the get-go. St. Louis is definitely full of some really great bands (many of which we’re playing shows with soon), and if you don’t go into it with a plan, you’re gonna start to blend in a little. A lot of people reading this are going to get a little pissed at me for saying this, but a little competition is a good thing. I actually really enjoy seeing what other bands are doing with their branding, their marketing, stuff like that. It’s cool to see bands kicking ass and it makes you want to succeed more. It makes you wanna tour with them, not open for their local slot. In terms of how we stack up, you know I can’t say that Hollow is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to metalcore. But, we’ve worked meticulously and we went in with a plan, and I think it’ll pay off. There’s still a lot [that] we want to bring to the table and we know there’s at least a few people out there who will enjoy it.

OTH!: For me, one key element that really sets a metalcore band apart from the rest is the execution of groove, particularly in a bassist. I’m simultaneously pleased and intrigued at your specific deployment of it. You’ve got this raw and honest quality to your instrumentation that carries throughout “Anomaly,” even in the more melodic sections of the chorus. What is your writing process like? Where do you draw influence from? And what is your rehearsal routine as an artist? 

John: Personally, I play guitar and bass pretty evenly. I play a lot of guitar at home; I have ADHD, so I’m always writing riffs and sounds. Both Chris Godwin and I listen to a lot of progressive metal and we’re always passing new ideas back and forth. So, as much as I love playing crazy progressive stuff on a bass, I know that- as a guitarist- it’s sometimes better to let the bass be behind the guitar and compliment it. THat’s where the groove comes from, knowing when to work with the guitar.

OTH!:  So, I know you’re all gearing up for the imminent June release of Home Is Not Where The Heart Is, but are there any prospective plans for a future tour in support of the release?

John: I’ve been talking to a couple of really stellar locals about doing a tour, as well as some larger acts. We’re definitely interested in hitting the road and showing people some of the record. I think it’s  a great thing to experience live and we all love meeting new people. So, it’ll definitely happen.

OTH!: Excellent! Well, John, I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! Before I let you go, is there anything else that you’d like to add?

John: Yeah, the pleasure was all mine! Thank you! I guess I’d just like to add that HINWTHI is a really cool album and there’s something on it for everyone, so definitely give it a full listen. If there’s anything that you dig about it, hit us up and let us know! Thanks, Ouch That Hertz!

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