Hollar is a Roots/Americana Alt-Country band from the Southern end of
York County, Pennsylvania. The band was founded by it's front man and
main contributing songwriter, Michael S. Males in 2008.
the revolution of Americana roots pouring through the public’s
speakers lately it’s only a matter of time before everyone is
doing it. Sure, there are a sea of bands playing folk, bluegrass, country
or some amalgam of multiple genres resulting in a mixture of traditional
and non-traditional. The thing is, is that the public desire is like
a roaring fire, boiling away the junk that doesn’t cut it, most
of the time at least. So when I say that American Hollar has been at
this for a bit, with members that are stoking the fire while being in
the pot, you need only listen to “The Things You can’t Change”
to get what I mean. This is a group of guys, some who have influenced
the growing community of musicians, while playing some of the best americanafolkbluegrasswhateverelseyouthink
around. (That’s a real genre, I promise)
Quick background: American Hollar started in 2008 by Mike Males (who also founded myruralradio.com) and has with it, a cast and crew of musicians, some regular some not so regular. They have been featured in a few magazines, interviews, and have about 40 some odd songs under their belt. They are also located in the southern York area. They get around, playing shows all throughout the area and some afar (like other states). Ok, back to the album!
The album was produced locally in Delta PA at Sleepy Hollow Sound, and sounds great. There are a mixture of instruments on this album, most are stringed instruments. You can tell from the playing, they all know what they are doing; the musicianship is wonderful. One thing about americanafolkbluegrasswhateverblah is that you can easily step on toes if you aren’t careful, and if you get a little off beat, everyone knows it and you can feel it in the song. On this album, each member knows their parts, and their parts are well separated so that no one is butting in line, and no one is the star. This is a collaboration of musicians in celebration of the arts, and carrying the weight of the songs on each other shoulders. The sound of the disc may vary from tune to tune, but never strays far from the core of the band’s sound. If I had one criticism, I have but one, small, teeny nitpick: I wish the songs were more open, it almost feels as if this was done in a small room. I love the openness acoustic instruments give off in a live open setting and if recorded right get some amazing sounds. All that aside, I don’t care “The Things You can’t Change” is still an amazing listen on a Friday afternoon with a cold brew, or any day of the week….with a cold one.
The track I particularly enjoyed the most was “Remember Me”. The first thing that stood out to me, is that this one feels like it was written from such a deep place. Now all this is purely subjective, but your in my world now. Through out all the tunes, the vocals come across so honest and pure, but in this song there is something more, I feel. Even in the music playing it takes it’s time, just to get the point across to the listener. It’s such a heavy tune, just facing the things you must but wish you didn’t have to, or at least I think.. Through the whole of this song there is a backbone, a steady rhythm section with a few leads placed in to break it up, and it’s just wonderful, absolutely wonderful.
Most of the things I review on this site, I just adore, so I tried honestly to find something I was neutral to. I’m not a huge fan of country, and to me at first, this border lined on what is country (not that nu-metal nickleback “country”). But you know, after a few listens, I am really enjoying this disc. The song that hit it for me is defiantly “Remember Me”, although I can’t say any of the others hit me the right way, they certainly grew on me. The sheer honesty in this album, take the intro to “Sweet Baby’s Arms”, the false start left in there, just awesome. I love the attitude, and that’s what won me over to them. If you already like country, more so in the traditional sense, you’ll just love these guys; and if your a fan of all types of music, please check out American Hollar, they will not let you down. And I want them on my show so, Mike, if you read this, come on in!
You can check out their album here!
Podcast #129: American Hollar and Shawnama Cinema
by Jason Mundok • April 7, 2014
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW
THE BOAT Mike Males
lives in the rolling hills of eastern York County - that piece of wide
open green between I-83 and the Susquehanna River that nobody passes
through unless they're lost. He was raised in the same house in which
he now lives. It's a situation that allows Males the comfort of home,
friends, company and faces he knows.
Photo Courtesy of FLY MAGAZINE
for the full article online: http://www.flymagazine.net/archive_bands_article.cfm?id=bae9eb6d
knows that the power of technology and social media can bring an idea
to reality quickly and efficiently, but he also knows that real creativity
needs no Wi-Fi connection.
Males' office is poorly lit but cozy, with quite a bit of high-tech gadgetry and a faded yellow couch he found on the side of the road. From this space, he operates a growing list of cross-format creative ventures. He runs Sunken Treasure Design, a company he started in May of 2008. This spot is also the nerve center of MyRuralRadio.com, an Internet radio station he launched in July of 2008 that's dedicated to playing original music by unsigned, independent talent.
Blowing off the rest of the workday at four o'clock to take me fishing, Males says we need to make one stop first. "I've got to get my waders," he says. He doesn't seem the kind of guy to avoid getting his feet wet. After all, work attire is a black wife-beater, jeans and biker boots.
After driving the backroads to his house, he stops in to change into his "waders," which are actually a ratty pair of cammo shorts and some old sneakers. Opening the trunk of his car reveals a guitar case, fishing gear and a set of golf clubs.
"Everything I need for fun at the drop of a hat," he says with a laugh. Once we're out on the water, he explains what led to the beginnings of MyRuralRadio.com, the venture that first got him involved in music in Central Pennsylvania.
