The Happy Hollows is, put simply, transformative. That is, the young Los Angeles trio’s infectious and amorphous sound is one that immediately sticks upon first listen, evoking hints of bands that listeners remember not for the scene that launched them nor the trends of the era, but for the moment at which they first heard its music. Vocalist/guitarist Sarah Negahdari wields ominous riffs and finger-tapped arpeggios with skill reminiscent of Mary Timony of Helium while simultaneously singing and wailing like a hyper hybrid of Debbie Harry, Kim Deal and Karen O. Meanwhile, the agile rhythm section of Charles Mahoney (bass/vocals) and Chris Hernandez (drums) vault and lunge with precision.
The Happy Hollows’ raucous and irreverent noisy-pop sound is influenced by genres as disparate as 90’s college rock, Broadway show-tunes, garage punk, and 80’s pop. The band combines innovative song structures, surreal lyrics, and fiercely adept instrumentation to recreate reality into a jagged panorama of vibrant, kaleidoscopic collage. Listening to their music, one cannot help but see visions of a place oddly askew from the world we experience everyday, a parallel universe that is at once whimsical, demented, and ferocious. Among other things, the subjects of their tunes include labyrinths, counterfactual history, palindromes, the colors of the rainbow, time travel, mythical animals, and Tarot cards. On the group’s 2008 EP, Imaginary, Negahdari’s cherubic propensity for quizzical, playful lyrics and signature finger-tapping/finger picking guitar technique are readily apparent as the band quirkily straddles the fence between dissonant rock and art-pop.
Having born and bred their band in the Silverlake and downtown L.A. music scenes, The Happy Hollows played their first shows in Japanese restaurants, laundromats, and small local clubs. In 2006, they snuck into a studio at night and, in two sessions, recorded Bunnies and Bombs, an EP that attracted the attention of the L.A.’s underground music scene. Following its release, the band began playing at larger venues such as the Troubadour, Spaceland, and The Echo. After seeing them play a show at the Silverlake Lounge, established L.A. heroes Silversun Pickups asked The Happy Hollows to open for them at The Wiltern and The Fillmore. In 2008, fellow art-rock outfit Deerhoof invited the Hollows to open for them on their album release shows at The Avalon and The Great American Music Hall.
It is no surprise that The Happy Hollows’ run should meet with such support from their peers since their ethos centers on originality and their beginnings are rooted in friendship. In the summer of 2005, old Washington, DC acquaintances Mahoney and Hernandez ran into each other in Los Angeles and decided to start a band. Negahdari, a SF bay area native, moved to L.A. around the same time and, after gigging solo for awhile, answered Mahoney and Hernandez’s CraigsList ad seeking a guitarist. Upon meeting, the chemistry between the three was undeniable.
Three years into its existence, The Happy Hollows have put forth Imaginary, an EP that is an amalgamation of contemporary alt-rock, distorted atonality, and exuberant yelp. Produced by David Newton (founding member of C-86 legends The Mighty Lemon Drops and producer of The Little Ones), Imaginary articulates the band’s inherent magic. EP opener, “Lieutenant” (MP3) invites comparisons to “Bohemian Rhapsody” if the song had been composed after drinking too much coffee and while high on helium. Track two, “Labyrinth,” is ambiance-d by rolling-and-crashing drum bursts and covered with shouts. Simultaneously, songs like mid-disc highlight, “Tambourine,” (MP3) exhibit The Happy Hollows’ ability to write in the conventional pop form.
In and of itself, a track like “Tambourine” is definitive of the sonic boom comprised on Imaginary; an inimitable brand of innovative genius and gusto. Drums kick in, bass tenses up, guitars sky rocket, and then it all plunges towards the oncoming chorus; a buoyant, liberating celebration of anti-lyricism and the destruction of pop. The sound is defiant, familiar, intelligent, and strong.