Band Interview: Hallow Point

Matt Albers, Steve Kruczyk

The metal community of the St. Louis, MO-region has experienced a resurgence in recent years. This is particularly true when it comes to the underground subgenres. More melodic, accessible styles have also seen their own success in our area, as well. While metalcore has been on a bit of a decline as far as mainstream success goes, bands that still maintain melody and catchy hooks will always find an audience.

St. Louis’ own Hallow Point is one of the bands that has seen a rise in success. With only one EP, the quartet-turned-quintet has already made a name for themselves in the Midwest, providing support for many big-named acts. Most recently, they appeared at the 2016 edition of 98.9 The Rock’s Rockfest in Kansas City. Both their music and live show earned Hallow Point their second spot opening for Devil You Know in St. Louis, when they stopped at Fubar, where we talked about growing up as a metal band in St. Louis – including the age old question of, “Where did you go to high school?” as well as other random topics including comics and color preferences (no, I’m not kidding; that’s something I do).

You used to be a four-piece, and now you’re… Well, not. You’ve added a fifth member. When did this happen, and why?

Tony Milson, vocals: Basically, I was on bass and doing vocals, and then we were like, “Let’s try [this with] a front man.” We liked bands like As I Lay Dying and we were like, “Yeah, they have such great presence with a front man.” So, I dropped the bass, played a bunch of shows without the bass, and it just didn’t sound all that great… It misses that beefy-ness to it. So, we decided to look around for bassists, we noticed Brandon was filling in for A Promise To Burn, another local band – actually, they opened up for Devil You Know [at their previous St. Louis headlining show at the Firebird, during summer 2015]! So we got in contact with him and from there, he became part of the band.

Brandon Bollinger, bass: Yeah, it just sort of stuck. Initially they wanted me on for fill-in shows to try it out and see how it sounds, because they tried out multiple members and it didn’t really go so well… This one sort of worked so we’ve been sticking to it.

Does that change the dynamic at all? How does it affect writing music? How does it affect performing? I assume it’s better if you’re sticking with it.

Oh, you definitely have another musician that’s a part of the group that gets another idea out. You have so much more ideas already that you throw another guy in there and he’s like, “Oh, let’s try this as well,” and it could be a better idea than what the other guys had.

Especially being an outside source, too. I mean, you guys have been friends for a while, and having someone that doesn’t really know you as well to tell you, “This is good,” “This is actually good,” “This doesn’t [work],” “Maybe you should change that…”

Hallow Point bassist Brandon Bollinger live at Fubar in St. Louis, MO on April 27, 2016 - image credit: Nick Licata
Hallow Point bassist Brandon Bollinger live at Fubar in St. Louis, MO on April 27, 2016 – image credit: Steve Kruczyk

…“That’s wrong!”

[Laughter] Yeah, there hasn’t been too much of that. Most of it has been really good. I’ve really enjoyed playing.

Aaron Chambers, lead guitar: His musical contribution, too, is huge. Because, he does a lot of the writing for his other band, Our Transfixion, because he does the guitars, a lot of the vocals and the clean singing, so it’s added a whole other element and a huge, huge dynamic for us.

Definitely on the stage side of things, too, I mean one thing that Tony was talking about doing was being more interactive with the crowd. That’s one thing we practice at our practice space where everyone else is focused on the live show. We think it’s taken us to a whole other level, like Tony was saying, referencing As I Lay Dying… Lamb Of God, to name another one; you have the singer focusing too, and you also have the energy of another person on stage really interacting with the crowd and so far it’s been great, I think.

Congratulations on playing Kansas City’s Rock Fest! How in the hell did you score that gig?!

Aaron found a submission online that said, “We’re looking local bands to submit, throw in your video and your bio.” The submission opens up for a few weeks of voting, and surprisingly there weren’t that many bands. There were probably only about 55 bands… because you could be a resident of Kansas or Missouri, so that was pretty cool. Then [we] just pushed all of those votes as best as we can, luckily we got in the top five. It was awesome to see. We just got the confirmation today that we’re playing at 3:15 PM on the Jägermeister Stage, which is perfect for us! [Laughter]

You guys better get some free swag! If not, free booze! [Laughter]

We actually have a Jägermeister tap machine in our basement, so we’re like… going to bring it right up on stage like, “Anyone want a shot?” to the crowd. [Laughter]

Just don’t get in any trouble for any underage drinking; that’s some bad publicity!

Preston Seymour, drums: We’re all 21!

I meant when you’re passing it out to the crowd; be like, “Let me see those wrists first, come on.” [Laughter] That’s really interesting, only 55 bands between two states. I know there are more than 55 bands in one state, so…

Bill Brynda, rhythm guitar: Yeah, considering there’s twelve here tonight, between the two shows! [Laughter]

Have you played Kansas City before? Have you played a festival before?

Not a festival, but we’ve played Kansas City earlier this year and then we’re playing it again – we’re playing it twice, actually, next month [June 2016] for Kansas City Rockfest and then once again at All Star Rock Bar, which we’ve played before. It’s a super cool environment. It’s like a restaurant / concert venue.

Like a Mex-Ponderosa.