"We were going out and seeing amazing musicians play who didn't really have an outlet aside from the bar scene," he says. "I don't know anything about antennae but I know the web, so we started an Internet radio station."
The station leans heavily on Americana - folk, roots rock, bluegrass - but Males is open to any kind of original music. Within months of MyRuralRadio.com going live, he was putting together the station's first outdoor festival. In two years, the event - held every October at Naylor Winery in Stewartstown - has raised nearly $5,000 dollars for the Children's Miracle Network. MyRuralRadio.com Fall Music Festival III takes place October 22, with 17 bands performing on three stages. "This year I'd really like to do $10,000," Males says.
surrounding himself with all this music, it was natural that Males would
turn to music himself … again. One day he found himself wanting
to pick up the guitar. "I had one as a teenager but never did anything
with it, really. Then I decided to take it up again. I felt
"I found myself surrounded by really talented people who I wanted to play with." What developed is American Hollar, Males' country-rock band - or rather Males' "audio project," as he refers to it, meaning that what it is and what it will be is something open to discussion.
The band features a number of area music vets, including Jeff Hostetter, Scott Platts, Sean Fifer and Rod Goelz. Males' daughters - Megan, 13, and Cameron, 10 - have even sat in. Males sings simple songs that echo the triumphs and setbacks of life in a voice you'd swear came out of John Prine.
In addition to all of his projects, Males now has a live music TV program in the works that he hopes to shop around to cable or public television next year. As with his radio station and his festival, he hopes the show encourages people to seek out genuine and original live music.
"It's going to be about regular people who have regular jobs but still write and perform and record and do this all on their own dime because it's what they believe in," he says. "One song can change someone's life. I'm just trying to increase the chances of that happening for people. Everybody has a story worth telling."
Males' own story is as good as any: Good ol' boy does well for himself with an unlikely talent for commercial art and finds a rewarding career. His talents led him to a position with a marketing firm in suburban Maryland. He had several expensive cars and was doing design work for big-name clients like BMW and the PGA Tour. But in hindsight, he says, it was too good to be true.
"I lived on a golf course," he says. "It was like putting a square peg in a round hole. I did what I needed to do to fit in, but it always seemed so tongue in cheek."
Concentrating more on the fish he's trying to hook than our conversation, Males' thoughts wander as he works a spinnerbait through the water. After several frustrating minutes of trying to catch one elusive trout, Males leaves the lunker alone. "I should be happy just to be out here to see something like that."
Back in his Maryland days, he had it good, and he knows it. "I thought I was bigger than everything else until I was put in my place. I lost it all through a bad business deal."
He freely admits to some blame in the incident. "There was a lot of drinking," he says, keeping the details to himself but divulging that he lost his house, lost his business and the life he had built over the previous four years.
But he still had his talents after the fallout, and he never lost his hometown connections. Within a week of returning to Stewartstown and regrouping in 2008, Males had Sunken Treasure Design up and running, the name cribbed from the title of a Wilco song.
It all seems pretty unlikely, going from a player in the corporate world to roots rock musician, successful grassroots promoter and DIY radio programmer in under three years. But having convinced himself he had to be something else in order to succeed, only to painfully learn how fragile that success was, Males determined he would never do it again. "If you have an idea and you don't try it, you'll be living with regret five years down the road," he says.
If it seems like he's got an overwhelming number of irons in the fire, it's the balance of comfortable patterns and new challenges Males relishes. "I may be up playing music until three in the morning one night and then the next day be in a corporate meeting," he says. "But all of them are creative situations. I tend to do best when I'm focusing on a lot of different things." Sometimes, he admits, saying no to himself is still a hard thing to do.
Back at our fishing spot, as the evening creeps up over the hills, Males focuses on a particular hole, insisting there's at least one decent trout in there. He attacks it with precision and patience, yet barely contained excitement, dropping his lure in impossibly tight spaces only to come up empty-handed.
Thinking we should've brought live bait instead, he leaps behind a log and comes back seconds later with a worm. He casts the bait and lets it drift along the backside of a fallen tree. Yes, he can see fish behind sunken logs. But, finally, he gives up. "We've scared him enough, he's not gonna bite."
Later, heading back to the car, that last fish keeps dogging Males. "I swear he was 14 inches long …" Then he pauses to reconsider his measurement, pulling on his smoke. "But of course, nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught."
105.7 the X Fall Jam 2013
Fall Jam 2013 photo by Dawne Walker
Males, Like a Wagon Wheel
Males, or as some of his friends call him, “Radio Mike,”
is a multi-dimensional person, who amounts to much more than a compilation
of the factual data found in a bio. He is a successful businessman—sharp,
clever, and articulate—and ever-even through-and-through. Yet
for as staid and controlled—almost predictable--as he is as a
businessman, Mike is immeasurably aleatory when seen socially—perhaps
out playing a gig or at an open mic.
Mike Males with J.D. Sage Photo courtesy of Liz ANglada
with Mike, these disparities find accord. Think of a wagon wheel where
each individual spoke points in a different direction. Yet when wrighted,
they create a wheel with singular direction and purpose.
Finally, Mike returned to his friends in the open mic scene, this time with something completely different—his original music. “Hey, I've got something I really want you to hear tonight...I wrote my first original song, and I want your opinion on it,” he told me. And in that performance, untried wheels held steady.