Hollow Bones are a five-piece melodic hardcore band from White Plains, New York who made waves last year with their impressive and enjoyable album Lionheart. Before the US election I interviewed guitarist and vocalist Sharon Malfesi about the band’s origins, Lionheart, playing live and US politics.
Jack: Hey Sharon, thanks for taking the time to speak to me. How are you doing?
Sharon Malfesi (Vocals/Guitar): Hello, doing well, thanks!
Jack: How did Hollow Bones form?
Sharon: So, I’ve known Andrew [Formale, guitar] since we were little kids – family friends basically. When we got older we reconnected through the music scene and started hanging out again. At that point we were both playing in different projects. Pat [Anthony, vocals] and Andrew knew each other from school. So around 2012, we formed under our original name Edenborn. After a few lineup changes, we met Connor [Warren, drums] and Kyle [Cullen, bass] through the local scene and decided to take a new direction under our current name, Hollow Bones.
Jack: Does being from New York influence the band?
Sharon: I would say yes, because I think that wherever you’re from always has an impact on your general outlook in life. We all grew up in similar situations and in the same cultural area, so our personalities mesh really well together. All of us are very open-minded and I think that comes with living near one of America’s largest melting pots (NYC).
Jack: Do you pay attention to the hardcore scene there?
Sharon: Absolutely. We try to go to as many shows as possible in the surrounding areas – whether it’s for local acts or national acts. We want to stay up-to-date with who the big names are and who the up-and-comers are. You can learn a lot from watching other bands perform, checking out their merch, seeing how they interact with their fans, etc. We also just like to meet people who have similar interests and outlooks as we do. It forms a sense of community within the scene that is uniquely awesome, and equally beneficial to making great connections.
Jack: New York is famous in the UK for its hardcore and thrash scene, what is the scene like in White Plains?
Sharon: White Plains doesn’t have much of a scene. It’s a small city about 20 minutes north of the Bronx. So typically our scene is comprised of NYC itself and Poughkeepsie, NY, which is about an hour or so north of us. Both NYC and Poughkeepsie deliver, hard. All of the bands, promoters, and fans are very supportive. It’s easy to make friends with everyone and the crowd really knows how to get wild. It always makes for an interesting show environment.
Jack: You recently released your debut album Lionheart. Are you happy with the response?
Sharon: Yes we did! We released Lionheart on May 27, 2016, and the general response has overwhelmed us with happiness. We just wanted to make a record that we believed in, you know, that we felt was truly a mirror image of us. I think we made the best record we could and we are proud of how well it has been received. We never anticipated this level of support. We are grateful, to say the least.
Jack: The album is a very personal album and deals with themes such as self-hatred, anxiety and love. Did this make the writing process more challenging?
Sharon: I would actually say that writing came very naturally specifically because of all the emotions that fuelled it. The album is very personal, mostly to myself and to Pat (vocals). We put our hearts on display for the world to see, and we are just hoping that it can help people as much as it helped us to write it.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Sharon: It was painless for the most part. Randy Pasquarella (engineer) runs a tight ship and he made the recording process very easy for us. We would basically go in and do a song or two as they were completed. Once we added everything we wanted, we talked post-production value and Randy made it happen. His studio is very welcoming and we were glad to work with him on Lionheart.
Jack: The album took a year to make. What took so long to make the album?
Sharon: We were going through a change in direction that I don’t think we initially had anticipated. We wrote the song Lionheart: Execution, and we knew we had hit on a sound that really showed what we could do. Along with that came the name change and a finalized lineup with the addition of Kyle (bass/vocals). So we went into writing mode. Connor (drums) was still finishing up at college in another state. So a lot of the writing process was actually done remotely. I would send Connor some guitar parts and he would program drums for it. We were sending each other tracks back and forth for months at a time until we finally got to play it full band together. It took some time to fine-tune all of the things we wanted. Needless to say, I think the extra time we took paid off and we made a record that we are proud of.
