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Queens, NY-based Rock n' Roll band comes to town – What’s Up? Exclusive interview with Mike Montali of Hollis Brown

Aug 18, 2016 04:00PM ● By Nicole Gould
Named after a Bob Dylan song, “The Ballad of Hollis Brown”, this Queens, NY-based soulful group of rockers will give you an adrenaline fueled performance you won’t want to miss. Hollis Brown toured across America opening for the Counting Crows and Citizen Cope last summer, followed by a month-long headline tour through the United Kingdom and Europe.

Coming together in 2009, this American rock n’ roll band has achieved great success over the years. Their latest vinyl EP, Cluster of Pearls, was chosen as one of the 300 select releases throughout the world for Record Store Day 2016. Didn’t grab a copy? Don’t worry! There will be a digital release of the vinyl at the end of August.

Hollis Brown will be performing at Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge August 24th with Kit Whitacre and the Chardonnay Boys. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 and you must be 18 years or older.

What’s Up? Media had the opportunity to speak with Mike Montali, the lead singer of Hollis Brown. Take a look at what he had to say!

What are the personalities of each person in the band?

Super laid back and calm – Adam or Brian
Super funny, always joking around – Andrew
Leader of the pack – Mike & John

Out of all the places you’ve traveled on tour, what place is your favorite and why?

We’ve been to a lot of places, it’s hard to narrow it down. I’ve always liked touring in Europe and Spain. Madrid is my favorite city in Spain and most of Europe. The Netherlands is always really cool too.

For me, personally, Italy was one of my favorites. My parents are immigrants from Italy and it’s always nice to be there, eat and drink wine. It’s always an awesome experience for me.

Traveling through America and Europe, what’s it like living constantly on the road?

It’s weird because we tour quite a bit, but we also aren’t on tour. We tour half of the year. When were out, it’s a great lifestyle for us. We get to play music every night and meet tons and tons of people. We get the opportunity to work on being creative and create new songs.

We’re at the point now were we’re not sleeping on people’s floors and we’re not struggling while we’re out here. We’ve got a PlayStation in our tour van for the first time, which is awesome. The comfort level has really improved from a year or two ago. It’s a cool lifestyle.

You get to travel and see all these different towns. When do you get a chance to do something like that? It can be a very hard lifestyle to live that way. People get burned out. I’m married, got my wife at home, my dog, and I miss them, but it’s a great lifestyle.


What was it like opening for Counting Crows and Citizens Cope last summer?

That was an amazing three and a half months of touring and opening every night in a different city. It was absolutely incredible. We got to play some of the most prestigious and amazing venues. It’s a personal dream that John and I have always had. It’s just places like being at PNC as a kid and wishing you could be on the stage and then you fulfill it. It was amazing for us musically because we realized playing our songs to a small club of 100 or 200 people, then playing for 1,000, and then playing it for 4,000–5,000, you kind of change what you do to fill that space and room. You’ve got to grow as a band a lot and project your sound. The simple stuff carries a lot further sometimes.

What reactions have you been receiving from you new Vinyl-Cluster of Pearls?

The album has six songs and it’s something we did for record store day, it’s a limited run. It sold really well. We’ve been getting really good feedback and it’s weird because there was such limited copies spread through the country and there would only be one through every record store. We recorded it live. The press has been really awesome, getting some big critical success for something that was supposed to be a fun record store day thing. People are even coming to the shows with the vinyl.

What makes your band different/unique from other bands?

I think we have better songs. I think our songs are really, really good and a lot of bands don’t have that. They might have a certain sound for today, but we have longevity where we can make four or five really, really good albums and have that longevity that a lot of fans like. We’re one of the only bands with a unique sound. It’s kind of an Americana country thing. We’re approaching it from the northeast. We have a little more attitude and flavor that a lot of the other bands out there don’t. We care really, really deeply about song writing and staying really active.

What is your most memorable moment while on tour?

Musically, it was definitely playing at the Red Rocks venue in Denver, Colorado. A moment for me was being on that stage. You don’t realize the power that it is. It’s an unbelievable experience. Something I won’t forget for sure.

Going to Europe for the first time. That was really incredible going to the Netherlands for the first time. Playing festivals out there. Thinking, “Wow we can really do this.”


Do you think social media has helped you stay connected with fans?

Definitely. We did something called pledge music. That really let us connect with the fans because they can be a part of packages and stuff. One outlet, the recording of the album in today’s world, the fans can be a part of that and what the band is doing in the actual moment. We did an Amazon acoustic special and I Facebook live [streamed] the whole vocal set tape. People get to watch me in a booth. That’s a real connection that’s never been around before. It’s definitely got us closer to our fans. It’s cool that you can keep in touch.

When you’re not touring on the road, what are your favorite activities while at home?

I like food, I like to go out to good restaurants. I like to hang out with my wife and dog, keep it chill when I’m home. I always go out and see shows in downtown NYC. I do what normal people do. I like to write music whenever I can. I get up, go out with my dog, and just hang out. Write a bunch of music, hang out with the wife a little bit and see a show that night in NYC. I watch tons of Netflix—love it.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the music industry?

I probably would say don’t look to make it big. Start local. Get out there and play. Play, create, and write, write, write. Do it because you love it not because you’re trying to become Justin Bieber. It won’t happen and you’ll be disappointed.

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