Australian duo Hollow Coves has been making waves in the folk world. With songs like ‘Coastline’ and ‘The Woods’ that transport listeners to another place. Matt Carins and Ryan Henderson met through a mutual friend and bonded over a mutual love of travel and music. Comparable to Ben Howard, or Angus & Julia Stone in sound Hollow Coves released their debut album ‘Wanderlust’ that has been well received.
The success of Hollow Coves came by surprise as Ryan Henderson describes it as “Everything was happening and like at one point ‘The Woods’ had over a million streams and I had never performed in front of anyone.“ That first song ‘The Woods’ was released on Sound as the band said “I don’t know if it’s good enough to put on iTunes? Lets put it on Soundcloud.” Soon after its release the song experienced over fifty thousand streams in a day the duo was in a stage of “catch-up” not having any other songs written.
Read the full transcript below for more on the surprise success, having over a million streams before ever performing live, favorite places they’ve traveled, their debut EP ‘Wanderlust’, and more.
Hi I’m here at Irving Plaza in New York City and I am with Hollow Coves. Could I have you two introduce yourself for when I listen back?
Matt Carins: Hi how’s it going? I’m Matt and I’m one half of Hollow Coves.
Ryan Henderson: Hey this is Ryan… the other half of Hollow Coves. (laughs)
Perfect. Well this is cool and exciting for me. I have had this goal for the last three years to travel once a month and have done it each month actually. But every trip I go on I make a new road trip playlist, and just about all of them have had some Hollow Coves song on it. So many of your songs are perfect fits for these trips and playlists. So I wanted to ask I know you both travel a lot and are on the road currently, what are you listening to?
MC: That is a good goal! But um I guess we listen to a lot of the same type of style of music as us. Like Bon Iver, Angus and Julia Stone, um Bombay Bicycle club, and Bears Den.
RH: Yeah Bears Den. Some Ben Howard.
Oh I love Ben Howard. That is actually what changed my view of music. I discovered him on like the very first creation of the road trip playlist trying to impress a friends friend that was coming on the trip, so I heard him and everything changed. Like before him I was like Rap and hip hop only, so from there it has only grown. And I heard an interview that you had a similar experience with Angus and Julia Stone, Ryan, is that right?
RH: That’s wild. Yeah it is pretty much the same thing that happened to me as well with them.
Did you two always know you would be writing and performing music? Or what is your story like in finding this place you are now?
MC: Um my families background is pretty musical. My dad play a lot of music, and my brother is in a few different bands, my mom teaches piano, and my sister plays as well. But it wasn’t anything that I was like going to plan to make money and a career out of. I was a carpenter before this and we kind of like wrote some songs in a friends garage and um we both went traveling through this time and eventually released these songs and they kind of blew up on Soundcloud and labels hit us up and we were like “Maybe we should write some more songs!” (laughs) But yes, it has been a bit of a process of catching up and writing a lot of songs and learning the industry.
And what is that like? You mention it coming as a surprise and so I imagine you didn’t have much written at the time. Were you prepared for the success that came and having other stuff to go next?
RH: Not at all. (laughs) I still don’t really know if we are prepared at this point. Like it has definitely been like a catch up. Everything was happening and like at one point ‘The Woods’ had over a million streams and I had never performed in front of anyone (laughs). I was living in Toronto at the time and I started just doing open mics like three times a week and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was like shaking on stage, I was super nervous – no experience before performing. It’s just yeah been a process and getting more comfortable on stage and figuring out what we are doing because yeah we really had no idea.
And so that was your first time performing, was music ever something you saw yourself doing professionally?
RH: So I guess like dissimilar to Matt, none of my family really played music. I had played piano as a kid and then kind of gave it up. There was always a piano in my house though and I think that I always had a thing for music and I was drawn to play some sort of music. So toward the end of high school I just was inspired to play piano again and started playing more out of a love for music rather than just for the theory side and all that stuff. So I started playing again and just fell in love with music and bought an acoustic guitar and had that whole Angus & Julia Stone experience where my whole previous taste of music was kind of flipped on it’s head. So through that and playing more acoustic music I eventually got to the point where I thought I was getting pretty good at guitar and should maybe start singing. So that sort of progression and I started recording stuff, then I met up with Matt and recorded a couple of songs. We didn’t think much of it, put them online and went traveling and it all just happened. Like I have a degree in civil engineering that I’ve rarely used (laughs).
So you put it out on Soundcloud and then went traveling, when did you find out the success of the songs?