Jack: What was behind the title Lionheart?
Sharon: The title is really about believing in yourself. In our song Lionheart: Execution we say, “I will love, I will grow, I will move forward. I have the heart of a lion.” It’s really about working on yourself and knowing that you are worth something even if you can’t always see the light on your own. You have to stick it out and push through, because everyone has a purpose, and inner-strength is the key to finding it. I think we all take slightly different things away from the title, and we encourage our audience to do the same.
Jack: You’re a band that “loves video games, movies, and pop culture references”. Did any make it into the album?
Sharon: That statement could not be truer! We are all pretty nerdy in our own ways. And yes some of these references did make it on to the album. The most prevalent one is the title of track six – I Watched the Snow Fall, and Bury Your Bones. That line is taken directly from Game of Thrones. We loved the imagery that line provided and it also catered to our love of other art forms.
Jack: Do you think having dual vocalists sets you apart from the pack, so to speak?
Sharon: I mean, a lot of bands have dual vocals (Underoath, Volumes, Erra, etc), but I believe it’s the way that we approach the use of it that sets us apart if anything. We all draw influences from different places and I think when they are combined you get the Hollow Bones flavour of dual vocals. Female vocals in this genre are hard to come by as well, so I think that adds a little something different. Pat and I have always worked very well together and we vibe on what we are saying. It’s really about the chemistry you have with your bandmates and how you can capitalize on that within your sound. I think we found our niche and plan to run with it as far as we can.
Jack: How have the songs from Lionheart been going down live?
Sharon: It’s been going well. We generally get a very good response, whether it be pile-on sing-a-longs or kids throwing down with everything they’ve got. Something is always happening and it makes for a very energetic and fun performance for us. We try to make sure that our set is blended enough to showcase our melodic tendencies and our ability to get really heavy. It makes for good balance.
Jack: What was it like sharing the stage with Whitechapel?
Sharon: Oh man, insane. They have become one of the biggest names in the game, so it was definitely a privilege to be able to share the stage with such a talented group of musicians. They always bring such high energy, so we had a good opportunity to warm up the crowd for them. It was a really great day for us.
Jack: What do you think has been the best show you’ve played?
Sharon: It’s hard to say because every show has been memorable in its own right. We actually just played Souled Out Fest with a number of big names such as Beartooth, Every Time I Die, Fit For a King, etc. That was an incredible show to be a part of and the crowd was very supportive. I think the most fun that I’ve personally had was at the Cobra Club in Brooklyn. That crowd went so hard for us in such a small room. It was the highest energy show that I’ve ever played. We really felt the love that night and I’ll never forget it.
Jack: Do you plan to tour Europe and the UK anytime soon?
Sharon: If time and money allow, it would be amazing if we could. I’m not sure that we can just yet, but we hope to get there within the next two years. Keep your fingers crossed because I know we are!
Jack: What other plans do you have coming up?
Sharon: Right now we are in the middle of shooting a music video. I won’t say for which song, but we are very excited to release it hopefully before the holidays. We are going to sink back into writing mode for a bit to hopefully bring you guys some new songs for early 2017 as well. We will be working with an awesome producer (who will remain unnamed for now), so we are hopeful that you guys will really enjoy what’s to come.
Jack: Finally, as it’s the US election coming up a lot of bands are being asked about politics. Do you think bands are asking too often about politics?
Sharon: No, I think it’s a good thing that people are talking about the election. While we don’t personally discuss political views in our music (not often at least), we do believe that it’s important for people to speak their mind and stand up for what they think is right. I would personally encourage everyone to keep their minds open and to make educated decisions while voting this year. Our age group holds the key to the future, and we need to make sure it’s what we want it to be.
Jack: Thanks for your time and I hope to see you in the UK soon!
Sharon: Thank you so much for having us and we hope to visit the UK soon too! Cheers from the HB camp!