Hovvdy Are Making Their Own Rules

We caught up with Charlie Martin and Will Taylor about their growth as a duo, working with Andrew Sarlo, and their brilliant, eponymous new double-album.

Music Features Hovvdy
Hovvdy Are Making Their Own Rules

Before they even started putting together their latest sprawling, 19-track double-album, Hovvdy knew they wanted to change. It has been a decade since Texans Charlie Martin and Will Taylor met in 2014 at a baseball game. Both musicians were in their early 20s with similar passions for music and writing. Musically, they were drawn to each other while each wanted to pursue a similar style of lo-fi DIY project. Working together in Austin and sharing new sounds and ideas with a like-minded creator felt natural for the two musicians.

Martin and Taylor have made tremendous strides in the realm of music and within their personal lives in the past 10 years, releasing critically-acclaimed albums like 2017’s Taster and 2021’s True Love, moving out of Texas and growing their relationships—with Martin getting married and Taylor having his first child several years ago. “We’ve actually been apart for some years now, just because of various things going on in life. Charlie’s wife [is] at law school, and we moved closer to some family up here in Tennessee. We’re actually set to reunite in a few months, if all goes as planned, and Charlie will move here—but the last few years have been interesting for sure,” says Taylor.

The pair both grew up in Dallas with Texas serving as a looming influence over the music they craft together. “I think, in a lot of ways, it did inform my music tastes and how [the] music sounds in other ways. I feel like we were kind of pulling from all over and listening to a lot of bands in the Northeast, in New York, our friends in New Orleans. We identify as a Texas band and if we sound like that to you, that makes us really happy,” Taylor notes. “But it’s hard to pinpoint.” The duo’s collective emotional and physical departure from Texas inspired aspects of the emotional core of their new self-titled album, Martin expresses that these “are the first songs that I’ve primarily written since moving away from Texas for the first time. Being far away from family and friends, I don’t know, I think there’s some of that going on on the record. Just dealing with that change of space and being excited but also being lonely.”

It only made sense that the band wanted their music to express that sentiment of change within their personal growth and maturation. “From the start, [we] loved the idea of this really sprawling tapestry of work that covered a lot of ground sonically and emotionally and Sarlo and Ben were both really encouraging and inspired to sort of push us along in that direction,” Martin continues. “We sort of abandoned the constraints of like you got to fit it on a single LP, you know, which limits you to like 45 minutes. We threw that out the window for the first time. We were in between record labels so we were working on this record completely on our own and we were kind of making our own rules, which is a first and it was really fun.”

Producer Andrew Sarlo inspired Martin and Taylor to delve into the emotional core of their work on Hovvdy and find their voice in the vulnerability of the process. “[Sarlo] has encouraged us to dive a little deeper and be comfortable being vulnerable and letting the song and its lyrics stand out and not get too big if you don’t need to,” Taylor says. “We tried to do that going in, an emotionally forward album where you can hear everything well and it’s a little more pulled back and it’s more about being in that place. We tried to create a place that you can come into and enter.”

Taylor describes the newfound emotional depths of the album as a remarkable moment for the band and its growth, appreciating both the battle and the joys that come with musicianship. “I’d say, at this point in our career, we’re just having those conversations with ourselves and with each other for the first time and it’s cut out in our music. I feel like it is a significant moment,” he says. “Emotionally, I feel like we’re looking at the arc of our band [and] of our lives with a little clarity.“ Despite living in separate parts of the country for several years, Hovvdy still functions similarly to when Martin and Taylor both lived in Austin. The two prefer to work in their “own separate corners” when they write songs. “We’ve always functioned in our own worlds for stretches of time and then we dive in together,” Martin adds.

Recording sessions for Hovvdy were scattered across the country, starting with a cabin retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Within these remote and tranquil settings, Hovvdy immersed themselves in the natural soundscapes and used rudimentary technology to capture their signature lo-fi sound amidst the ambient noise of the forest. “We’ve always gravitated towards voice memo recording,” says Martin. “With this [album], we wanted to push it even further, so we would use multiple phones to kind of mimic a stereo capture of the sound but still had the kind of really charming, slightly lo-fi quality of the voice memo. We were also using the H4N field recorder—just really minimal tools, essentially giving ourselves limitations on purpose, kind of forcing us to be more loose and spontaneous.”

The second recording session happened at Martin’s parents’ property in the Texas countryside. The musicians converted an extra living space overgrown with “lots of ethernet plugins and really bad lighting” into a makeshift recording studio, and staying at the remote makeshift studio gave them plenty of room to make noise at any hour of the day as well as enjoy Martin’s mom’s cooking. Sounds from an upright piano in Martin’s childhood home are featured on the album, a subtle homage to his mom’s work as a piano teacher. Hovvdy was finally finished at producer Sarlo’s studio in Los Angeles after months of fragmented work.

Hovvdy is the group’s most intimate album to date. It’s warmed by the rustic embers of indie-folk and country pop that burn slowly throughout the LP, drawing you into a complex and emotionally driven narrative. The product is rife with natural ambient sounds that linger from one track to another in a seamless, unbroken environment of rich sound. The group expands upon their use of acoustic guitar, taking full advantage of the versatility of the instrument as a medium to explore different textures and new sentimental depths. Martin and Taylor guide you through a cohesive yet varied tracklist, transitioning with ease from somber piano-led passages to jangly country tunes saturated with twinkling instrumentation and bright guitar. The duo exquisitely refined their writing while maintaining the signature lo-fi core of their sound. The evolution feels organic, like the end of a coming-of-age story. We see a matured Hovvdy now, two friends flourishing steadily towards new heights. After 10 years of collaboration, Charlie Martin and Will Taylor show us that the only true way to move forward is to change.

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