The “Kings of Hillbilly Soul” – none other than Columbia, Missouri’s The Hooten Hallers – are ready to release another stunner of a music collection in their S/T. While the album isn’t set for release until April 21st – and Noisey has the exclusive premiere today – we got a few minutes to chat with the band about everything from the album, to their potential collaboration partners and rider lists, and everything in between.
What was the first song or album you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?
Kellie: “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Maybe my mom?
Does that song or album have any bearing on your sound now?
John: I can definitely see some influence from these albums on our current sound. “Tie Your Mother Down” from A Day at the Races is a good example. A lot of the songs we play have a similar vibe. Moreover, these albums were my introduction to the weird and wonderful world of rock n roll, which I’ve been exploring ever since.
Kellie: I use the 1, 4, & 5 chords every day of my life.
Was there a defining moment when you realized you wanted to pursue music in your life?
Kellie: I’ve always wanted to pursue music since I can remember, but the particulars have changed many times over. First it was saxophone, then it was bassoon in college, then banjo, then guitar, and now it’s back to saxophone. I’ve gone down paths of jug band, garage rock, 20’s pop, string band, old time country, blues, folk, hot jazz, jump blues, rock n roll– all sorts of American roots music.
Andy: I’d been interested in playing music for a long time but by the time my high school band went on tour after graduation, I knew I was hooked. The tour was a total disaster but the ‘magic’ moments made me hungry for more.
John: I don’t know if there was a defining moment, but when I was younger I had a guitar teacher that I really looked up to. He was in a band and he wore ratty clothes and big black boots and he could figure how to play any song I asked him to just by listening to it. To me, he was the epitome of coolness. I remember thinking, “I want to be like Jimmy someday.”
What is the official origin story of The Hooten Hallers?
Andy: John and I met at school in Columbia, MO and started playing open mic nights together. A few house shows later, we played our first ‘real’ show on March 17, 2007.
Do you think being from Columbia has influenced your sound at all? (Or whichever townships you’re all originally from.)
Kellie: I live in St. Louis, we’ve got some cross-state Big Muddy Records love going on. I’m fairly obsessed with St. Louis music history.
Andy: I’m originally from the St. Louis area as well, and growing up there I went to a lot of shows in the city as a teenager that made a huge impact on me musically. Forming the band in a much smaller music scene (Columbia), however, definitely nurtured us in our formative years. We got a lot of great opportunities to open for seasoned veterans coming through town who showed us the ropes.
You recently premiered your track “Charla”. We read about the inspiration for the track, but wonder what the writing process was like for the song?
Andy: Initially, John and I got together to write the song as part of a Kickstarter reward for Charla. We just wrote about our own experiences in Lupus and the great times we have had there. After its first incarnation we decided we liked it and wanted to add it into our live shows. From there it made its way onto the album!
Is Charla interested in hosting a party anytime soon for us Missourians? 😉
Andy: The whole town is! Just attend the annual Lupus Chili Fest in the fall!
Your album is out on April 21. What are you most excited about with this release?
Kellie: I’m excited because this is the first album that I’ve been fully involved with the song writing and recording processes since joining the band.
Andy: I really feel like this is the furthest evolution of our songwriting so far, especially with Kellie being fully involved in the whole process. It was also great to have Kristo Baricevic and Johnny Walker producing the record and helping us land on the right arrangements for each song.
John: I like that we were able to road test most of the songs for this album. With some of our previous releases, we wrote and recorded most of the songs before playing them on tour. When I hear some of those older recordings I’m like, “whoa we really play that differently now.” With this album we were able to fine tune most of the songs night after night before we recorded them, so the arrangements are more polished.
Do you have a favorite track off the new album or one you prefer to play live?
Kellie: “Rhythm and Blues.”
Andy: ‘Rhythm and Blues’ has been a crowd and band favorite for a long time, but I’ve also really been enjoying ‘Gravity’ in a live setting.
We have to know… where did the album art come from?
Kellie: Our friend Jason Spencer who goes under the name Killer Napkins did it. He’s known for doing these wild murals all around St Louis. We told him we liked aliens and cryptids and that’s what he came up with!
You guys have been on tour for a little bit here. Any fun/crazy fan stories or memories to share?
Kellie: Does math count as fun? I just crunched the numbers for last year and hotels only accounted for 3% of our overall tour expenses. There are hundreds of people around the country who let us crash at their places, and we’re beyond grateful.
Andy: Most of our interesting stories are about vans breaking down. On this tour it was Atlanta in the middle of the night. Our muffler and tailpipe just fell right off in the middle of the street. This was a few short hours after the I-85 bridge had been on fire and collapsed, so emergency vehicles/tow trucks were few and far between. By 6AM the van was finally at the shop and everyone got a few hours of sleep.
Who would you collaborate with if you could, and what would you create together?
Kellie: Gator Nate. We’ve had the pleasure of sitting in with him live, but what we really want to do is record a number of things for him to sample and see what he does.
Andy: We’ve been talking about doing a hip-hop collaboration for several years but haven’t made it happen yet.
John: I second Gator Nate. Let’s make it happen bro!
What would be on your ultimate rider list?
Kellie: Vegetables. Normally we just get booze. I’d like both.
Andy: Healthy food is great, but also if there was a clean and lockable bathroom in every venue the world would be a better place.
John: If I had my way there would be a pinball table at every venue.
What’s down the funnel for you in 2017?
Kellie: Just being on the road as per usual.
Andy: We’ve got this new record coming, a fresh new music video that we’re very excited about, and some fun festival appearances and tours coming up. Fixing to be a good one!
Keep up with the band and their shenanigans here.