The Midnight Hollow
words by Samantha Slot
New York City’s hypnotic power trio, The Midnight Hollow, is led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Spencer Draeger, with Andrew Segreti on drums and Matt Leibowitz on Bass.
As a testament to the band's most integral attribute, playing live, Stereogum listed them as "band to watch" after witnessing their very first performance. Their first official release, “Downstairs,” was an atmospheric, half acoustic half electronic dream single issued under French based electro/art rock label Zappruder Records. The follow up self-titled EP included psychedelic journeys “That Rabbit Talk” and “Her Morning Glow,” featuring a 6 and a half minute long video complimenting their dark aesthetic. The video for “Her Morning Glow” received praise by both Noisey and Stereogum for it’s hypnotizing visuals and sounds, and propelled the band into the spotlight.
The Midnight Hollow has continued to blend genres and turn heads with their latest EP, For The People Inside. The single “Forward,” was featured on Spotify’s Best New Music Playlist,” became the inspiration for fashion designer Todd Snyder’s NYFW runway show, and was used as the auditory backdrop for the event. The band is currently recording their next album.
Do you collectively come up with your sound/vibe or does it stem from one specific person and the others feed into it?
I typically come to the table with a pretty flushed out idea to work on. Often times it’s multi-tracked with drums, bass, guitar, keys, back up vocals and pretty produced. I feel like I can’t really just write a guitar riff and take it to Andrew and Matt, I am a bit obsessive and need to hear it’s potential and have enough confidence that it’ll be something worth everyone’s time. I write songs sometimes with rhythm over melody so I sometimes start with drums and haven’t ever been the guy that just writes a riff and says let’s see where it goes. I’ve got to hear it all in unison. And only 10% of my ideas probably even leave my home studio and make it into the practice space. However, we really pride ourselves as a live band and even as detailed as the original demo can be, once we start playing it as a band we always expand and recreate parts. Even songs we’ve had since the very beginning have evolved a lot will most likely continue to keep changing. We tend to improvise a lot live and just try to keep the soul of the band on stage regardless of me being the writer of the songs.
Who are some of the most influential artists+bands that you draw inspiration from, if any?
I think inspiration comes more so subconsciously rather than deliberately. I think if I were to set out to sound like something it’d be just watering down something I like and mimicking it. I guess I’ll keep to the classics for this answer and say Roxy Music, Pink Floyd, The Clash, LCD Sound System and the Mars Volta have been a few that roll off the top of my head.
So many different sounds and styles go into your music creating a synth-punk, sultry sound. How is the songwriting process for you?
I work best alone in an environment without distraction. My home studio is packed wall to wall with analog synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines, guitars, basses, strange percussive instruments and mics. I start many ideas without finishing them and when the time is right, sometimes years later, I gain a new inspiration to turn them into full songs. Peach Juice was started 3 years ago but it was released this month! I like working independently because I think the ego can get in the way of sculpting the best song. That may sound egotistical in itself but I’ve been in bands where it sounded best to cut the guitars or replace the drums with a drum machine and in the democratic band it meant eliminating someone’s role. I like there to be no tension and to try and focus on making the best possible outcome than keeping someone happy. If I can do this before I show the rest of the band no member’s feelings gets hurt. That time of exploration is intense. Sometimes I’ll lock myself in my room and forget to eat and I’ll just work on one song or a part that song that ends up getting deleted for hours but the process of it is why I’m so in love with music. I think once I get a song written and am excited about it I can then take it to the band. That’s the time where the way someone plays something that I wrote sparks new inspiration or interpretation on a song which ultimately helps the song and makes a band out of it. Andrew and Matt have revised some of my ideas to something I would have never come up with even though I started the idea in isolation. So completely control and freedom in the beginning is essential before I take it to the band and then getting Andrew’s and Matt’s interpretation of those parts rounds it out. Finally playing live is the real proving ground though not every song which we record always get’s a chance to see the stage before it comes out.
How did the lyrics behind "Peach Juice" come about? What inspired it?