It used to be a Ponderosa. It’s still got a kitchen, but now it’s a venue now. It was really wild when we were there. There was this guy in a wheelchair that was just up in the front watching us! We’ve never had that in Saint Louis, before. It’s such a cool environment for meeting new people.

Hallow Point have a lot of melodic influences. Even with some of the bands like Lamb of God, or bands that have a lot of harsh vocals like As I Lay Dying, the music is very melodic. Why is that important to you?

The feel. I think there’s a lot of “feel” in our writing and I know all of us grew up listening to Metallica and Megadeth and Pantera, and Dime [“Dimebag” Darrell Lance Abbott]… Dime was a huge influence on me, and [you] talk about the melodic parts in his solos and rhythm even is just crazy. It just bleeds through everything… It’s amazing. So I know that was a huge influence on us, and Avenged Sevenfold is another one for melodic… Children Of Bodom, you know, even heavier… That’s what me and Tony grew up on, I know for sure. I think those have a lot to do with the way we write today, those influences.

A lot of guitar riffs that we come up with; I think a lot of times when we’re writing, it’s like “Okay, is that going to get stuck in your head?” If that’s going to get stuck in someone’s head, then it’s a keeper. But also have that badass heavy side of things too, and try to tow that balance which is kind of tricky sometimes with not being, “too melodic,” I guess, but can still keep the heaviness there.

I don’t want to sound too much like Kanye West here, but a week after practice, if you’re still singing that melody or you’re still having that rhythm or riff in your head, it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing to have your own music stuck in your head.

So then, being on the more melodic side of metal and rock, does that limit you at all in what shows you can play, especially with other metal bands? Do you ever get booked onto a death metal show, or a grind show?

We have, actually [laughter]. We’re not scared of it. It doesn’t detract us from wanting to play it, but you get a different side of the fans. With death metal, they just want a certain style. If you have a different style, it’s harder to appeal to them. But, we did play with Misery Index; so that was a tougher crowd to win over. But we don’t shy away from any kind of shows like that.

We’ve done so many by now. Whether you’re trying to get one person or, at Rockfest, a couple thousand or whatever, it’s going to be fun either way.

We are just 4 – now 5 – friends hanging out, playing music, drinking

…Everything else is just icing on the cake. [Laughter] What about any other influences in your music; anything outside of metal? Does anything from the really heavy side to the completely un-heavy side come in? How do you make that work for you guys?

Hallow Point lead guitarist Aaron Chambers [left] and vocalist Tony Milson live at Fubar in St. Louis, MO on April 27, 2016 - image credit: Nick Licata
Hallow Point lead guitarist Aaron Chambers [left] and vocalist Tony Milson live at Fubar in St. Louis, MO on April 27, 2016 – image credit: Steve Kruczyk
I love Pink Floyd. That’s, like, one of my favorite bands of all time. And anything David Gilmour could do… [or] Roger Waters; I love listening to that and I think that was a pretty big influence on me.

I think, for a couple of us too, we listen to even country or whatever; one of our biggest stars is Eric Church. He brings the heaviness aspect to it but he’s also got the catchy hooks, the lines, and everything else we look for in songs in general… We’re music fans, so I think country, even more than that. Even some of us listen to those little pop songs, I mean. Whatever musical influences you can draw from and that you like, I think is great that you can put that into whatever music you create.

At a little point in time there, we were just like “It’s got to be Slayer, or nothing.”

I think every metalhead, at some point in their life, reaches that. [Laughter]

Everybody has gone through that phase, but it’s like, when you’re writing music you can’t have that because then it’s like – at least for us – you can’t really go anywhere different with that. I feel like you can’t have as much freedom if you’re in that mindset because you’re just stuck doing that genre and you just want to do that. That’s fine with people that want to do that, but that’s not really us anymore. It’s nice to just grab from… Even rap; there’s some old school rap that I love, too.

I think it’s an age thing, too. Because, when you’re younger, it’s like “This, or die!” The older you get you’re like, “Well…”

Life’s too short. [Laughter] I’ve got a friend in New York who’s got an internet metal radio show, and he always closes it out by saying, “Life’s too short to listen to bad music… And now, for something completely different…” and he’ll play something totally random, like a pop song, because he works in a pop station. [Laughter]

Respect!

Exactly. [Laughter] So, actually what is your experience been like being in a metal band from St. Louis? Have you guys lived here your whole lives? Did you move at some point? What does it mean to you as far as being from this scene, community, and location?

I think, you already limiting yourself because it’s the metal genre with the fan base because it is already such a shorter fan base. I don’t know, we haven’t been to too many other places, honestly, so we don’t know how it is in comparison, but I can tell you that Kansas City show was a great environment more so than some of the shows we’ve played in St. Louis. I think it really just depends on the time of night for people. Also, not trying to badmouth anyone in St. Louis, but I don’t know if the scene is all that great.

