Hollyy Channels Stax-flavored Soul With “Nobody Loves Me (Like You Do)”

You can try to fake authenticity, but someone will sniff you out eventually. Luckily for Chicago’s Hollyy, even the sharpest nose won’t find anything manufactured about their talent.  They’re the real deal.

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Conjuring echoes of Al Green and Donny Hathaway, the deep Southern soul scent that this relatively young band (they released their debut Letters from Lawndale just two years ago) gives off is so intrinsic that it oozes from their every pore. “Soul music has always played the largest musical influence in my life for sure, as the bands that Brandon [Couture, guitarist] and I have played in together over the past 15 years have all been rooted and influenced most heavily from our favorite soul artists,” explains the honey-drenched vocalist Tanner Bednar. “I think the goal has always been and will continue to be to keep our roots in that niche genre and with those influential soul artists but to continue to develop and unwrap modern influences in music.” 

Their new single “Nobody Loves Me (Like You Do)” (on BandCamp) summons the spirit of the legendary Memphis-based Stax Records so authentically that they sound almost possessed, channeling not only the deeply rich vocal stylings of the masters but the orchestral textures of the music as well.

“I’ve always leaned more toward Stax,” says Couture about whether his influences were of that iconic studio or of Motown. “Hearing the big beautiful orchestral pieces never hit me the same as a simpler band setup. I like all the little nuances you get between the couple instruments you’re hearing and how that allows for each player to show themselves in ways like in blues and jazz.”

Following a similar big-sound set up, “Nobody Loves Me…” embodies a harmonic and instinctive instrumentation with each musician complementing and fitting together like intricate puzzle pieces. It’s the sound of a tight band who are feeling it, not just playing it. “The song started as some chords I used over and over on a guitar looping pedal my senior year of college, before I was even in the band,” says keyboardist Pete Giere about the origin of the song. “The verse chords had a nice circular complete feel to them so I think that’s why they stuck around for so long… I found the verse chords and cranked out the skeleton of the song in one weekend. When I brought the bones of the song to the band and we worked on it collectively, the song really bloomed into something that totally exceeded my expectations for it!”

“I think that’s part of what helps us flesh out a song is feeling how the energy is live,” adds drummer Rafael Soto. “After being able to coexist with ‘Nobody Loves You…’ for a while, it gave us a completely separate perspective in the studio. We suddenly had a whole bag of tricks that we could work with.”

Simmering in a smooth soul sway with Giere’s organ anchoring the groove, “Nobody Loves Me…” has the stirring charisma of Sam Cooke and the sizzle of Leon Bridges. It’s a dangerous power for such a young band to wield but Hollyy whirl it masterfully with aplomb. It’s an innate instinct, not one they manufactured or forced. “Not to say we aren’t aiming for quality, polished productions, but I think we like keeping some of the raw energy, and getting a little ‘dirty’ with the mix,” explains bassist Dominic Zeier. “We like playing with saturation and tape emulations! Pushing things ever so slightly into distortion for excitement is something we love experimenting with.” 

It’s this organic approach to music that gives Hollyy that classic soul sound. While their approach may seem retro, the result is anything but. It’s genuine, heartfelt, and solid because it comes from a center of authenticity. “Soul music is derived from the Black community in the 40’s, and 50’s incorporating influence from gospel and rhythm & blues from experience and oppression living in America and that is something white people need to understand, respect and promote rather than claim a stake in,” concludes Bednar. “Paying homage to the artists I admire and inspire me to write music on a daily basis is truly my own intention, it’s just the only way I know how to write, perform and sing.”

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