Comparing the successful indie-band, Boss Hog, (the band that made Hollis Queens semi-famous in underground circles), to Lo-Hi, the new project that moves her away from the drums to the front of the stage, is kind of like mixing ice cubes into a Jello recipe: expect the same solid-sweet taste with a faster set-up. Like its predecessor, Lo-Hi is a raunchy rocking good time, but Boss Hog’s vocalist Cristina Martinez and company were more into experimental, bluesy-punk and Hollis Queens’ gang falls into a grittier, straight-up rock category.
It seems to be a new era for drummers, having their shot as the frontman, too. But you don’t see it happening a lot with women. But then how many women do you know who rock as hard as Hollis? So, is she having a good time?
“Hell, yeah!” she yells back at me.
Lo-Hi started out with Martin Owens (drummer for Speedball Baby) as a two-piece band, “which I hear are really popular right now,” Hollis says with a sarcastic chuckle. “I just wanted to start singing and it’s, like, voila!”
So how are things different with Lo-Hi?
“I’d describe the sound, well, I wouldn’t call it garage. It’s a rock-thing, really. At the end of the day, it’s a rock and roll band. We just have a little more funk in the trunk.”
She compares Lo-Hi to the Kinks, and to the lo-fi rock which is an obvious suggestion of her own band’s name. “We’re more dirty, stripped down,” she says. “More about a riff and a guitar, a guitar tone, than about a melody. We’d like to go more in the way of melody,” she laughs, “but we’re still just a throbbing rock band. Rock and roll!” she hoots.
Lo-Hi, says Queens, is completely different in vibe and experience from Boss Hog.
“Boss Hog was a happening band of its time,” she says, “and it was fun because people came out to see us.” Lo-Hi, she thinks, has a ways to go before building that kind of an audience of hardcore devotees. “But it’s interesting to really work for something now, because I’m not a little kid. But I’m not a stuffy old person, either!” she quickly adds. She says the young kids seem to be digging Lo-Hi, and she finds it refreshing. “It’s fun to see a rock band with a girl who really tries to sing. It’s different. I mean, I like Pat Benatar! When she hits those fuckin’ notes, she hits them spot-on! She’s an opera singer! I like that!”
Hollis’ last show with the, Boss Hog, was in Auckland, back in November of 2000, but as she mentions this, her voice gets this thoughtful tone to it, almost as if she could pick up her gear and get back on the road with them tomorrow. We press her on this: “Well, you never know if it’s quits-quits,” she says. Hmmm…
In between Boss Hogg and Lo-Hi, Hollis wrote some wildly out of character dance music stuff just for fun, which gets the occasional spin from NYC deejay friends. “You wouldn’t recognize it unless I pointed it out,” she chuckles. So who’s the heart of the sound and feel of Lo-Hi? Is this all Hollis’ baby?
“There are some songs I’m more the impetus for, and once I point them out it’s apparent. But songs that are riff-driven, Jens [Jurgensen] is behind those. But we write them together because I still gotta sing on everything and that’s a pretty substantial thing.”
The stuff on Lo-Hi’s eponymous debut CD is clearly about a good time, and when you’re turning on the TV to be pounded with images of war every day, a good time is sorely needed. Does Hollis feel that a lot of the music out there gets too heavy and stuck in the seriousness of the times?
“Musicians are always gonna write about what’s going on in the moment. You can’t escape that. I think it’s okay when people get serious. If that’s what they’re feeling, it’s appropriate. When a band knows their limitations it’s good, because they work within those. Sometimes we don’t, I have to say…honestly! But we know we’re pretty much about having fun. What’s different about Lo-Hi is the range and variety.”
So, within the ‘fun’ range, what are your limitations, exactly?
“Having something to say!” she laughs. “I don’t always have anything to say! Having a purpose in life? Ha! It’s interesting, because I am a very serious person about certain things in real life, but the music’s obviously a goof! I’m very outer-directed: if I think, ‘do I want to do this?’ I just go with it! There’s a little Jim Carey in me, I think. I don’t think everybody’s got to be funny, but I like some emotion and humor. I’m hoping we’ll be less of a fad. I think the record will stand up to time.”
Over the last ten years, Hollis Queens has learned about being in bands and she has no regrets. “It was an exciting, interesting experience and we went a long time and through a lot of changes. Back then, I didn’t have to deal with the business end of it at all,” she says. “I didn’t care about any of that. I just wanted to perform and play the drums, I didn’t want to know the Biz.”
Today, Hollis juggles the real life of a day-job to support the music habit. “New York City’s a bit of a rat race,” she says (but how could she not love it with a name like Hollis, Queens?). “It’s a hustle and a hassle. I get the feeling it’s easier in other towns to do unemployment and just be true to your music. I haven’t done that.”
Besides work, Hollis does T’ai Chi and interviews for a cool little zine called Kitty Magik (www.kittymagik.com). Her voice picks up speed as she excitedly tells about a press conference she held for the White Stripes.
“It was hilarious! It was in New York City, in the middle of a huge fucking blizzard. I had the feeling there would have been more people there, otherwise. This was recent, like, just a few months ago!”
“I got really nervous, it was so weird. I know they’re like, this huge band, tied to the scene, and all I can think is, a fucking press conference for these guys?. I had this picture in my mind like it was gonna be in some Presidential hall and they’d be standing at a podium!”
“They had it at this Thai place called ‘Elephant,’—also the title of their record which is pretty cool. When I got there, everyone was really young. Like, early 20s. So I was laughing because the questions were like, clueless! There was only about ten of us. It was so bizarre. Some of the people didn’t really even like them or know who they were. I asked ‘em about opening for the Rolling Stones and some kid goes, “well, yeah, you know, the Rolling Stones are using the younger hipper things to get the younger crowd.” I was laughing my ass off! I wanted to yell in his face, ‘Hey, 20-Something!’ but then everyone would have turned around. I wanted to say, ‘The Rolling Stones are the number one live rock band in the fucking world!’ But I had a great experience.”
So, until Lo-Hi are as big as the Rolling Stones, or even the White Stripes, what message does the band want our readers to take along with them?
“We put on a good show. We’ll reach you.”