If you are down for laidback acoustic folk vibes, chances are that you have already stumbled upon the music of the Hollow Coves. And if you haven’t – well, it’s about time that you do. Hailing from Brisbane, Ryan Henderson and Matt Carins, on equal terms vocalists and guitarists, have had quite the run ever since the success of their 2017 debut EP Wanderlust led them to quit their jobs regular jobs as engineer and carpenter to pursue writing music full time. Following Moments, their first full-length in 2019, Blessings is the latest strike of the two likeable lads, at once a reminder of their acoustic roots and a brimming affirmation that life is worth living for, come whatever may.
Given the earthy symphonies and the handmade aesthetics that the Australian two-piece has cultivated since their foundation, it comes as no surprise that Ryan and Matt should have taken advantage of the involuntary lockdown break to stack up on their production skills and building a recording environment that would satisfy their personal needs. “With all of Covid happening, we realised we weren’t going to be able to tour and so we found a place and set up a little home studio, just learning to do all of the recordings ourselves”, Matt breaks down, in the same breath expressing their worries, if the fans would cherish their production skills, as four of the five songs were entirely produced by themselves. “We didn’t really know what we were doing, so it’s been really nice to hear positive feedback”.
“We also built a little soundproof little room. Because Ryan and I live together and we’ve got like a studio in the back, that we put together. I used to be a carpenter, I just used that knowledge to make a soundproof room. It’s a tiny little space of two meters by one meter, with a door in it. We were able to capture some good quality recordings… There’s a big learning curve for sure. We’re pretty happy how it turned out in the end.”
Crafting one’s sound that way seems only a logical step for the duo, as the Hollow Coves was always a DYI project to begin with. Introduced to each other by a mutual friend Ryan and Matt and soon related by their mutual love of travel and nostalgic guitar music, the two began writing songs and ended up recording the Wanderlust EP in the garage of a friend.
“At first it was just three songs and because we recorded them just in the garage, we kind of just thought they weren’t good enough for Spotify or iTunes or anything like that, so we put them on Soundcloud at the time. We really didn’t think that they were going to do anything. We just though it would be nice if a thousand people hear them… And then it just took off. A couple of days later one of the songs had gotten 50,000 plays in a day, and in the next day it was more. All of a sudden it got to a million streams on Soundcloud.”
And while Moments saw the act heading into a more full-sounding production, the songs on Blessings step into the mellow air of the early EPs again, unraveling an acoustic universe full of hope and embrace for what the future holds.
There are blessings all around you
Open up your eyes
Feel the sunlight fall upon you
Let it free your mind
(Hollow Coves – Blessings)
Competing For Creativity
For a band that takes a lot of inspiration out of exploring unknown places, last year’s lockdown situation stroke particularly tough, as both are keen to ensure. So how do you stay creative in the middle of a pandemic? For the Hollow Coves, competing with others seemed key. “We started this creative group where we tried to encourage each other to write two songs a week”, Ryan explains. “And then we would all share the songs that we had written that week with each other. Just a way to encourage each other to keep writing, keep being productive through that time”. It is exactly that bright and resilient mindset, put together with the acoustic charm of sweet sounding guitars that makes up the bliss of these songs. Even the season of Covid cannot tie down a hopeful soul, such is the message of Blessings.
“We kind of just realised that when you are grateful for the things that you do have, it makes you more appreciative of life.”
“A Positive Spin”
Although often reminiscing in sentiments of wanderlust and nostalgia for times past, the feeling of positivity and hope for the future gleams through the pieces like a shining star. Hollow Coves have set out to share their sense of aspiration through their songs.
“Part of what we did with that EP was intentionally realising that a lot of people have been stuck by themselves or isolated in this past year and a half. And so there’s definitely lyrical content in the songs that is kind of speaking into these people, realising that a lot of people are going through tough times at the moment. Maybe struggling with their mental health if they’re being trapped inside. We just wanted to give this EP as a bit of a beacon of hope.”
That notion of unwavering affirmation of the worth of living is truly contagious, both in the music, as in how Ryan and Matt talk about it:
“If you open your eyes and look around and see what you have and you appreciate it, then you will actually experience so much more and experience the richness of life and realise actually that this life is amazing. There is so much beauty in this world.”
There’s so much more that you can live for
So much life to explore, just don’t give up
(Hollow Coves – From The Second Floor)
Road Trip Folk Without A Road To Trip On?
Theme-wise the Blessings EP is not so much about the wistful longing for the windy, open roads so present in the releases prior to the pandemic, but rather heading into a “more self-reflective” angle, as Matt notices, explaining that “as we experience different things through life, that’s what we write about”. Ryan further explains:
“We haven’t been travelling through Covid. There’s no inspiration that we can draw off. So it’s more just things that we’re experiencing at home or things that we’re seeing, or even just things that we are observing in the world and writing about how we feel about these things.”
And yet, for all the shifted inner focus of the songs on Blessings, Hollow Coves manage to pull off a pretty intoxicating flow of sound that is full of the desire to experience the abundance of life.
Cross the borderlines?
Blessings surely marks a slight return for Hollow Coves to even more chilled acoustic realms, and yet Matt and Ryan ensure me that a more full production is underway soon. “We’re trying to get out of the box of being a really chilled acoustic band. If you come to our live show it’s actually a lot of dancing involved, a bit more full-sounding… we’re trying to keep developing”, Matt further explains. As for the mellow signature sound the two have crafted, I have the slight feeling that the Brisbane duo are not preparing to become the next Ben Howard or Mumford and Sons and quit their folkish roots to lose themselves in experimental ventures. Ryan emphasises:
“We’ll always have chilled acoustic songs on every album. We’ll always write those songs and keep releasing music like that. But we also want to start expanding on that and making steps towards something even bigger… We are gonna keep writing as long as creativity keeps coming. If it stops, we will try and jump on something different and see what happens.”
“If you can write a song that stands on its own with just a guitar and a voice, you know it’s a good song. If it needs all the electronic production to sound good, then it’s maybe not a good song”, he adds with a twinkling eye. Well, isn’t he just right about that?
Hollow Coves’ new EP Blessings is out now via Nettwerk Music.
Check out all editions of Andreas’ For Folk’s Sake series right here.