An Interview With Mike Montali of Hollis Brown

Hollis Brown, left to right: Adam Bock, Andrew Zehnal, Mike Montali, Chris Urriola, Jonathan Bonilla
Bloggerhythms recently reviewed Ozone Park, the latest album by modern rock quintet Hollis Brown, and I thought enough of both the band and the record to ask lead singer Mike Montali if he would agree to an online interview. He immediately said yes.

Hollis Brown is from Queens, one of New York City's outer boroughs, and the album is named after their neighborhood that is famous for being an Italian-American enclave.

The quintet combines modern rock with more traditional rock styles. Their mostly electric guitar based sound uses a multitude of influences, and combines them with top notch songwriting to become one of the more appealing band of rockers working today.

Singer Montali writes the songs along with lead guitarist Jonathan Bonilla. They are joined by Andrew Zehnal on drums, keyboard man Adam Bock, and bassist Chris Urriola.

Montali's responses to questions are in quotes and are published here exactly as they were emailed back to Bloggerhythms.

The outfit is named after an early Bob Dylan song, "The Ballad of Hollis Brown." It comes from the great folk-rocker's 1964 album, The Times They are a-Changin' and I asked Montali why that name was chosen. His answer was simple, "He's the greatest songwriter ever." On their Wikipedia page Bonilla added that the name sounded "very true to America."

The band began in 2009. Both Zehnal and Bock have been with the group since 2014 with Urriola joining them later. These personnel moves brought musical changes Montali was happy to discuss. "The current band is different in our sound. We are modernizing our sound in an interesting way and we continue to work hard and give the people the best we can every night."

Bonilla's and Montali's music is "inspired by a lot of things. Mainly our travels, the things we see around us in NYC, other art and music, our relationships."

It's always interesting to discover how composers write. What comes first, lyrics or the music? Can both occur at the same time? In Montali's case, "It always happens differently. Sometimes we have the melody first, sometimes last. It’s a great puzzle. Always trying to do our best and have a good time if we can."

Regarding the rest of the band's contributions to their songs, Montali said, "Everyone contributes greatly. We are all found in the sound. It’s important for everyone to belong to the music and have the music belong to them."

When asked about what gives him more pleasure, studio work or playing live the frontman said, "I like all of it. All of it can be extremely exciting. Probably right now I’m interested in writing and making some new songs."

Ozone Park seems to be the album that is finally earning the outfit the wider recognition they deserve. Montali believes that is happening now because, "I think we are one of the fresh things happening in our genre. We have built something solid that is tipping over to the mainstream a bit."

When asked what is the thing he appreciates the most about the music business and if there is anything he loathes, Montali stayed positive. "I think the music business at it’s core is full of people who are fans and who really want to see the music they like succeed and be appreciated by people around the world."

The band has toured with some really top notch acts such as Counting Crows, Citizen Cope, and highly regarded 60s, British Invasion era band, The Zombies. Other artists Montali would like to share the stage with include Liam Gallagher. "He's the last of the true Rock 'n Roll Stars. I am also into Billie Eilish's new stuff. What she is doing is fresh and interesting, not the same old pop formula."

For more on Hollis Brown you can take a look at their official website. You can also read Bloggerhythms's review of Ozone Park while watching and listening to videos from the album.