Born Hollow has been a staple of the Western NC hardcore scene for many years. They are well known from Boone to Greensboro for their chaotic live shows and elaborate stage setups.
Though the band’s lineup has been somewhat of a revolving door, front man and founding member Luke Williams has maintained a strong vision for the group. AMPLIFIER’s James Storelli sat down with him before a recent show in Greensboro, where he unveiled the latest updates.
[James Storelli] Let’s start off by going through the history of the band.
[Luke Williams] The idea was started in the fall of 2010 when I met Andrew Greene. Then Alec Wiggs and Max Feldman joined, and we played our first show in June 2011. We’ve gone through a lot of line up changes since then, with a total of 18 people all together. Now, it’s 2017 and we’re still kicking.
[JS] How have you maintained a cohesive vision while going through all these lineup changes?
[LW] Born Hollow was started by me, with my idea of what I wanted to do. The first person I brought on was Andrew, and he’s been with me the whole time. And he plays drums. With Andrew and I, we had the same idea, and we just tried to express that to the new members as they came in and out. We tried to still maintain who we are, grow as a band and do what we wanted to do, but still let those people bring their own influences in. That’s definitely been one of the struggles of Born Hollow. It feels like every time we get rolling we have to start over again. A lot of false starts, but we’ve kept going.
[JS] Have all the transitions been as easy as this one has?
[LW] No, definitely not. Most of them have been pretty smooth transitions. A lot of people kind of weed themselves out—they slowly just disappear, quit responding or stop showing interest. We have had a few that kind of blew up, and we don’t talk to those people anymore. I know I can be a difficult person to be in a band with, because I have a vision for what this band is and what I want to accomplish, even though that’s changed over the years as the band has progressed. But I do have a certain vision and I can be difficult to work with because I know what I want. But it’s been helpful to have Andrew as my backbone, to back me up on everything. He has the same ideas, and he’s into it and sold out for it like I am. He’s not with us right now unfortunately, but he’ll be back soon.
[JS] It all feels very organic the way the band is constantly evolving.
[LW] I would like to think so. We’re part of New Breed Collective, which is something I started because of Born Hollow… Because I’ve always thought of Born Hollow as kind of a collective entity. People can come and people can go, and we have a certain image for a little while and then it transitions into the next thing because these new people come in. We’ve always tried to let it be that while still being us, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job. People tell me that they like this or that version of the band better, but in my opinion, I think that we’ve constantly progressed. Part of this band is for me. It’s not just for the people. It’s as much for me to release whatever bullshit I have going on in my life… This is my outlet for it. I always tell people… Some people go hunting, some people go fishing, or they like baseball or whatever sport. But for me, this is what I want to put my extra time into. This is my hobby. This is my escape from the real world—the 9 to 5.
[JS] I know exactly what you mean. I think your stage presence has always been insane and otherworldly. We’ve talked before about how people won’t realize when they meet you that you are the same person as the person performing vocals on stage. I think that the theatrical elements of the live show that have been becoming more and more of a theme are really a natural extension of that.
[LW] I was really into glam rock and hair metal in high school, and a lot of the bands, even the metalcore bands that I started to get into when I first got into the scene, were the more flashy types I guess you could say. Like 18 Visions, Scarlet and Norma Jean… Their live shows were insane and that’s the kind of stuff that appealed to me, more so than somebody who could get up there and fiddle around on the fret board for awhile and show their technicality. I appreciate technicality and talent, but that’s not what appealed to me. What appealed to me in hardcore metal was the emotion, the pure emotion, and seeing that pour out of bands, and so that is what I try to do when I play.
We have always tried to have a little bit of a theatrical element. I think lights are cool. We’ve done face paint, confetti, glitter… Anything you can think of, we’ve tried it—just to do something different, in order to give people an actual experience. That’s the most important thing to me. I don’t want people to come and hear, “We’re so-and-so, such-and-such band, kill your friends, whatever.” That’s not us. I want people to come and experience something. They paid five or 10 bucks to get in… Give them an actual show! Put on something for them! I’m constantly trying to one-up myself because it feels like sometimes we do something and someone else will come along and do something similar, and then I say, “Let’s change it up!” I hope that that comes across to people because I want them to think, “I wonder what’s going to happen at tonight’s Born Hollow set. What are they going to be doing this time? What is the stage going to look like? What lights will they have?”