RH: Well we recorded the songs and then they weren’t really finished and we didn’t think much of it. Then I went traveling and I was supposed to only be gone for maybe nine months and it ended up being two years and a bit. Like a year through I thought “Oh we should really finish those songs” so I started emailing the guy that we recorded those songs with and we just went back and forth over the internet and finished that way. Which was really quite unique as well. He would like send mixes and he would have added extra touches and some of it we’d come back as oh that is really cool, and some of it was eh maybe not.
So it eventually got to a point where it was like okay this is sounding good lets put it online. We definitely didn’t expect what happened after we put it online. I don’t know it is funny looking back because we were like “I don’t know if it’s good enough to put on iTunes? Lets put it on Soundcloud.” That was our attitude at that point like that maybe it would get a couple thousand views… then one day it got over fifty thousand plays in a day and it was like “What is going on?” (laughs)
That is incredible (laughs) and you are performing tonight at Irving Plaza. We talked about how that song ‘The Woods’ had over a million streams and you had never performed live before, what has been the evolution of a Hollow Coves live show? And how is it still evolving even now?
MC: Um I guess it has just been trying and practicing. Like that is the only way is to play as much as you can and that is how you get better. So we have been trying to play as much as we can and sonically just trying to expand. We have tried different ways of playing songs and adding little intro parts to it and really we are still learning. There is a lot to learn. But we are definitely getting more comfortable on stage as we’ve played a few shows now. We are really focused on just bringing good vibes. It has been fun when people say we sound better live than the recordings.
RH: and that is one of the best compliments for us.
I’m excited to see tonight. I was out traveling when you were here for your last show in New York. I know you both love traveling, where are some of your favorite places you’ve been to?
MC: Iceland and Norway for me.
RH: Norway is definitely up there. Switzerland, Canada, anywhere with epic mountains is hard not to just be like I don’t know it takes your breath away.
MC: I did this surfing trip up in the Arctic Circle in Norway and we had this big Winnebago and there were these massive mountains around and the ocean. We would surf all day and watch the Northern Lights all night.
That is a dream. Wow. That reminds me, I’m always recommending you guys and I tell them not only do they have to listen to your music but also if there is a band to follow on Instagram it is them. You have a good mix of cool concert shots and then these beautiful captures from your travels that are insane.
RH: (laughs) We appreciate the promotion of the Instagram!
I want to talk about your debut EP ‘Wanderlust’ it too was super well received was that a surprise similar to ‘The Woods’ how it took off?
RH: Yeah I think when everything happened with ‘The Woods’ we viewed it like such a lucky thing that had happened to us. Like we love a lot of like Indie artists that aren’t really getting much exposure and we cant help but wonder like “Why is this happening for us and not like the other people we love?” So after everything happened with ‘The Woods’ we were like lets try again but didn’t know if we’d have it happen again. We put out the ‘Wanderlust’ EP and then ‘Coastline’ and all those songs have like done even better than ‘The Woods’ did and we were like “whoa this is insane!”
Much of your music brings me to another place when I listen. Like I’ll be taken back to the beach or the mountains and I love it. Is that something that you approach in the writing of your songs?
RH: Well like a lot of it is pretty reflective. We are reflecting on travels or things that we have done. For example like when we wrote ‘Coastline’ we were living in Toronto and it’s landlocked and we hadn’t seen the ocean in awhile and we were kind of just reflecting on trips down the Australian coastline and so it’s like often a very reflective style of writing where we are thinking about epic trips that we have been on or good times with friends and stuff like that and just writing about what comes naturally from what we’ve experienced.
So I have a question I ask in every interview. It is about Karaoke. Do you guys like karaoke? And if so, what would your go-to song be?
MC: No! I have but I hate doing it (laughs). If I had to choose I would probably sing ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ by Wheatus.
RH: For me maybe like some Bruce Springsteen or something old school.
Then my last question we talked about the success that came your way and not being totally prepared for it, Now that you have had some time and as you finish tour what is next for Hollow Coves?
MC: We are kind of diving into more personal topics as well as keeping the same traveling theme. But yeah anything really to help people just going through struggles or trying to be more uplifting because there is a lot of negative music out there.
I love that. So what inspired that approach to the new songs?
RH: After all the music was released we had kind of an overwhelming response of people writing a very similar message almost like a template where they would say they were struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts and something in our music helped them through it. So we were kind of realized how music is something powerful and is beyond what we are doing so we were inspired to write music that could speak into their lives and speak positively over their situations. I think mental health especially is something that is just wreaking havoc over the world right now and anything that we can do to fight against that, and tell people that there is so much to be stoked on in life. There is so much beauty and so much epic stuff and we would get almost inspired to write almost messages into peoples lives that were going through stuff like that.
Well thank you so much. I cant think of a better way to wrap up than there. I appreciate your time.