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Hovvdy Embrace iPhone Memo Melodies with "Problem"

We talked to the band about their rhythmic histories, and advancing their sound to full production.
March 5, 2016, 5:10pm

Listening to Hovvdy’s new track "Problem," it’s easy to forget that this is a guitar band comprised of two drummers. Maybe you could have figured it out on 2014’s EP or 2015’s split with Loafer, Stay Warm. There were some gorgeous tracks in there, EP’s "Window Room" and the clumsily delicate "Phase" on Stay Warm, for example, but the drums were right at the top of the mix.

On ‘Problem’ it feels like Will Taylor and Charlie Martin have found themselves as songwriters. Here, everything coalesces, noise works in tandem with itself, and the melody is given force. Originally recorded as an iPhone voice memo and tacked onto the end of EP, "Problem" is the sort of track that deserved to be translated into a full-fledged, expertly produced track. With their debut full-length Taster out on Merdurhaus Records and Sports Day Records on April 15th, the band have picked their moment.

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We called them at home in Austin to talk about the track and their rhythmic histories. Listen to "Problem" below and catch the nice young men on tour starting at SXSW in March.

NOISEY: You recorded the track for the first time in 2014, right?
Will Taylor: Yeah, it was actually a song that came first in the timeline of our band. We did a demo of it for our first release because the person who pressed our tapes was looking for more songs to fill the blank space at the end. So we recorded an iPhone memo of it for the end of the first release. At some point we expected it to have a new life as a full version but that was how it first came to be.

You did a couple of iPhone memo tracks back then. Was that just out of necessity?
Taylor: There are a few songs on the album that have iPhone memo vocals and we've done it before on past releases. We even have drum sounds recorded with an iPhone at times. I really love the way the iPhone compresses sound. So we kind of use it all over our songs.

So take me back to the beginning. How did you guys start working together?
Taylor: Well, we met each other just through bands here in Austin. We met because Charlie plays in another band here in town and I'd seen them play. We met at the end of 2014 and, soon after that, we met up to play music together and it moved pretty fast after that. Within a few months we had written songs and started to record our first release called EP. Since then it's been slow-moving at times and fast-moving at times, but it's been good. We've had two releases and our full-length now is our third. It's done, it's mastered, so we're excited about it.

Sounds like it's going to be a fuller release than before, mixed and mastered. Is that exciting?
Taylor: Yeah. It's cool. We recorded it ourselves and then our buddy Ben [Littlejohn] who plays in a band called Bent Denim, he mastered it for us. He's mastered all of our music and we recorded all of our music. But I think that these new songs have an openness that we haven't really had before. That's kind of exciting for us.

So you were both drummers. When did you first pick up the guitar?
Charlie Martin: I started playing guitar about five or so years ago. This project began when I wrote a handful of songs and met up with Will and we just shared some stuff we were working on. We were coming from a similar place. But we're both primarily drummers and both probably best at drums. On recordings we'll both play drums. Rhythm is what we tend to focus on and we like to play slowly. It's worked really well. For a while I was playing drums in the band - we were just a three-piece. We just really focus on rhythm and not so much… with guitar we're both - especially me - pretty limited in what we can do. We just try to be minimal.

How does that work with your songwriting?
Taylor: I guess our guitar playing boils down to rhythm as well. Even if we're playing guitar it's limited to chops. We both rely on rhythm. So we can play guitar together and kind of feel out how the songs breathe or move. I guess the drumbeat really just comes and the rhythm just comes through sitting down with a guitar or piano. Charlie's a really good piano player, he's a classically trained piano player, so that's been a cool asset to our band as well. But it's really nice to sit down together. It starts rhythmically.

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