The Austin Chronicle

Pillowcore Duo Hovvdy Captures a Lifetime's Worth of Nostalgia

Lo-fi locals release sophomore LP Cranberry

By Rachel Rascoe, February 9, 2018, Music

Charlie Martin and Will Taylor work on the same wavelength.

Passing through Denver on separate tours, the two drummers first met at a baseball game where they realized they shared Dallas origins, sports-centric youths, and recent forays into songwriting.

"I had a batch of songs I was working on, and he had a similar batch," recalls Martin. "I was wanting to record a solo thing to learn the process, but then it turned into a band."

The beginning guitarists also found a common penchant for the emerging East Coast DIY scene, strumming out a rendition of Philly cult phenom (Sandy) Alex G's "Sorry" during their first hangout back home in Austin. For Martin and Taylor, the new gen of scaled-back rock bands revived the sounds of lo-fi Nineties heroes like Sparklehorse and Smashing Pumpkins.

"We felt like we were trying to be part of something happening in the Northeast," says Martin. "The bands we loved had a lot of life on the internet and on Band­camp, and they were all based elsewhere."

United under the moniker Hovvdy ("howdy," made Google-able), the duo circulated their 2016 full-length, Taster, on previously local Sports Day Records, a small setup with consistent savvy for quietly unearthing gems. The debut cohered an inventive collection of tugging melodies and precarious riffs, the principals seamlessly trading off vocals between breezy tracks. The songs introduced Hovvdy's singular knack for muffled, downtempo melancholy – half-jokingly self-referenced as "pillowcore."

"Taster was really kind of raw," says Taylor. "There wasn't anybody listening but our friends."

"We realized it would work because we could not really know each other, but have songs that mesh well," agrees Martin. "[Writing] now, we can copy each other and it's okay, because it's one band. We can rip off each other and it's a good thing."

A year after Taster's release, the collection enjoyed the full reissue treatment from tastemaking Brooklyn label Double Double Whammy. As the first Southern artist signed to the indie presser, Hovvdy had successfully carved out their own snug, distinctive space in the Northeastern scene. Latest capture Cranberry documents the pair's eccentric methods of self-recording, the sophomore LP gleaned from individually crafted demos and iPhone voice memos.

"I recorded pretty much the whole song 'Colorful' in my grandma's living room in Mississippi," reveals Martin of the subdued penultimate track. "That's why recording on a phone is nice, because you just do it anywhere you are."

The intimacy of Hovvdy's solitary recordings comes through in a dusty, bedroom comfort. In opposition to earlier work, when Martin says the duo drew on "a whole life's worth of more heavy emotions and experiences," Cranberry's songwriting shifts to a more optimistic angle. Added layers of instrumentals, working in keyboards, steel guitar, and a piano played in Martin's childhood abode, set a tone that's recognizably homey.

Taylor-penned fuzzy hum "In the Sun" celebrates staying in, while the title track's video samples Martin's home movies.

"The way we play and the way the choruses ring has this kind of nostalgia," offers Taylor. "I think it's more traceable in the music, rather than the songwriting."

Martin attributes the title Cranberry to "all the sensory elements, the color and then the taste and the sound of the word. Sort of like the bittersweetness."

Perfect summation of the twosome, supplemented live by labelmate Hannah Read of Lomelda and sometimes a drummer, who weave downtrodden rhythms through a soft, hopeful wash. Reflecting on who wrote what across the album's 12 blissful tracks, the autonomously drafted songs are all nicked and shined with inputs from one or the other and unified under a single attribution.

"It's a pretty even split," says Martin.

"It's enough to say all songs by Hovvdy," adds Taylor.

Hovvdy’s release party with Molly Burch and Ama assembles Friday, Feb. 9, at Barracuda.

Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.