Greg Hoy & The Boys
Greg Hoy & The Boys have been gracing the indie music scene with over 30 releases in the 15 years. Recently Greg Hoy fulfilled his fantasy of making a double gate-fold LP in the tradition of Guided By Voices, The Jam, The Beatles and Spoon something that is not scene often in a market filled by single releases and EP’s. The double LP was in approximately a year, a relatively short time for this epic work, at Tiny Telephone and earhopper in San Francisco. With rave reviews, you won’t want to miss out on this project. Learn more about Greg Hoy & The Boys through 10 intriguing questions.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
Greg: My mom belonged to the Columbia Record & Tape club so she'd get 12 LPs or something for a penny. Her tastes were eclectic: The Beatles, Herb Alpert, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra. Like any good boy, seeing my mom happy made me happy. There wasn't much else that made her happier than putting a record and singing. I got my first guitar and wrote my first song in 6th grade. It surprisingly doesn't hold up very well... 'It used to be so easy saying 'I Love You' / now the times have changed & I can't say I still do' — lots of grief as an 11 year old.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Jason: In 2006 (I think?), the afrobeat band I was in traveled to West Africa. We were in a cafe in Accra, Ghana, talking about shows we could try and set up. Someone overheard us and said, “You play afrobeat and you’re from the states? I am friends with Femi Kuti’s manager. His name is Sunday. Here is his number. Call him and go and play with Femi.” We chartered a bus and driver who shows up complete with a machete and gun. He drove us to the Nigerian border where we met Sunday. After several hours and bribes to local officials, we are on our way. We soon get pulled over by the Nigerian military. Holding machine guns, they board our bus and take our passports. Our bus driver immediately runs out of the bus, throws a prayer mat down, and starts praying. The military dudes decide to detain some of our Ghanaian friends. They hop in their Jeep with they AND our passports and head back to the border. After a tense long wait, they return and, following several more bribes, we are are again on our way. We exhaustedly arrive at Femi’s club/compound, The New Afrika Shrine, and pull ourselves together to perform. We start our set. The locals stand in the crowd, arms folded, clearly not having any of it. From behind my drums, I see Femi on the side of the stage, kind of gesturing a 'can I come on stage and play with you?' universal motion. I nod and mouth 'Of course!!!' Femi comes to the front, plays through some songs with us, and the formerly mild crowd goes bonkers. We’re overjoyed and feel completely comfortable and validated. Just an amazing experience! Greg: ... and I get to be in a band with a musician that backed up Femi Kuti!
What has been the high point of your music path?
Greg: My brain works in a way that gets me lot of highs from making music. From a rearview perspective, so far, I'd list performing in Glenn Branca's orchestra at the base of the World Trade Center three months before 9/11/01, recording an LP at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini, and having Yoko Ono follow me on Twitter. Jason: Not sure I've reached that yet. I will say that when people hire me to play drums, I feel honored that they trust me to play their music. That continues to be a 'high' point for me.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Greg: Musically, most of what ended up on the album came about in two major ways, both of were built up from a 'drum parts come first' workflow. The first way was typical — recording loose demos and sending them along. My mom had passed away a few months prior to the initial session. She'd wrestled for many years with dementia. During our last visits, putting on the music that she and I had listened to when I was young helped lift her spirits. It gave us an alternate language with which to communicate. As I recovered from her passing, I'd mic up and play drums in the basement, playing along to those songs to which my mom and I had listened together. I recorded these drum performances and stripped away the original song. Those parts then became the skeletons around which new guitar parts and vocal melodies were written — so in addition to feeling like I was creating something together along with her, I was literally playing along to Led Zeppelin, INXS, Men At Work, Huey Lewis, Van Halen. The band then learned those new demos and the songs got fleshed out in the studio. The second major way happened during one of the TT sessions. We took my 'drumming along to other songs' idea a step further. Jason sat at his drums in the tracking room wearing headphones. We rolled tape as I randomly flicked through Spotify — playing him a minute or so of various other artists while he quickly nodded and began drumming along. He was forced to quickly context switch from N.W.A. to N.E.R.D. to Devo to The Cranberries to Don Caballero to Outkast. After about twenty minutes of drum performance committed to tape, we digitized the multi tracks. Then I took the drums home on a hard drive and carved out various loops from them around which I wrote new songs. Not conventional maybe, but very, very personal. Lyrically, it's the usual stuff: global warming, prioritization, love, death, and cocaine.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Jason: Obtaining, building, and keeping a fan base. How do you get someone to notice you and continue to want to pay attention to you when everyone else is clamoring for the same attention? Greg: Along with attention, I'd say support more artists that make my time worth it: real melody, catchy arrangements, bigger lyrical themes. And hey all you social media influencers and SoundCloud hip hoppers: how about some lyrics about saving the earth and getting us all to work together? I don't care what brands you wear or how much money you make.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Jason: Herbie Hancock. He's a master at improvisation. I feel like he wants to be in on the conversation with you. He's ready to go where you're going. Or follow him! I'm sure he'll lead you to interesting places. Greg: My literal recurring dream (like, multiple times a year) is being the 4th member of a trio. So in my dreams I've performed alongside Billy Gibbons in ZZ Top, Geddy Lee in Rush, Sting in the Police, Phil Collins in Genesis. Every dream is the same — they sort of point to me like it's my 'solo' and I have no idea how to play the song. Analyze that!
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Greg: My two rituals are a work out the day of a gig, and taking a moment of gratitude just before starting the set. It's a little spiritual and grounding. We played one of the last Hemlock Tavern shows here in San Francisco before it was driven out by condos so I thanked the stage and room before we started. Taking nothing for granted in this crazy world is worth highlighting. That, and some whiskey. I'm sure Jason will disagree with the booze decision... Jason: Lots of practice and listening. At the actual show...no booze until after the set. You've spent so long honing your songs, why would you introduce something (booze, weed, whatever) that would make you sound less than ideal?
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
Greg: On this record, it would be 'Are You Listening?' which is just a letter to my mom. Anthony Rogers did an amazing string arrangement on it. When it was time to do the final vocal take, I had a really hard time getting through the whole thing. And once I was content with the performance, I had to mix it. Pro-tip for audio nerds with emo vocalists: a little Aural Exciter plus reverb can help cover up the sound of choking up in tears.
What's coming up in the future?
Greg: My wife and I are currently renovating a 1973 Airstream which we'll be taking all over the country for a year or so starting in April. I'm excited to play with a lot of different drummers and bassists all over the US wherever we go. I'm taking my guitar & amp, and my nephew who's a carpenter is helping me build a lil studio in the '03 Econoline tow van. Having rhythm sections learn the tunes just before we roll into town is an exciting prospect. Kinda like Chuck Berry used to do it but without the weird hotel high jinks.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Stream (or buy a physical copy) of the double LP / cassette at Bandcamp.