Meeting the members of alternative rock band Hello Luna at a coffee house in the Short North district of Columbus seemed like the most natural place to sit down and talk about the music, their upcoming EP and plans for 2017. We spent over an hour covering many the facets of the band.
Whether listening to their music or having a deep conversation with them, Kenzie Ryan (guitar/vocals), Michael Neumaier (drums) and Diego Vilasmil (bass) come across as a polished band that has spent years honing their sound together. But, many would be surprised to learn that they’ve been together for just twelve months.
“We met one year ago,” says Vilasmil, “but I don’t think things started to take shape until March (2016). When we met, it was basically just conversation. It was more me trying to understand what they wanted out of the project. They had already established that they wanted to start something, and I just came in as a bassist later.
“So, I was like, ‘What do you guys want to do?’
Well, the first order of business is that when you are in Rome, you do as the Romans do. That meant ordering three coffees for Kenzie, Michael and I. Meanwhile, Diego ordered a sandwich, once again proving that bass players are always hungry.
“I came from a singer-songwriting project I had called Kenzie Coyne,” Kenzie continued. “When I went in to do my first EP, Michael was the session drummer. After that, I was like, ‘That went really well. Why don’t we do something with this.’
“It just really kind of happened organically. We unanimously decided we really didn’t want to the softer stuff. Diego’s background has a little bit of a harder edge to it. After doing Folk music for as long as I did, I was kind of sick of it. I mean I still love it, I still love to play it, and a lot of my lyrics are still influenced by a lot of that. But, I think I was ready to expand and start something new. We all kind of felt the same way.”
And while their sound is uniquely their own, the musical influences of the three ranges wide and far. Kenzie comes from writing and playing folk music, incorporating some of those elements, lyrically speaking, into Hello Luna.
“I learned how to play bass by listening to Pop-Punk like Green Day and Blink-182,” Vilasmil says. “Then I tried to get more technical like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And then, I even got into some Prog Rock stuff.”
“When I met Kenzie, she showed me her singer-songwriter stuff. It was very mellow sounding. She said, ‘I want this, but louder and edgier.’ And I was like ‘Hell Yeah! I’m your guy.’
To this point, Michael had been quietly absorbing the collective conversation. At the mention of NOFX, he chimed in.
“That was an addiction of mine in middle school and early high school,” Neumaier says, “like on the bus just listening to all of their music. All their songs had just cool vibes to them.”
The disparity of their musical influences is what helps to give them a solid, unique sound. Everyone will have a band or two that they will hear in Hello Luna‘s music. Their sound, for this author, harkens back to The Pixies and Magnapop.
“When Diego and I met,” says Kenzie, “some of the stuff he listened to was a lot different than what I listened to. I think we’ve really influenced each other. I used to have a writing process that I really stuck to, as that’s all I knew. And then, when I started writing with them, everything shifted.”
For any band, finding their sound is a milestone. That’s especially true when trying to meld vast musical influences.
“It took a long time and a lot of conversations to find our voice and find what we wanted to sound like,” says Vilasmil. “What Kenzie used to play sounds nothing like what we sound like now. The same goes for me. It was a lot of conversations and a lot of trial and error.”
“We even played a couple of shows with songs that we didn’t record and you probably won’t hear them… ever. We were testing them out. And that’s what we do with everything we do.”
But, how difficult is it for a band to find their sound, standing out in the crowed musical landscape?
” It was easier in the sense that we knew what we were striving for,” says Kenzie. “But it was also harder. Because once we got a taste of that, it got more technical. So, then we started dissecting songs. It was a whole different process.”
“As soon as we found our sound,” continues Diego, “the sound that we felt comfortable with, we were like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ That helped so much.”
The strength of the first single, Sound and Sorrow, from their debut EP showcases the polished tightness of the band, while highlighting the cerebral quality of Kenzie’s lyrics. Although they’ve been together a relatively short time, they’ve found a sound they are comfortable with.
” It’s one of those things where even from the beginning,” Kenzie says, “when we couldn’t find the band’s sound that we wanted, we’d not mimic (other bands), but it’s something to look off. The material that we continue to write keeps us on our toes. We’ve found our sound, but at the same time it’s always evolving.”
With Kenzie, Michael and Diego coming at the art of songwriting from different directions, they’ve found a way to meld it into a cohesive blend of emotions that move the listener in ways that few bands can accomplish.
“Michael and I think the instrumentation of it is really important,” says Diego, “and then the vocals. Kenzie thinks the other way around. She puts a lot of effort into the lyrics and melodies, and we just kind of combine the two and make sure it’s balanced.”
That balance is the driving force in ensuring they write songs that aurally pleasing. With their EP slated for a March 11, 2017 release with a show at The Basement in Columbus, the anticipation for what more of Hello Luna is palatable.
Like ancient sailors looking to the stars for guidance, the band uses their fans to guide them in the proper direction.
“This whole project has been community driven with everything we’ve done,” Kenzie says. “It’s definitely not just us. I think that’s been one of the cooler things in developing Hello Luna.”
Ed: Stayed tuned for Part Two of our conversation with Hello Luna.