Tonight, we’re getting ready to use the brand new lights that I just finished building; they’ve got computer monitors in them with custom videos. I think stuff like Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and huge arena performances are so fucking cool. I try to do that on a DIY level, you know? It’s cool. It does separate us. We’ve gotten flak about it before, but it’s whatever. Kids like it. Kids don’t like it. It’s whatever.
[JS] Yeah, it’s really impressive just the amount of stuff you’ve been able to pull together, doing all of that. Getting back to the collective type thing, I also wanted to talk about New Breed Collective a little bit.
[LW] New Breed’s fairly new. I’m 32 years old and I’ve been booking shows since I was 15, and I’ve never really put my name on anything until recently when we started putting the New Breed label on stuff. It really just came out of the fact that we have so many friends doing amazing stuff, and I wanted to find a way to support them, for them to support us, and for the people who are into these bands to have a way to find out about the others. I think it’s cool when we get to play different shows that aren’t all hardcore bands or all metalcore bands, maybe there’s an emo band or maybe there’s some acoustic dude or a country guy.
[JS] Or Like Gaffer Project.
[LW] Yeah. Gaffer’s part of New Breed, and that’s a lot of what sparked it. Now, Gaffer Project and us have become really close friends, and we wanted to find a way to support each other. New Breed’s not reinventing the wheel by any means, it’s kind of an idea borrowed from other people—things I would hear other people in bands say. Something that really stuck out to me was five, six years ago, right when Touché Amoré, La Dispute, and Defeater and all those bands were getting big, they were all part of a thing called The Wave. They would always hashtag it. Like if Defeater put out a new song, La Dispute and Touché would repost it. It was a way to have a community, and all these bands have blown up and done amazing things. It wasn’t because they put some hashtag on it and called themselves a group or whatever. But it’s just cool to see people supporting each other, and that’s something that’s lacking in the local scene right now. Just as an old head who has been around, that’s what I see.
It’s very segregated. Like these bands just play with these bands, and nobody wants to cross these invisible lines. Those invisible lines didn’t use to be there, and that’s always something we’ve tried to break down. We’ve played everything—we’ve been the only band like us. We’ve played a straight hip-hop show, and we’ve done tours with country guys. But that’s kind of what New Breed started as—we just wanted to support each other. Like maybe someone hears Gaffer Project on tour, and say they’re in Texas and someone’s like, “Oh, what’s this New Breed thing about?” and they come on and see it.
Right now it’s just four groups: Calling Down Fire from northern VA/DC area, Gaffer Project from Roanoke/Southern VA, Harm from Greensboro, and then us from North Carolina and Virginia. And we’re making connections with other people who are like-minded individuals. And there are a few other collectives, like what the guys from Idle Threat are a part of, and they’re good friends with Gaffer. We started linking up with them a little bit, and they’re gonna help our bands out down in Alabama and Tennessee, and we’re gonna help their bands out up here. We’re definitely looking to expand as we move forward, but it grows at its own pace. We don’t have a big business plan. It’s just a way to help our friends out.
We do booking, we do promotion, and we started up a little distro. One of the guys in Calling Down Fire handles all the online merch orders, and another guy handles putting things on Spotify, iTunes and Bandcamp. You know, I have an expertise in this, you have an expertise in that—let’s combine and work together. We have our eyes out on certain bands that we want to bring into the family, so to speak, and it’ll come in time. People have reached out to us, and it’s no offense to anyone… It’s not picking favorites, it’s just the personal relationships. That’s really what this whole thing is, and that’s what we’re trying to stress… the personal relationships. We sat down and talked about what we wanted in New Breed artists. Things like honesty, creativity, diversity, and positivity—so many things that could really benefit everyone inside and outside the music scene. We hope that we can bring back the community aspect of this scene.
