Wicked Hollow officially started in the summer of 2015. Lead singer Bryan Wood and drum man Andrew Lawler had been playing together since meeting in sixth grade. They went on to form a band with neighborhood friend Nick Schmidt on lead guitar. Nick could be heard on Wicked Hollow’s first EP, Resolution Revolution. The addition of Anthony Marino on bass came about after Bryan and Andrew’s 2014 high school band bit the dust. The foursome formed in an effort to establish themselves as more than just another high school band, but the journey was not free of hurdles.
Things were looking great with the band launch in 2015. Chemistry was level and the boys had just acquired a manager and the music was flowing in a positive direction. The first bump in the road happened right as the band was releasing their first EP. That bump came in the form of finding out that their band name (Cahoots) was already being used by a group in the UK. After a few months of back and forth, they came upon the name Wicked Hollow and things began to gear up once again. But their trials and tribulations would prove to be far from over just yet.
In October of 2015, Nick Schmidt informed his bandmates of his decision to accept a friend’s offer and move to Los Angeles to join his project band. With many gigs already booked and the band now holding a vacant guitar seat, Bryan called upon his good friend Tyler Veit to fill in on guitar until they figured out how to move forward. After a couple of weeks of steady shows and time that allowed the proverbial dust to settle, the band offered the guitar spot to Tyler, who officially joined in February and joined his compatriots in their continued forward motion of musical exploration.
Since that time they have played everywhere from New York City to Cape May, New Jersey, written many new songs and have been featured on 95.9 the WRAT. They have also added another dimension to their management, hiring yet another individual (Bill Bourke joins Brian Tice in that field) and garnering outstanding reviews. The band’s music and stage performances have also been getting rave reviews from old fans and new alike.
Wicked Hollow is now back with their brand new release, Live From Hangar One Studio Sessions, recorded live at their former audio vocational school on May 1.
Kicking things off is a song called “Dirty Byrd.” Wood and crew jump straight into their edgy brand of rock and roll mayhem with “Dirty Byrd.” Guitar work from Veit is both classy and raucous, going from clean, clear notes to great big barrages of bar chord power in the flip of a switch and the change of a component. Wood’s vocal style is akin to vocalist Caleb Followill from Kings Of Leon and he doesn’t waste any time with pretenses or rock star poses. Rhythm stalwarts Andrew Lawler and Anthony Marino do a great job of centering the song as Wood and Veit pepper it with their talented ministrations. Part bluesy rock machine, part alternative monster, the song is a winner.
Up next is a song called “Waste.” The song throws off interesting R&B elements in the vein of the old masters such as Curtis Mayfield while emitting strong modern rock hooks and catchy bridges and choruses. Veit once again caught my ear with his tasty licks and chord choices layered over the top of solid rhythm choices and melodic vocal tones. The middle-eight is interesting and steeped in traditional rock and roll brilliance. Wood also shows brief glimpses of singers such as Kurt Cobain and Dan Auerbach throughout the piece.
“Walk Me Home” is up next. Utilizing complex guitar chords and single string bends into echoed syncopations, “Walk Me Home” bounces into the mix with an almost ’80s vibe of bands such as U2 and The Psychedelic Furs. Wood switches between smooth, mellow verses and plaintive vocal wail-filled choruses. Veit’s guitar work is full and introspective as he moves between scorching bends and laid back chord runs. While the overall mood is somewhat somber, the song is well written and works on all levels.
“I’ll Stay” is up next. Winding through its psychic beginning, the band kicks into an easy and breezy verse before cutting to their grungy bridge and chorus. The drum work of Lawler is steady and in the pocket throughout and he works well with Marino. Wood lays down a memorable chorus here as well. Remember that this is a very young band of performers and writers and it gives me anchored hope for the future of rock music today and tomorrow.
“Set Me Free” ponies out of the speakers like something from an REM album when they still mattered. Veit employs gritty, tube-furled guitar chords to drive this bouncy number to the barn. He mixes well with the even-tempered delivery of Wood. The band comes together like clockwork on this song, throwing in ska rhythms and melodic guitar runs throughout and into the end.
“Ramble My Troubles Away” comes out of the rich musical vein of the 1970s. Utilizing a combination of smoking guitar riffs à la Jimmy Page and drums and bass out of Deep Purple, Wicked Hollow gets down and dirty on this one. Wood should also be credited for his outstanding rhythm guitar capabilities which he shows off to good effect here and throughout.
The band continues their dirty, blues-flavored jam with “Revolution.” Recorded live, “Revolution” runs the gamut through the garden of rock and roll evil. Gnarly, distortion-laced guitars seethe over the top of liquid bass and throbbing drums as Woods goes guttural. The song is strong and gels well with the rest of this progressively diverse disc.
The last song on the record is called “Crooked (Behind The Badge).” Wicked Hollow continues their heavier side here as Wood vocalizes under distorted effects and Veit’s hard rock tone. “Crooked” is yet another tune shaped by influential nods to the ’70s rock giants. The band has a great knack for composition and arrangement and this song is no exception to that statement.
Wicked Hollow also wanted to say that the vocational school was hands down the main lynchpin in their current success. If it wasn’t for the school, they wouldn’t be where they are right now. Bryan says, “I took the course with instructor Dennis Bourke in my junior year and learned so much from him. It was also how I met Tyler.” It was also in the following year that he met current manager Bill Bourke who took over teaching at the school. Dennis Bourke was the head instructor and a well-known writer and performer. Dennis passed away earlier this year.
After listening to Wicked Hollow and their new record, I can’t wait to see where this young and impressionable group goes next. With a combination of smart management, great songwriting and a desire to succeed, I can only think that wherever they end up, it will be at the very top of the crop.
If you want to see the band live, they will be performing next at Summerfest In Point Pleasant Community Park on Saturday, June 4. For more information on Wicked Hollow and Live From Hangar One Studio Sessions, head over to Facebook and type in Wicked Hollow.