People Will Respond: A Conversation with Hollis Brown’s Mike Montali

By Brent Thompson

Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

From Simon & Garfunkel to KISS and The Ramones, Queens, N.Y. has a rich musical history. Hollis Brown is a Queens-based band that plays a timeless brand of rock & roll befitting of its borough. In June, the quartet released Ozone Park, a 10-track collection produced by Adam Landry [Deer Tick, Rayland Baxter, Nikki Lane, Vanessa Carlton]. On Friday, July 12, the band will perform at The Nick with Onehundreds and VOLK opening the 10 p.m. show. Recently, Hollis Brown vocalist/guitarist Mike Montali spoke with us by phone from his New York home.

Birmingham Stages: Mike, thanks for your time. How did the Ozone Park material take shape? Were these newer songs, older songs or a mixture of both?

Mike Montali: I think it was a combination of both. A few of the songs had been around for a little while. We did three records in six years or so and we toured them all until the next one was out. We had written a couple and put them on the back burner, not knowing if they would be anything at all and we have a few of those right now – it’s always good to just be writing. We wrote a couple of them specifically for the album with the direction we wanted to take the sound. It was a bit of both – probably half and half.

Birmingham Stages: If you will, talk about working with Adam Landry and the decision to record the album in South Florida.

Montali: Adam is a great producer. We met him through a friend named John McCauley – who’s in a band called Deer Tick – and he was working with him on a record and we really liked that record and John recommended Adam. He produced our record down in Nashville and when this record came around we called him up and our executive producer wanted us to use this studio down in Ft. Myers, Fla. and we said okay. We called Adam up, got him down there and we made the record happen that way. It was really a great experience because it was an escape from city life to be on the beach and go fishing after the sessions. It was a pretty cool experience and you can feel the summer vibe on the recording.

Birmingham Stages: You recorded and mixed the album in nine days. It must have been nice to work so quickly and efficiently.

Montali: That’s how I like to do things. I get bored really quickly, so taking two days get a drum sound would drive me crazy. We like to be as prepared as we can and go in and get that raw sound. If you’re prepared, you can do that and not wasted time and money. The raw idea is usually the better one.

Birmingham Stages: How do you feel about the current musical climate? Some artists applaud the accessibility that’s available via iTunes, Youtube and other modern outlets. Other artists say it’s difficult to be found among the crowd given that anyone can easily record and distribute music.

Montali: I think both exist – I think it’s a combination of the two. Depending on what day it is, I can feel either way. I think both are true, but at the end of the day it’s all relative. There are obstacles, but you have to keep doing what you believe in and work harder than the next group and people will respond.

Birmingham Stages: How would you describe your writing process?

Montali: I usually do stuff on my iPhone. Paul Weller said, “When the faucet opens, try to catch as much water as you can.” Usually it comes pretty quickly and you try to catch it before it goes to the next person.

Hollis Brown will perform at The Nick on Friday, July 12. Onehundreds and VOLK will open the 10 p.m. show. Advance tickets to the 21+ show are $8 and can be purchased at