[JS] Yeah, that’s the kind of shit that I really like. Some of my favorite shows are mixed bill shows, like Crop Circle Fest was one of the coolest shows we’ve played.
[LW] Yeah, that was last weekend. That was amazing. There aren’t many other bands in North Carolina that didn’t play that I would really want to play a show with. It was everything from like Boy Legs and that kind of electronic hip hop dance shake your butt type shit, to us and—
[JS] Jon and Sam with their sad acoustic shit.
[LW] Yeah, the best thing was that when I got there—and I was a little late and missed a few bands and I apologized to them—but I showed up in Boone, my home away from home, that’s where I went to school and grew up. I got there and saw my favorite person in the world playing: Jon Dwyer. And it was just the most perfect setting. It was 70 degrees outside, beautiful weather, surrounded by friends, and he’s just sitting there playing acoustic songs. And yeah, Sam played, and then you had Knuckle Buster, Harm, Basilica and Trudge, and there were just so many friends all in one place. And it was a benefit, too, so it was really cool to see them raise so much money and bring so many people together like that. Crop Circle Club is doing the same kind of thing as New Breed, you know, they’re trying to build a community in their community outside of the music scene.
There’s something really special about that, and it’s missing from a lot of other scenes. But I can see it changing. I think with the current political and social climate, there’s definitely a lot of people taking that step towards activism, no matter how big or small it is. Whether it be a local thing or a national thing, I think you’re starting to see that come back, and that’s really cool.
[JS] That’s one of the things that I’ve always admired about the Boone music scene that you don’t really see in a lot of other scenes, is that everybody supports everybody else, no matter what genre they are. It’s just like, “Oh, my friends are playing. Let’s go see them tonight.”
[LW] Yeah, they just like live music.
[JS] And like you said with the activism thing, I have started to notice that happening a lot more.
[LW] Yeah, like benefit shows. Or bands might release a song and donate the profits. Even these things like, Bandcamp will say, “This Friday all proceeds go to such and such,” and bands give up their music for free! And you can pay whatever you want! It’s like a donation to whatever, so that’s cool. But yeah, like I said before, I think it’s lacking. That’s what drew me in, was the emotion and how people cared and it was like a legit family. And slowly, things have changed, for the better and the worse. There’s definitely more people into metal and hardcore now than there were in ‘98 or 2000, but they’re not coming out to the local shows a lot of times. They’re going to see the big tours that come through, cause they’re like Hot Topic fans or whatever. But if they go to Hot Topic and see a fucking Pierce the Veil shirt next to a Disturbed shirt or whatever, and they’re like “Oh, what’s this band?” And they go see that band, some local band gets to open, they find out about that local band and start going to local shows. So, it’s cool. It does good and bad in a way.
[JS] Yeah, it’s definitely kind of a gateway. And I think you are starting to see a lot of kids getting involved in the local scene because they are drawn to the idealism and stuff like that.
[LW] Yeah, that’s a very promising thing to see.
[JS] That’s pretty much all the questions I had. Any last words?
[LW] Yeah, we have a new 7” coming out. Check out our Facebook and Instagram for shows. New Breed has a Facebook and Instagram. Go like that. Follow the other New Breed bands: Harm, Gaffer Project, Calling Down Fire. Shout outs to our boys in Trudge, Basilica, and… God, there’s so many bands. Abacus, Nerve Endings, Iron Gag and Malevich… It goes on and on. Accident Prone, Venomspitter, Charmer…
[JS] We could just sit here and name drop bands all night.
[LW] But, yeah. We have a new 7” coming out on Fevered Visions. Patrick who runs Abominable Electronics started this label. Go get some of his pedals if you play anything and want to sound amazing. They’re all hand-built in Durham, hand-screened, beautiful pedals.
[JS] I have one, I need like eight more.
[LW] Well, talk to Patrick. But he’s putting out that 7” for us. We’ve got the new lineup, we’re gonna start writing new shit, and we’ll be around. Hopefully some tours in the winter, maybe. We’ll see what comes loose.
Photo by Ethan Martin.