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LAist Interview: Meet Justin Angelo Morey, Lead Singer Of The Black Hollies
The Black Hollies I Photo: Vince Keng
For all of you who are bummed that you missed all of the glorious psychedelic freakout party that was the 1960s rock scene, fear not. Molding themselves in the image of the Yardbirds, the Zombies, and the Kinks, The Black Hollies are here to revive it.
Sprung out of Justin Angelo Morey's attic, these four New Jersey kids sound and dress like it's 1968. Bringing joy to all the those who thought that that ship had sailed. (Or who thought they would have to wait until a time machine was invented.) We caught up with Angelo Morey last night to talk about his new LP Softly Towards The Light, his influences, and Ace of Cakes. Here is some of what was said.The Black Hollies - Gloomy Monday Morning
How old were you when you first picked up an instrument?
I was probably really tiny. There were instruments all over the house. My father had two basses and my mom had an acoustic guitar lying around. We also had a piano upstairs from my grandparents. I didn't actually start playing until I was around seven or eight and I was actually able to play anything until around eleven.
Who taught you?
My dad taught me Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" and "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath on the bass when I was around eleven. But my uncle taught me how to play guitar. He used to come over for Sunday dinner and play with my father. And I just gravitated towards the guitar. So he told me I could have it if I did twenty push ups. So I did twenty push ups, and he laughed and said I couldn't have it. So I freaked out and then he promised me if I could learn "Sympathy For The Devil" by Christmas then I could have it. So he taught me the chords, and I memorized thme and I practiced for months. Finally on Christmas Eve I played it after dinner and it was perfect. My uncle was really impressed I had picked it up. But then he said that I wasn't going to get the guitar. And I freaked out again. And he said, "I'll give you something better than that. You know how to play the guitar now." What a smart ass. But I love him. He was an extremely good source of inspiration.
I assume growing up you guys were well versed in 1960s rock.
Yeah we listened to everything. My mother never let me play her records though.
My mom is really, really, really anal about her record. It's in mint condition. She's got great 45s and LPs from the Beatles and the Yardbirds and stuff, and I still can't even touch them.
I don't know. Okay, well I do know. There is a story going around that I broke the hand off her turntable when I was like four or five. Ever since then we've been forbidden to touch it.
You would think that your mom would want you to listen to the Beatles. Otherwise you could have been Limp Bizkit fans.
I know! Who knows what I would have been listening too? My good friend Dave's older brother introduced us to a lot of good stuff. Without him....man. I could be the guy who's like, "Stairway to Heaven'" makes me cry all the time." I don't ever want to be that guy. Or the guy who thinks "Miss You" is the best Rolling Stones song.
Where did the name Black Hollies come from?
We were going through a bunch of names at the time. You know that hollies are short for amphetamines?
Well let's just say that it made sense at that point. (laughs) During our early shows we were playing at a rapid pace. It's weird though, because people come up to us and say, "You sound just like The Hollies."
I know. It's so sad. People just google us and just rest on the name. If I like a band I investigate them, you know? Or at least listen to their music.
What is your writing process like?
It's not an easy thing for me. I don't know how to write or read music, so I'll find something like a bassline and then go back and figure that out. Then I'll hear guitar melody get all these ideas and play it over and over again. My poor band. I don't know why they show up. I think if I studied music theory I could explain better where I want it to lineup. Or if I had a computer with Protools on it. That would probably help.
How autobiographical are your songs?
They're all certainly very true. One song can be about five different people, but their all about real experiences that I've had. There's always a source behind it. I find it really hard to bullshit anybody. Which is probably why we're not making any money. (laughs)
Who is “Gloomy Monday Morning About”?
Ha! I'm not going to lie about this one. There is actually a girl who used to wait for the bus on the corner of 39th by where I worked. And I used to drive over there just to watch her smoke cigarettes. She has no idea who I am.
Still? You didn't tell her about it?
No, I'm in a really good relationship right now, and I didn't want to come off as creepy.
Man if someone had written that song about me, I would want to know about it!
(laughs) Okay, okay, maybe I'll tell her.
Was it weird seeing your song in a Dell ad campaign?
I haven't actually seen it yet! I keep trying, but I always catch the tail end of it on TV. It's really weird. I wrote that song lying on my bed. I think we've got a song in that show Trauma as well. I don't know I don't really watch TV unless it's the Food Network.
What's your favorite show?
Ace of Cakes! Oh man when we were in Baltimore I actually met Mary Alice from that show. She came to one of our gigs. I totally freaked out. If it had been any other celebrity I wouldn't have cared, but it was Mary Alice from Ace of Cakes! It was so cool.
What was the worst show you ever did?
Jon should be answering this question. He would be much more brutal. I don't think we've done a bad show. We've played to no people before, but we still give it everything we got. I hate it when bands don't play well because there aren't any people. It's like, "This is your job. To put on a good show." And when they don't it's like they're ripping people off. I don't want to cheat anyone.
Well in that case, I'm super excited to see you on Friday.
Yeah it's gonna be great!
Thank you so much for talking with us.
Be sure to catch The Black Hollies tonight at the Echo with The Shys and Castledoor. Doors are at 8:30pm. Tickets are $10.
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