Hollow Heart are an up-and-coming metalcore band from Missouri, and staff writer Craig Roxburgh had the chance to catch up with the band’s bassist/vocalist John Flynn. They discussed the band’s history, the prickly topic of sub-genres, metal elitists, the story their debut album tells and the return of Atreyu.
Hi guys, could you please give a brief history of the band for the Mind Equals Blown readers?
We formed in 2013 after many of us had been in different bands together. Josh [Miller] later came in on vocals once we had finished recording the instrumentals for The Separation, but he and I had already known each other. So we’ve always sort of been around, we just needed to come together.
This is something that always interests me but what is the story behind the band’s name?
Chris [Godwin, guitar] was reading some poetry, and just looking for ideas to work with. The Hollow Heart idea stuck because we all really liked the imagery of a heart being hollow, and everyone looking for ways to fill it. It was a long process, and we went through a million names before sticking with Hollow Heart.
So you guys are newcomers in the metal scene, a scene that is divided on numerous fronts due to a delightful thing known as sub-genres. What are your thoughts on sub-genres? Do you think that they can take the enjoyment of listening to and creating music?
Sub-genres are kind of a double-edged sword. In some cases it’s really helpful in describing a band to other people. In that same sense though, there’s a lot of people that will argue about what sounds belong in which sub-genre, and also that just saying “metal” is too vague of a genre. There’s this thin line between sub-genres being a helpful tool and an annoying burden.
On the continued note of the metal scene, what are your thoughts on where the scene as whole stands today?
I like to think metal’s in a pretty decent place. I know a lot of people see bands being broke, but really that’s not what it’s ever been about. There’s still kids starting from the bottom and establishing themselves in every genre and sub-genre of metal, and I think that’s a good sign of how the community is doing. Maybe it’s a bit less, but kids are still going to shows. They’re still buying merch. Even vinyl is making a comeback, and I think that’s just amazing. There’s still a lot of positives to the metal community and how tight it all is.
What are your thoughts on metal elitists who bash any band that sounds, in their opinion, “core-ish” and will go out of their way to mock anybody who genuinely likes the band?
That’s a tough one because I definitely used to be one of those types. All I would do is listen to progressive metal and complain about bands playing open notes and one-fretters. I’ve definitely opened up a lot since then, and realized that there’s a lot of intuition and great composure in every genre. That “core-ish” sound is still working for a lot of people; it’s extremely fun to play and it gets kids moving. I think being a metal elitist is just something you have to grow out of, and broaden your horizons with. And this is coming from a guy who used to totally dislike breakdowns!
So, you guys are the first metal band that I have had a chance to interview since the news dropped that Atreyu would be breaking off their hiatus. What are your thoughts regarding their return to the scene? Did you ever have exposure to their music?
We’re all really stoked! Jeff [Zeilmann II, drums] definitely had a long-time love for Atreyu, and I’m pretty sure he jams them all the time. I totally dug their Lead Sails Paper Anchor album, but I didn’t really grow up with Atreyu, so it didn’t really come as much of a shock to me as the rest of the guys. I’m a little late to the metal scene, so I missed out on a lot of stuff like that.
You guys mentioned in your interview with Breathing the Core that your debut album The Separation tells a story. Would you care to elaborate on what particular story it tells?
The Separation all revolves around the concept of what changes people. What separates people from things, and other people, and the things that they love. Each song focuses on a different subject, and as a whole it loosely tells a story of this man who has literally been separated from his worldly body, and needs to find a way back to it. It was the various pressures in his life that separated him, and he has to come to terms with them all before he can truly live again.
You guys have a gig with Like Moths to Flames coming up soon on the St. Louis date of their tour. How did that come about and how are you feeling for that gig?
We were just searching for the perfect gig, and the perfect time. Everything felt right with it. Like Moths to Flames just had this insane new record that came out, and our album just came out. We’ve got all this new merch happening, and it just felt like a good show to work with.
What is the meaning, and story, behind “Spitting Image, which is my personal favourite off The Separation?
“Spitting Image” deals a lot with the pressures that society puts on people and what it can do to us. Many people try so hard to fit in and go along with a crowd, but at the end of the day that’s not who you can be. The idea was that mirrors reflect only what you put in front of them. They’ll never lie to you about who you are.
It was one of the last tracks we wrote for the album, and [we] based almost all of it on that massive intro riff that Chris wrote. It really was a blast to work with.
“Skull and Steel” is a lot different to the rest of your songs. How did the writing process differ for that song to other songs?
“Skull & Steel” almost didn’t happen! We had to cut a track from the album because it just didn’t fit, but suddenly we didn’t take up enough space for a full-length record. I had a couple acoustic ideas that were floating around, but didn’t think they would make it onto the album. So it was all really last-minute; even the vocal melodies were mostly improvised. It definitely wasn’t as organized as the rest of the album, but we all loved the way it turned out.
Finally, what message do you have for any fans who may be reading this?
This is always the tough question to answer! We’re kind of a no-gimmicks band. What you see and what you hear is what you get out of us. It’s not like we’re making this music to make money, we just want to get out there and play music and meet people.