INTERVIEW: The Hails
By: Carly Tagen-Dye
Gainesville, Florida is home to a vibrant and vivacious music scene; it seems only fitting that the Hails would come out of such an environment. Comprised of Robbie Kingsley (vocals), Dylan McCue (guitar), Franco Solari (guitar), Andre Escobar (bass), and Zach Levy (drums), the group have gained a dedicated following with their enchanting and intricate indie rock. Each second is perfectly crafted and curated, highlighting the band’s talents as individuals and as a unit. Their newest single “Cabaret” only adds to their growing repertoire of feel good classics that are sure to be on everyone’s radars soon. Carly recently got to catch up with members Franco and Robbie about their new single, musical process, favorite snacks and more!
HEM: Congrats on the release of “Cabaret.” It’s cool to be talking to you guys on release day, too! Could you talk a little bit about what it was like recording this single? Was it any different from your past releases?
Robbie: Yeah! We recorded it last July with another song that’s going to come out. It’s an interesting song, because it’s probably one of our oldest. We wrote it about two years ago and played it live forever. It kind of sat in our set pretty solidly for a while until we decided to demo it and give it some new life. We recorded it with our producer Matt...we made him really fall in love with it.
HEM: Is reworking old songs something that you find you do a lot, or was that singular to this track in particular?
Franco: Honestly, besides “Cabaret,” most of our songs are pretty fresh. That song was kind of alongside “Younger” in terms of when we were developing the idea. “Cabaret” is from an older era. I think for most of us was the only song that could still hold its own today. But pretty much all the other songs are pretty fresh. The other one that we recorded alongside “Cabaret” we had literally never played before as a band. It basically existed in the studio when we made it, and it didn’t exist before that.
HEM: Have you seen a change in style or songwriting from these recent releases to ones like the Impel EP? Is there anything that particularly surprised you or has changed the most since your writing has progressed?
Robbie: Yeah. I think we’re moving towards a genre-less approach, where we want to incorporate a lot of different styles. With Impel, you see a lot of uncertainty; there wasn’t much of a blend. But now, I think we’re kind of defining our own style and figuring out how we want to sound when we get into a studio-produced project.
HEM: Even though you’re moving towards that genre-less approach, is there still a certain way that you categorize or define your sound as a band?
Franco: Haha! I honestly don’t know. If you combined the five of us into one person, our sound would be like the music that that person wishes they had. The sound is pouring in all these different influences, like the classic rock that a lot of us grew up with, as well as indie/alternative, R&B, and the melodic influences/rhythmic stuff from hip hop. Our sound is like if that person who liked all that music was gonna make something. That’s kinda where we hope to be at.
HEM: That’s a super interesting way of looking at it! When I listen to your music, I often hear a lot of complex details and parts to each of your songs. Like, with “Cabaret,” there were so many different layers that flowed together so well. When you start writing a song, do you go into the studio with this idea in mind, or is it something that just happens naturally as you record?
Franco: Yeah. “Cabaret” is definitely our most layered song. I think it went up to over 130 tracks total in the recording session. But a lot of that comes together in pre-production. I guess if we have any kind of formula, it’s that we write the songs together, and then work on it for a while until we kinda have a feel for what it’s going to be. When we get to the basis of the song, we sit down and pre-record it. That’s where we play with sound and see what we like. And then we kinda have that skeleton. In “Cabaret,” there’s that repeating kickline of like, “Duh nuh nuh nuh nuh.” We came up with that when we first demoed it. We just talked to our producer and kind of worked together. Robbie said he had the magic touch and tied all those ideas together. He took it from, like, a huge splatter of paint on a canvas of different colors into what ended up being the final cut.
HEM: Aside from this new single, is there anything else that Hails fans should be looking out for?
Robbie: We’re thinking about putting out a song in two to three months. We have more singles that we’re trying to put out after this too. We’ll probably hit the studio in June, just to try to back up our content so we can keep releasing.
HEM: Awesome! So moving away from the more music-related production questions -- I loved the Hails Food Network videos that you put on YouTube. Do you guys have a favorite snack you like to eat when you’re on the road or in the studio for a long time?
Robbie: Haha! There’s a bag of caramel M&M’s on my desk right now, and I’m addicted to them.
Franco: It’s like a five pound bag. It’s huge.
HEM: Do you eat it all by yourself?
Robbie: Yeah, but Dylan took some the other day, so I was kinda mad.
Franco: For me, it’s cookies. Any kind of cookies. I always have to have cookies in my house.
HEM: Like the Publix sugar cookies?
Franco: Literally any kind! Right now, I have Publix fudge striped cookies that I finished in, like, two days. This is the key to keeping happiness in your snacks: always leave one cookie. So right now in my fridge, I just have one fudge striped cookie. When the time is right, I’ll go for it.
HEM: Sounds like a great plan! You also mentioned you opened for the Plain White T’s, which is so cool. Is there anyone else that you would love to tour with or open for if you could?
Robbie: There’s a lot! Um...I don’t know. Probably someone really big, but really old, like ELO or someone like that.
Franco: My completely non-realistic dream would be Frank Ocean. But you’d need Jesus or God to open for him. He’s in his own wave.
HEM: If you somehow found yourselves trapped on a desert island with any band or artist, who could you stand listening to forever and not get sick of?
Robbie: I think just based on diversity of music, the Beatles.
Franco: Yeah, I agree with that.
Robbie: They have everything to offer.
Franco: It’s not an artist, but just give me the song “Needy” off of Ariana Grande’s last record. I have legitimately listened to that for hours straight.
HEM: I completely understand. Lastly, is there anything else that you would like us to know?
Franco: Depending on publication time, we have a couple of shows, but they’re very soon.
Robbie: Yeah, we’re playing tomorrow.
Franco: We’re doing a live recording tomorrow, so I guess we’ll be sharing videos of our live recording sometime down the line.
Robbie: Yeah. Other than that, follow us and keep listening!