Known For Their Passionate Spirit and Uplifting Music, DELTA RAE’s Female Vocalist Brittany Holljes Opens Up About Their Latest Album and More
Posted On 20 Jul 2015
Tag: 9:30 Club, After It All, Alabama Shakes, All Access, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Brandi Carlile, Brittany Hölljes, Carry The Fire, Cats Cradle, Chasing Twisters, Delta Rae, Eagles, Elizabeth Hopkins, Eric Hölljes, Fleetwood Mac, Florence and The Machine, Grant Emerson, Ian Hölljes, J. COLE, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mike McKee, Pharrell, Royal, Scared, The Great American Music Hall, The Lone Bellow, Tom Petty
The folk-rock band, Delta Rae, consists of three siblings Ian Hölljes (vocals and guitar), Eric Hölljes (vocals, guitar, piano and keys) and Brittany Hölljes (vocals), as well as Elizabeth Hopkins (vocals), Mike McKee (percussion) and Grant Emerson (bass guitar). They have released two full length studio albums- “Carry The Fire”, released in 2012 and “After It All” released just this April.
While Delta Rae was at home in North Carolina a few weeks ago rehearsing music in the studio, Brittany took some time to chat with All Access about their latest release and what the band hopes their music’s message is to people.
Can you remember first starting this group and first realizing that it was something you all needed to pursue?
Its funny, being one of the siblings, it’s sort of like we never start something that isn’t deathly serious. We are so determined and not the type of people to do something for the sake of doing something, it has to be ambitious.
So, when we started Delta Rae, my brothers were in college together and had been singing together forever and they had written songs since they were kids so this was kind of the final push as musicians. I think they will always have a life in music no matter what. But in terms of being performance artists and being in a band, they were writing songs that were sung by women and so they thought we should get some of the women in our life involved. So they called up me and Liz. I was in Italy at the time and I got a call on my funny little disposable cell phone and it was Eric and he wanted to know if I was interested in playing in this band. I was studying abroad at the time and planning to graduate in the spring so that was in the fall. So, I said absolutely. I’m in 100%. I didn’t even think twice about it. When you have a degree in paganism and someone offers you a job, you just take it. (Laughter) Lord knows, nothing else is going to come up. Then Liz was in Peru working at an all-boys school and she got a long email asking if she wanted to be a part of this band. It explained the band’s mission statement of what we were going to try to do and it’s been kind of like that from Day 1.
It’s always been about more then just let’s get together and make cool music. Which I feel like so many people do and it’s a beautiful way to have people be apart of your life. But our thinking was “Where are the Eagles, where are the Fleetwood Macs, where are the great bands of our time. Let’s be one.” So I think that was the mission from the very beginning.
Does being in a group with your siblings make it easier or harder on the group dynamics?
Well, you know I think people with an outside perspective might think it looks harder but being a sibling, I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. There is just so much that comes up, ideologically and in making really hard life-changing choices. I try to imagine doing that with people that I didn’t feel a kin-ship with and at this point, all my band mates, I feel kindred to but it’s nice to have grown up with the same parents who gave you the same advice. So my brothers and I are of always coming to similar conclusions about things and people and choices and so it’s not so much a conflict. There is conflict in the day to day and maybe that would be different. I don’t know, I wouldn’t say it’s easy to get along with anybody that you are with 24-7 in a van and trying to put on performances and create art. It’s always going to be a challenge. So I don’t know, I would say it’s easier from my perspective.
How has the band’s musical style changed since your debut album “Carry The Fire”? Are you more experimental on “After It All”?
I won’t speak for how the songs are being written now because my brothers really handle the songwriting but there has been sort of a shift.
I mean the songs we put on “Carry The Fire” were songs born out of long periods of time and they were sort of our foundation songs of the band. So I think that at that point, they were kind of ingrained in us and there weren’t really songs open to interpretation. They were our cornerstones. I think with the second record, we were much more interested in exploring the possibilities because it is an unusual fortune to have 4 lead singers in a band and singers with really different styles and abilities and 6 different people with completely different musical idols.
In the beginning, we would perform songs the way we would perform them live. With “After It All”, we wanted to expand and play what the songs were itching and hoping for. All of the songs on “After It All” were born on the road so they were about very different things. Out first record was about home and family and our origin story. And our second record is about wander and freedom and anxiety and America. So there are a lot of different ways the album is different. Also, as a band we are more comfortable so experimenting wasn’t as much of a challenge for us.
What are your favorite songs on “After It All”?
Oh, I am partial to all of them! The title track “After It All” is one of my favorite things we’ve ever done and I would say that I love “Scared”. I think it’s so unusual and I love the song “Chasing Twisters”. We re-invented that one from an EP we released before the album and I love our reinterpretation of it and I am so glad we came back to the table and thought more thoroughly of what the song wanted to say and how to say it. So, yeah, I think those three are the top for me but it’s hard because I do love them all.
Oh wow, well I actually have the worst memory of anyone in the band. They will all tell me that we’ve been somewhere before and I won’t remember it at all. Maybe in the Green Room, I’ll recognize the coffee maker but it does take me awhile to remember. So it’s hard for me to name venues that I love although I know I can say The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco is really awesome and I love the Royal in Boston and the 930 Club in DC is the tops. I love Cats Cradle in North Carolina. Those are some places that have held really beautiful memories for me.
The crowds in Boston, the crowds in DC and the crowds in North Carolina are all so amazing. They make the venue in a lot of ways. Minneapolis is an incredible crowd and some crowds just pop out of the wood work and you didn’t know to expect them. Like the one in Des Moines was awesome and Columbus, Ohio was very cool too. We are about to visit the South again for the first time in awhile and many places that haven’t been on our tour for the last year or so. I’m excited. I love the South and I love it in the summer as crazy as that sounds. I’m gonna go just sweat it out in a bunch of humid cities. (Laughter)
I have read that the band take inspiration from so many different kinds of artists. From Kanye West to Tom Petty. Is that because you all have such varied tastes?
Yeah, I think that is a prominent reason why and I also think that music at this point knows no boundaries. I think we all grew up listening to our parents record collections and then we all had the music that we listened to in our formative years, the artists that defined us and there is always great new music coming out all the time. I think that we are just really open to inspiration and genre never really factors into it. I like good music.
I think that that there are so many great artists out right now. We’d love to work with Alabama Shakes, The Lone Bellow, Brandi Carlile, Pharrell, J. Cole. The list could go on and on. We could go higher and higher up the food chain. We’ve had the great fortune of working with some pretty incredible people in the past already so I’m already pinching myself ten times over and I don’t want to jinx it and ask for too much.
It would be amazing to work with Fleetwood Mac. It would be incredible to work with Florence and The Machine or Kanye West or Jay-Z. Everyone! We’d love to work with anyone that’s good and creating something magical or otherworldly.
What do you think is your music’s main message? What do you hope listeners take away from listening to your music?
That’s a great question. I think it’s also a really pertinent question for us today because we are sort of all reeling from the church shootings in South Carolina.
I think that I hope that when people listen to our music, they feel the love and care that is in it. I hope that people can take the songs that are imbued with magic and folklore and that can awaken some part of their spirit. I hope that people can listen to our songs that have greater messages, political messages and use them as a rallying cry. I just hope that the music we are creating will bring people together. I think we are making an effort to really say something and be an American band. I hope that in some way, we help shift consciousness to a positive place and bring dark things into the light.