“Lake June” is a precious little highlight on Hovvdy’s brilliant fourth album, True love – a light-footed shuffle of little more than a few strumming chords and brushed drums before Will Taylor sings “I love you so much” in falsetto. It’s only fair to ask these guys where Young Thug fits into all of this.
The Taylor and Charlie Martin duo identified Thugger as a major influence during the creative process of True loveand they have remained true to their word. Variety. Aside from the occasional sacrifice of autotune – and, as befits a band with two ex-drummers, the “slow bounce” – Hovvdy draws less from Young Thug’s unpredictable voice modulations or linguistic inventions than from his uncanny creative energy.
Martin clarifies, “I feel compelled to show up on ‘Lake June’ the same way I would on my favorite Thug song.”
To be clear, I don’t think Martin or Taylor, or really anyone, will physically react to it True love the way they could be “Future Swag” or “Lifestyle” for example – it’s a fantastic soundtrack to hang up the first weekend of October of the year with a six-pack shiner and a few buddies in the back yard or Remember the last time than you did such things on a weekday. Hovvdy are still absolutely useless as fitness music, despite their last album in 2019 Heavy lifter, was “kind of a gentle nod to our previous buff jock selves,” since both Martin and Taylor were high school athletes (Martin played baseball; Taylor was on the basketball team). “But now we’re frail artists,” jokes Martin.
But I have a feeling that Hovvdy is aiming for a more emphatic reception than her usual praise, which has been building up as slowly and gently as her earlier music. As a colleague of mine remarked on the release of her latest single “Blindside”, “a lot of people on my Twitter TL are wild for this” – that’s what Martin was talking about.
Posted on the last day of 2020, Hovvdy’s Covers 2. away The EP should have alerted everyone to their new populist ambitions – Charli XCX, Paramore and Coldplay songs proved adaptable to a shabby production style that led to Hovvdy being dubbed “pillowcore”.
“We threw the crypt out the window,” Martin boasts. And from the title down, nothing keeps the listener at a distance. “That was very inspiring for us: having some shit that sounded underwater, and the lyrics are super buried, and our mothers are pissed off that they don’t understand what we are saying. Now it sounds more straightforward and more confident. “
Hovvdy’s world was previously largely self-contained True love – Martin and Taylor wrote and produced together in 2018 cranberry and the following Heavy lifter, along with utility player Ben Littlejohn, whose tech job has so far prevented him from going on tour with the band. “He’s been fired on purpose since the pandemic,” laughs Martin. True love was co-produced with LA-based Grammy-nominated Andrew Sarlo, whose recent credits include Big Thief and Nick Hakim.
Taylor credits Sarlo for encouraging Hovvdy to reverse their signature MO: “The more ‘vibe’ songs have been pushed into the background and he really encouraged us to dig a little deeper, grab the heartfelt songs and focus on these, ”he says.
A lot of True love is “from the heart” in the sense that most people reflexively get it – serious tributes to friends, family, and home, given with a Linklater-like nostalgia for their politically besieged Texas. The line dance video for “Ruin (My Ride)” from 2019 may have been adapted by Austin’s tourist office. But a unique challenge for Martin and Taylor was making a “heartfelt” commitment, even if it meant taking an unflattering look back at the past.
“GSM” takes its title from Martin’s brother’s initials, and the lyrics reinterpret their fistfights, Martin’s asthma and his “guinea pig for some drug / all doctors’ favorite patient”. “This is the first record where I have songs like ‘Dad, you could sit down for this one,'” jokes Martin. “But I would never publish something that I did not see as an honest and positive step forward for myself and my relationships.”
True love isn’t necessarily pop – it’s certainly relative to other hovvdy music. But it strives for an “indie crossover” that is at least close to pop, something that convinces people who may find their previous work too dumb or reserved. Taylor’s Junior Day League hits many of Hovvdy’s usual topics of conversation – suburbs of Dallas dream of fleeting youth and loved ones who just get out of focus (“and if I wasn’t so uptight / you’d probably be by my side”) – while he of the driving, slightly worn pop songs by Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
“Blindside” fluctuates with a three-beer hum and approaches the reference points of a pop country song that lie on the nose: hearing Fresh air, by bike to the Tom Thumb grocery store, drinks from red solo mugs and drums to “Everlong”. What saves it from being intrusive is Hovvdy’s eternally healthy, best energy that fills the void that Japanese androidids have left in the mind, if not in the sound.
The duo are currently in Portland when we bond and are taking a breather on a tour that will give them a unique opportunity to bring their more streamlined and confident music to the streets. Hovvdy are currently touring with Dayglow, one of those bands with a self-explanatory name who have stunning numbers on Spotify’s “Feel Good Indie” lists and whose latest album has been reviewed or even mentioned by all the websites your typical fan might frequent. Dayglow currently has more monthly Spotify listeners than Phoebe Bridgers.
“A lot of these shows have younger kids who are their first gig, literally at all,” notes Taylor. “It was special to be a part of it – they want to have fun.” And while Martin Sloan admires Struble’s songcraft and stage presence, he realizes how “Can I Call You Tonight?” and “Hot Rod” have hit nine-digit streaming numbers – “Everyone wants a cool, airy atmosphere.”
After spending some time in the trenches on Twitter, you’d be more likely to assume that people really want the exact opposite – music that constantly reflects a state of panic and existential fear that asks itself, “What does this say about COVID or the climate? “Change or the infrastructure bill?” True love has nothing to say about these things, and they acknowledge the privilege in them.
“My wife is in a great mood when it comes to political awareness and knows what is going wrong in the world,” reveals Martin. “I tend to be a little more in the present moment, what’s going on in the back yard.” In the time since Heavy lifter, both Taylor and Martin married, the former also having his first child. While unabridged joy circulates throughout True love (not just on the actual song “Joy”), there is also an unspoken consideration of a new kind of survival guilt that has arisen in the past two years – how do you celebrate the good things in life when the pressure is so great to see what’s wrong with the world?
“It’s good to have positivity and good vibes,” says Taylor. “And also to remember that not everyone can meet you there.”