The Hollis Brown Band was formed by Queens natives and songwriters Mike Montali (lead vocals/guitar) and Jonathan Bonilla (lead guitar). They then recruited Andrew Zehnal (drums), Adam Bock (keyboard/vocals) and Brian Courage (bass).
The band is known for their adrenaline fueled performances. They have supported over 40 amphitheater shows for Counting Crows and Citizen Cope in 2015 with a month-long headline tour in the UK and Europe.
In 2016, the band began a headlining tour across the US and Europe with shows at Firefly Music Festival, WFPK “Live Lunch,” Audiotree, and Studio 10 Live. This summer, Hollis Brown will be touring across the US including the Malibu Guitar Festival, Mountain Jam, Karoondinha Festival, WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday, and more.
In addition to their headlining shows, the band has supported The Zombies, Jackie Greene, Heartless Bastards, Rich Robinson of Black Crowes and Jesse Malin.
We recently caught up with Hollis Brown front man Mike Montali for an interview:
Who are some of the artists who influenced you to form this band and develop your modern roots rock sound?
Definitely Bon Dylan, CCR, The Velvet Underground and artists like that who wrote great songs and didn’t compromise their artistic credibility.
Please tell us about the inspiration for your new song “Run Right To You”?
“Run Right To You” was one of the first songs that we wrote when we started writing songs in Jon’s parents garage in Queens. It is this song about perseverance and working hard to achieve what you want out of life.
What are some other songs off your new EP “Cluster Of Pearls” that you’re excited about?
I really like all the songs on the EP. In particular “Don’t Wanna Miss You”. I wanted to write something that Otis Redding could sing. Think that one is my favorite. I like all the songs because they all explore a different side of our sound that doesn’t come as natural to us as some of the other stuff we have done.
You’ve been out on the road with Counting Crows and Citizen Cope playing over 40 amphitheater shows in the U.S. and Europe, and you’ll be playing some big festivals this summer including the Malibu Guitar Festival, Mountain Jam, Karoondinha Festival and WFPK’s Waterfront Wednesday.” How does it feel to be playing for these big festival audiences these days?
It’s amazing! We spent a lot of time playing anywhere, to anyone, and working really hard to get some attention, so it’s really incredible to now have that success and to be playing these kind of shows we only dreamed of when we were first starting.
Are you looking forward to coming here to our town to play the Malibu Guitar Festival?
It is such an honor to be included on a bill with these amazing artists. We can’t wait to come to California and take part in this great event. Going to bring our D’angelico guitars and crank em loud!! Malibu here we come!
Please tell us the process involved in having your “Cluster Of Pearls” EP being chosen as one of 300 select releases throughout the world for Record Store Day?
We have a good relationship with Record Store Day because we did a release in 2014 which was a Velvet Underground tribute record that did really well. So I think they were open to us doing another release based off of that. We sent it in through our record label and we were very fortunate to have been chosen.
What is your approach to songwriting? How do you capture the inspiration when it comes?
My approach is really to just be open and follow my instincts. I think it’s also important to always be writing. I feel as though when I am constantly doing it, then it becomes more natural.
You’ve been releasing a lot of your music on vinyl these days. What are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl as an audio medium and what goes into this decision process? Do you feel vinyl releases are an investment that more bands should be making?
I always like to listen to vinyl and I was always the type to go to the local record store and try to discover something new, so for me I like not only holding the package of vinyl but also listening to it. There is a warmth to vinyl. I think that there are people who are attracted to that also and so for our fanbase, especially on an indie level, it is worthwhile.
You also had your song “Steady Ground” chosen by Amazon to be on the Amazon Acoustics playlist. How did your music come on their radar?
A friend of ours named Stephen Brower actually. He has always been a supporter of our band and he curates the playlists so we were lucky he thought of us!
How are you using social media to connect with your fans?
I think for us there’s a delicate balance between too much information and information that people will like and care about. We use Facebook Live a lot, and I personally like Instagram because I think visuals are powerful images
Your music was recently released on a tribute to the Velvet Underground. Please tells us how Lou Reed was an influence on you?
He was a huge influence! A New York songwriter with an attitude and a deep love for artistic value.
So far, what experience has really stood out to you as a performer?
Sharing the stage with some of the legends of music is always kind of like a “pinch” me moment. Playing to thousands of people never gets old. The energy, the vibe and the connection. That’s like the best drug out there!
What are the biggest changes you would like to see happen in the music industry?
I would like to see it get back to a point where the most popular music is the most credible. There is a lot of great music being made now and it isn’t being heard by the audience it should.
Please describe your experience the first time you heard your song on the radio?
The first time hearing our song on the radio was like goosebumps. I remember thinking “Hey, this sounds pretty good actually, maybe we are on to something.”
What’s in store for the Hollis Brown Band in the future? Do you have any upcoming recording sessions, collaborations, or special events planned after you finish your current tour?
We just did a bit of recording. We have a lot of tour dates that we are super excited for and we are in a pretty good place. I think after this tour is done we are all ready to make another record and take what he have built to the next level!