So I had this this scratch vocal/place holder, “All I want is to be with you.” I couldn’t replace the line with anything that fit or that I cared about so I kept it and instead of making some sappy love song from it I wanted to flip the meaning. The catalyst for the lyrics came from one average day seeing some ass clown on the train harassing a woman, licking his lips and saying cmon Mama etc. The girl seemed so used to it as she walked to the other side of the train without even breaking eye contact from reading her book. She seemed immune like it was just another annoying part of being human. I stared at the interaction from across the train and it just kind of made me wonder how many times through out the day that girl had to get that type of unsolicited attention. But I also started to think about how many times every woman endured through those moments on a daily basis. I’d think about the girls close to me like my girlfriend or my Mom and it was just gross. On a separate note, it also still baffles me why guys make such bold advances and the way they crumble in defeat when there’s no reaction. Anyway, I started to think about the pressure a woman undergoes leaving her door, the pressures of walking by a group of guys on the sidewalk, that moment in the morning of thinking to bring a jacket just to cover up and eliminate extra attention and all these little things I never have to think about. I don’t think most men even really realize it.
Anyway, I’m glad something could come from a simple scratch vocal like “All I want is to be with you” and that it could go deeper than a generic love song.
What has been the hardest obstacle you've had to overcome since starting as a band?
The logistics and politics of playing in a band can be daunting and illogical but then again writing songs and preforming is the best thing in the world, so it’s a matter of perspective of what you want. You just have to expect nothing and to stay positive. Regardless, at times staying motivated with the pressures of paying bills and the fickle industry are certainly our greatest challenge. If it just came down to making great music and not having to worry about getting it out into the world I’d have zero problems. We spend more than half our time trying to schedule rehearsals and shows between jobs while trying keep a roof over our heads. In addition, the industry is certainly unforgivng as well and in a way sometimes impractical. Maybe because there’s no money or maybe because people are just lazy, but it seems we are in some strange times where everything is graded with likes, followers, playlists and stats that don’t really pertain to the music. You can just cherry pick off some playlist instead of going to see something in the flesh. There’s no development or time and the industry just wants you to jump into bed with no foreplay. The attention span is cut in half with the fact people are influenced by a number before they decide for themselves if they subjectively like your music. For instance, one time we got dropped from the opening slot on a big show because we didn’t have enough Facebook likes, the band that replaced us had never even played a show and had inflated their social media’s numbers. I only found out because the booker accidentally included the previous correspondences of previous emails. I used to read stories about Gary Kurfist who managed Talking Heads and the Ramones and how passionate the older generation was in seeking out talent and supporting their bands. These days it feels more like algorithms and bots are more in charge of everything now. I really hate the idea that no one takes any chances anymore and as a result you get so many bands that follow the same sentiment with constantly trying to produce “safe music.” People would rather be perfect than be original and frankly I feel like there’s no culture in the innocuous. I definitely should reiterate it’s not everyone, but when we experience that side of it all it gets to be disheartening. I think it’s best to try and not focus on others though and to stay positive and just remember why you love playing. So much stress may be in the lead up to getting a show and promoting a single but once I put the guitar over my shoulders and walk on stage with everything plugged in (and working) I get so pumped. Suddenly, the stress from the politics and logistics dissipate and everything makes sense. The bottom line is it’s hard but nothing worth your time is ever easy.
What are your opinions on the NY music scene and where do you play a part in it?
New York is a big place with a lot going on, it took a while for us to really find our voice here but the last 6 months have been inspiring. I’ve grown to learn that the scene isn’t just built on the shoulders of the musicians but also the photographers, venues, promoters, and other artists. We’ve been super fortunate to bond with our friends at Riot Documentum that have captured so many authentic moments in our shows and really cultivated the best people in NY for every performance. It takes more than the medium of music to develop a scene. We’ve become close with every band we play with and most that come to our shows are all friends with everyone on stage. In my opinion, I think people just want to be a part of the party and it’s become more about minimizing the gap between the audience and the stage. Before these last 6 months it just felt pretty sterile in NY and it seemed like no one ever wanted to really bond with one another at the shows and now I feel like a show is just a good excuse to see everyone you love.
Lastly, if you could dream of one artist/band to tour with, who would it be?
Oh damn, I couldn’t really say there’s only one band. I’d love to go back in time and tour with Pink Floyd and then play with Depeche Mode. I guess for bands currently active it’d be great to someday play with Tame Impala or King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard. There’s no real way for me to answer this, some of my favorite bands to share the stage with are my best friends.