Origin: Queens, New York
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Following their bliss to explore America’s music roots, Hollis Brown is a five-man band where no one is actually named “Hollis” or “Brown.” But if you’re a Bob Dylan fan, you already know their name comes from the Dylan tune, “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.”
Friends since high school, Mike Montali and guitarist Jonathan Bonilla put their songwriting team together in New York in 2009. After playing the club circuit and gathering a sizeable fan base, they issued a debut EP, “Nothing & the Famous No One,” and later in 2009, followed it with a full-length album, “Hollis Brown.”
Spin magazine confirmed Hollis Brown was hitting its rootsy mark, saying the band “fizz and pop like fatback on a greasy skillet.”
Montali said in an interview, “we’re a songwriting-first band. We like to play, but we’re not a jam band. We’re more like a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers thing–great songs and the ability to play live as a band.”
After touring the country, Montali and the players headed on down to Nashville for a ten day recording session and created “Ride On The Train,” their second album, early in 2013.
By the following year, Hollis Brown had settled into a lineup of vocalist Mike Montali, Jon Bonilla, guitar; Adam Bock (keys), Dillon DeVito (bass), and Andrew Zahnal (drums), and they released “Gets Loaded,” a rootsy, track-for-track re-imagining of the Velvet Underground’s classic 1970 album “Loaded.”
They began working on “3 Shots” in 2014 and included the song “Rain Dance.” built on an unfinished Bo Diddley track offered to them by the Diddley family. They kept the original rhythm guitar from the track and organized the rest of the arrangement around it, in what Montali previously described in an interview with “American Songwriter” as “socially-conscious blues.”
“We tried to be as authentic to his energy and spirit as we could, but also we wanted to showcase ourselves, kind of where it came from to where it is now–rock and roll,”
During the next 18 months the album was painstakingly assembled because most of it was written while on the road.
It was released on Jullian Records in April 2015. Later that year, Hollis Brown toured the US with Counting Crows, and once again returned to Europe. Hollis Brown has toured with The Zombies, Citizen Cope, and Heartless Bastards. Their songs have been featured in MTV’s The Real World, Showtime’s Shameless and the 2014 film Bad Country, which starred Willem Dafoe and Matt Dillon.
The band’s cover of the Cream song “Spoonful” appeared on the Alive Naturalsound 20th anniversary compilation Rock & Roll Is A Beautiful Thing, released in conjunction with Record Store Day 2015. All part of the 50 years of rock and roll, spinning on K-ZAP 93.3 FM and streaming on K-ZAP.org.
Nothing & The Famous No One (2009)
Hollis Brown (2009)
Ride on the Train (2013) Alive/Alive Naturalsound Records
Hollis Brown Gets Loaded (2014) Alive/Alive Naturalsound Records
3 Shots (2015) Jullian Records