Photography by Bronwyn Walls
Will Taylor and Charlie Martin met through mutual friends in the Austin music scene in 2014. They clicked automatically, sharing a fondness for the lo-fi sonics of home recordings and a common background in percussion. Soon after, they began recording no-frills, dreamy bedroom-pop on their iPhones, and released their first EP and cassette, ep, in December 2014.
Though they both grew up in Dallas, the band cites Austin—with its slow pace, expansive living spaces, and supportive community—as an inspiration. The hushed, fuzzy sounds on Cranberry, their second album, emit a feeling of intimate familiarity, the feeling of being at home.
Cranberry is out February 9 via Double Double Whammy. Ahead of their sold out album release show at Baby’s All Right tonight February 16, we talked with the band about recording on iPhones, taking up new instruments, and wanting to become a “shredder.”
AdHoc: How did Hovvdy begin?
Will Taylor: We met through mutual friends playing music in Austin. We hadn’t met until midway through 2014, and when we did, we decided that we’d meet up and hang out, and pretty quickly we shared songs that we had been working on at that time. We aligned stylistically and recorded some songs together. From there, continuing it felt like the right thing to do. It’s fun still.
Charlie Martin: I second that.
You recorded a lot of your earlier work on your iPhone. Why did you choose that medium?
Charlie: I think a lot of it was demoing stuff, where Will and I would share initial ideas. Through that process, we came to love the natural compression, as well as the convenience of it: just being able to record anywhere at pretty much any time. We always add in iPhone recordings when we mix.
You both started out primarily on the drums, which I associate with louder, more boisterous music. How has your approach to music changed with Hovvdy?
Will: I think you can mostly trace our drum background as a rhythmic feature of our music, whether or not it’s loud or rock-y. We both have limitations on guitar. We’re not true shredders, so we kind of rely on being rhythmically interesting: playing in between each other and between our strum patterns. So I guess that’s where the drumming is useful. It’s also useful when we record—we both play drums on our songs. Generally, the rhythmic nature of our songs is something I really enjoy.
Charlie: Neither of us are super technical-type drummers. We both have an interest in minimal style of rhythm. I think that plays into Hovvdy a lot.
Was it daunting to start new instruments?
Charlie: My portion of Hovvdy started because I was playing drums in another band. After I graduated from school, I decided to put a lot more time into doing music, and I’d picked up guitar for a couple of years before that. My songwriting wasn’t that serious. I mean, I took it really seriously, but I didn’t expect to form a band out of it.
When I met Will, I showed him the songs I had been working on and he had similar things going on. It was pretty organic. It wasn’t like all of a sudden we were like, “Oh shit! We gotta play guitar!” We keep it pretty simple. We don’t get too in over our heads.
Will: I think the most daunting part about playing guitar is now. Two or three years down the road, I’ll want certain parts to grow and become better, but now, I kind of wish I was a shredder more than ever.
Why do you say that?
Will: Just to expand upon what we’re doing.
Charlie: We tour and see all these bands we love, and they’re all so good at guitar, and we’re just like, “Dang.” [Laughs]
Even though you want to be a “shredder,” you make music that a lot of people describe as “bedroom pop.” How did you zero in on that style?
Will: I guess the origins of it are the environment. In Austin, unlike New York, there’s a lot of space. Everyone has a house, and there’s big rooms. We kind of took advantage of that: We’re able to record in our bedrooms and in our living rooms, sometimes in a way that was very hushed, and sometimes in a way that was a little bit more expansive.
I think we’re always looking forward to growing sonically, and we’re also in a stage where we’re looking to find help recording. We always want to be in control, but there are certain things—like mixing a record—that we’re not necessarily experts on. I would say that we are looking to expand sonically, but kind of keep the same mood.
Charlie: Whenever Will says “shredder,” you can take it with a grain of salt, because it’s probably not what you might imagine [a] “shredder” [to be].
How else has Austin affected your music?
Charlie: I think the artists in Austin have open arms to all different types of music. Once we started the band, both Will and I felt like it wasn’t hard to find a little bit of a home in the scene, with places to play and friends.
But yeah, I also think we identified with other scenes. We’re very close to the scene in New Orleans—it’s sort of a second home to us. And obviously, the type of music we make has more of a presence on the East Coast, so we’ve always felt very connected up there. But yeah, Austin’s awesome. It’s a nice, laid-back city.
Will: I was gonna say that. I was thinking about the nature of the city, and the culture here is pretty slow-paced. For me, personally, that’s had an influence on the way that our songwriting moves. You know, you can make any type of music anywhere, but I feel like in a more bustling city like New York, there’s just a different mood to your songwriting. Maybe more pressure? I’m not sure what it is, but the low-key environment here is great.
What is your idea of a perfect day?
Will: You know, I really like being inside; it kind of wakes my head up. But a perfect day would involve nice weather, people I love, probably some activities, sports, some good food, and a beer at the end of the day. Maybe leave out the beer part, but sports is good.
Charlie: I think I’m just waiting for a perfect day to happen.
How is Cranberry different than your other work?
Charlie: I think that it’s a pretty natural expansion from Taster [our debut album, which we released in April 2016]. Taster was a lot of Will’s and my first songs we’ve ever wrote. Cranberry is naturally more mature; the songs are a little longer, and I think they’re better songs. I don’t think we changed our approach all that much. We sort of just stuck with what we were doing.
Will: I just feel like it’s a good presentation of where we were—I mean, some of the songs now were written and recorded a long time ago.
What’s next for you guys?
Charlie: Cranberry comes out in a few weeks. We have a small tour around the release; we’ll play a release show at Barracuda in Austin and Baby’s All Right in New York. And then we have a small run around a week after that. And then in the summer, we’ll be going on a long tour, and hopefully there’ll be new music on the horizon.