[It’s] kind of on the contrary for me, growing up. Because, Aaron and I moved away to Kansas City for a couple years, but we’d still travel back to St. Louis. Since we grew up in St. Louis, it’s something special to be a part of too because of people like Jordan [Gaw] of Final Drive; we’ve made so many new friends here that it’s been insane. Just from playing different shows and then we were at Battle for Pointfest to all of our friends from all of the bands, so it’s definitely a camaraderie that I’ve actually seen probably grow more recently than in the last couple of years when we started in like 2013, 2014. In 2015-2016, I think, definitely, metal is back! I don’t how to explain it, it’s just something that I have taken notice from the shows we’ve played. Tonight, with Devil You Know, is one big example. This is going to be a great show with Howard here and everyone else, so we’re really pumped.

There’s really been a resurgence in St. Louis, and I don’t think it’s even close to where it’s going to get back to, but there’s been a lot of pushing trying to push and promote metal. You’ve got Beyond Gone Media and then you’ve got Death By Metal StL, and you’ve got guys out there that are really pushing the metal scene, they really want to grow it here again and we’ve seen that. When we first started, Tony was saying, it wasn’t there as much and in the past few years since we’ve been playing we’ve seen it develop a lot more and we’ve seen better talent coming and a lot more interesting bands. And, it’s been awesome to see that.

What have you guys not done yet, as a band or as musicians, that you want to do in the near future or in the distant future?

[Pretty much the whole band, in unison] Tour.

That was easy! [Laughter]

I think it’s been on our minds for the last two years, at least. And we just want to play whatever show possible, wherever. That’s the kind of mindset that we have always had, it’s just always been financial reasons holding us back; I think [that goes] with most people. That’s definitely the number one aspect.

I think a big influence on us with touring is Parkway Drive. Down in Australia, when they started out, they grew their own scene. They didn’t have a scene to start with. So, they grew their own hardcore scene and their mindset was, “We’re going to do anything it takes to play anywhere with a stage and electricity,” and we can see where that got them. They’re coming here on May 22 to Pop’s, and have four or five sold out shows on their North American tour, so that’s definitely the kind of behavior we want to emulate.

How many recordings under your belts at this point, either albums or EPs?

Just one, right now.

Can we expect any new material in the future?

We’re writing right now, and we expect to go into the studio mid-summer, sometime. And it’s just [a question of] where. Because, for the first [recording], we went out to Cleveland, Ohio. So, we don’t mind driving the distance for a good-sounding EP or CD.

I think, for this one, we really want to have a great production on it; very high end, high level, and just sonically sound like a big piece of music. We aren’t positive if it’s going to another EP or a full-length. We’re going to kind of see how the writing goes and how [long] it takes us. Once we have that body of work and we feel confident in it and go into the studio, then we’ll see where we end up.

We’re more of a quality over quantity aspect, because we’re sticklers on every little detail of our songs, that it’s kind of hard to write a lot of songs because we’re like that, but that’s just the nature of us.

We’re interested in Echelon Studios [with] Josh Gilbert of As I Lay Dying and Wovenwar down in Alabama. So, Josh if you’re listening to us, let’s get something working here.

No pressure, or anything. [Laughter] To wrap it up, we like to do something fun since we cover metal, punk, pop culture, anything nerdy; comics, video games, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, anime. One question I’ve always asked bands since I was in college: What’s your favorite color, and why?

Favorite color? Of course, it’s always black. [Laughter] No, it’s green, because I went to St. Mary’s; The Dragons. So, it’s definitely green or black.

Ah, another Catholic boy, huh? I went to CBC.

…OK, I think this interview is over. [Laughter]

Hallow Point band logo - image courtesy: hallowpoint.wordpress.com
Hallow Point band logo – image courtesy: hallowpoint.wordpress.com

I knew that was coming! [Laughter]

We [Bill and I] went to CBC.

Oh, really? When did you guys graduate?

2010.

Ah, okay. So, five years after me? There’s no cross-over at all. [Laughter] Alright, purple and gold, we’ve got that covered. [Laughter]

I know everyone’s going call me weird for it, but purple and green. Like, DevilDriver’s Beast album was amazing to me. Like, the Joker’s colors, I love that.

I agree. I have the special edition version of that and I hate it because it’s black and red! Whoopty-doo. It’s like no one uses purple and green but I guess if more people were going to buy the album they’d buy the regular version.

In the spirit of the season, I’m going to say blue. Because, “Let’s Go Blues.” I’m a hockey fan, so…

I would have to say something along the line of Preston was saying; the lime green and the contrast with the black like the Monster [Energy] logo. For some reason I’ve always kind of liked it.

That’s 80s thrash metal! [Laughter] Very last question: Marvel or DC?

I have no preference but if somebody put a gun to my head I would have to go with Marvel… You’re giving me that look like, “Uhh…” You’re a DC fan?

No, I was going to make a Hallow Point joke about the gun to the head… [Laughter]

I did just read Batman: The Killing Joke for the first time. Amazing comic, holy hell. They’re actually coming out with an animated movie!

And it’s rated “R,” too!

Yeah, and Mark Hamill is playing the Joker; that’s going to be sick! I mean, he’s done it so many times.

But Marvel is your overall?

I would say so, yeah.

Marvel.

Marvel.

Yeah, I would have to say Marvel as well…

…No one ever says Dark Horse. [Laughter]

You can follow Hallow Point on Facebook and Twitter.

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