Slow Hollows: Meet the Frank Ocean collaborators making woozy, Brooklyn-ite pop magic

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Austin Anderson doesn’t actually exist. The 20-year-old front man of Slow Hollows, erstwhile Frank Ocean [on second album ‘Blonde’] and Tyler, The Creator collaborator and part-time Yves Saint Laurent model, has the kind of the resume that can scarcely be believed, except that this is Los Angeles, where walking past Morrissey on a street corner passes for normal.

I can confirm Anderson does exist and, moreover, he wants NME to know that Slow Hollows is very much the center of his universe these days. Following a handful of local releases designed to capture its scrappy, youthful energy, Slow Hollows has entered a new phase, trading simple live snapshots for proper production and songcraft. And Anderson’s new approach is already reaping rewards. Slow Hollows’ latest one-off release, a trembling, woozy waltz called “Selling Flowers,” is a triumphant breakthrough for the young band, a richly textured and mature statement that is more reminiscent of Brooklyn-ite bands like Grizzly Bear and The National than any of their glitzy left coast forebears.

Anderson remains disarmingly grounded throughout our chat at M Street Coffee in Sherman Oaks, always steering the conversation, firmly yet politely, back toward his main musical project. Over the course of the interview, he covers a range of topics from his earliest gigs at legendary local DIY venue The Smell to the long-gestating new Slow Hollows record.

Tell me about the genesis of Slow Hollows.

AA: It started the way a lot of LA bands form—just attending shows at The Smell and other DIY venues and meeting a whole bunch of people. Everyone was just playing in each other’s bands and eventually we were the ones that were left. (The band lineup includes Jackson Katz, Daniel Fox, and Aaron Jassenoff.)

When you were just starting out, which bands really brought you together as a group?

AA: All the local ones, really. There was a band called Moses Campbell, which everyone now knows as Moaning. Peter Pants was another band—I know ridiculous name—and Glimmer was cool.

Wasn’t Glimmer Jack Kilmer’s band?

AA: Yeah, and he actually played bass in Hollows for a while. It just shows that everyone was in and out of everyone’s band. He’s acting now, which is great for him.

Would you say The Smell had a particular sound when you started out?

AA: It definitely has a sound associated with each era and every two years a new sound will come in and take over. When we started, it was very folk punk for some reason. Then over time, it became more shoegazey, which is probably where it’s at right now. But I’m not as close to it anymore. We haven’t played there in quite a while.

You recorded there at one point, didn’t you?

AA: We did our first album there—some of it in the alley, some in the bathroom. I think it worked for the kind of music we were making at the time: surfy rock with three-chord guitar hooks. It was all done live.

“Selling Flowers,” which you posted just a few weeks ago, strikes me as a really strong song and very unlike anything you’ve released so far. What’s changed from that first record?

AA: I always thought of “Selling Flowers” as something more to tide people over until we had a proper release, but I’m glad to hear you and others like it so much. In general, I think we have a lot more patience now. Whereas before, we might have rushed to get something out, now we take our time to work it through, take it to other producers, and listen back.

Is that why it’s taken so long to get the next record out?

AA: Pretty much. We started recording on our own. We rented a house thinking we could do the whole record there, which was a really stupid idea. After being there for two weeks, we realized it wasn’t working, so we took it to a friend of ours, Will van Boldrik. He basically produced an entire record for us. After giving it a few weeks, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to make, but a few of the songs survived, including “Selling Flowers.” Right now, we’re trying to finish the album ourselves in a room with our own equipment. I want to keep it really raw and intimate.

Do you think you’re close at this point?

AA: It’s supposed to be done in a week, but we’ll see. I have set finishing dates probably every two weeks for the past four or five months. And then that day arrives where I upload to a private Soundcloud and listen back to it and think ‘whoa, I wasn’t expecting that.’ But you know, I’m patient to a point. I really want to release something end of this year or early next. I don’t want to wait much longer than that.

What are your biggest musical influences at the moment?

AA: A lot of dance music actually, which is strange. There’s a group called Machine that my friend turned me on to. I love Perfume Genius. And of course, there’s Frank Ocean, who is the greatest songwriter alive right now in my opinion.

Not exactly unbiased on that one.

AA: Ha. True.

You made the decision not to go to college. Was that a spur of the moment thing based on Hollows starting to take off?

AA: Not at all. My parents got me my first guitar, a red squire, when I was 8 years old and by the time I was in 6th or 7th grade, I knew this was what I was going to do full stop.

They sound unusually supportive.

AA: I know, right? I didn’t even realize it was unusual. They weren’t musicians themselves, and I think they were excited I wanted to do something other than the kind of thing a parent would expect from a kid. That and I think it helps that I have two sisters. If they fuck up with me, they at least have two more chances to get it right.

Slow Hollows embark on a full US and Canadian tour beginning September 5th. All dates listed below.

9/5 SAN FRANCISCO – RICKSHAW STOP
9/7 PORTLAND – MISSISSIPPI  STUDIOS
9/8 SEATTLE – VERA PROJECT
9/9 BOISE – FUNKY TACO
9/10 SALT LAKE CITY – KILBY COURT
9/11 DENVER – LOST LAKE
9/13 COLUMBIA – CAFE BERLIN
9/14 CHICAGO – BEAT KITCHEN
9/15 DETROIT – EL CLUB
9/17 TORONTO – BABY G
9/18  MONTREAL – LA VITROLA
9/20 PHILADELPHIA – KUNG-FU
9/21 NEW YORK – BABY’S ALL RIGHT
9/22 WASHINGTON – SONGBYRD
10/18 PHOENIX – VALLEY BAR
10/20 LOS ANGELES – TROUBADOUR