Album artwork: Tim Meskers
When I hear some music, I need more than just the music. I need background, answers and explanations. I need to give the music another dimension. That’s how I felt when I listened to Make & Model’s first single, “Change of Heart.”
I’m lucky enough to get to the bottom of the music I love and get all those unanswered questions answered, on a regular basis. Brian Hall is the man behind the electronic project, Make & Model and a handful of other creative projects he will tell you more about below! His secret to successfully committing to and completing all of these projects? Also below!
MFL: Tell me about your musical beginnings. Where did you grow up, how and when did music become part of your life and who influenced you musically?
Brian Hall (BH): I’ve lived in Philadelphia all my adult life, grew up not far from here in a town called Wyomissing. And I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember. My parents had me taking piano lessons ever since I was a little kid, long before I ever really made that choice consciously for myself. And then I picked up the guitar when I was in middle school. I think the musicians who have influenced me the most would have to be my bandmates. Donnie Felton is the other songwriter in Grubby Little Hands (GLH) and the primary vocalist. We’ve been collaborating for more years than I might admit in this interview because I’m still pretending to be young. Donnie and I met at Wake Forest where we both studied Theory & Composition and he’s had a huge influence on me because we’re just constantly sharing ideas with one another. Also, Joe Primavera, who’s the lead guitarist in GLH and a very skilled engineer – he actually mixed and mastered this Make & Model EP – we’ve been in bands together for a very long time as well. Nothing I do ever makes it to the rest of the world without being shaped in some way, shape, or form by those two.
MFL: I’ve been listening to Grubby Little Hands this morning. How and why did you move from that project to Make & Model? They seem polar opposite!
BH: Yea, Make & Model is pretty different from Grubby Little Hands. I also put out a 7” back in the day of this weird lo-fi, kinda dark stuff under the name Desert Car. And I’ve got a batch of material cooking right now that’s off on yet another tangent, so that will probably need a whole new artist identity whenever it comes to fruition. So definitely a bit all over the place, but I don’t think that’s unusual necessarily. I imagine most artists will find themselves exploring a few different directions. I feel like each individual artistic project should have a clear identity, but I don’t think any one particular project is ever going to be fully representative of the person or people who create it.
MFL: Are you still part of Grubby Little Hands and how will you balance both projects?
BH: Ah, balance. Great question! And not just multiple musical projects, either. I have to balance my family, my job, I have a podcast I love making, and I help run a small label/collective… it’s definitely tricky. But everyone has a lot going on. Balance is just part of life. I don’t know, you just gotta find it. Fortunately Make & Model isn’t too time consuming. Honestly this EP came together in about a month. But yea we’re full steam ahead with Grubby Little Hands and putting the finishing touches on a new album. I’d be lying if I said GLH doesn’t occupy a huge portion of our time, resources, and energy. We’re being more meticulous with this album than ever, it’s been over a year in the making, but it’s sounding great… we’ll still probably blow it up and start over though, because we’re crazy.
MFL: I feel like there are similarities between what I’ve heard of Make & Model and Daft Punk. Do you agree and has Daft Punk inspired your sound?
BH: Totally. I get the Daft Punk comparison a lot, also Air. Which are definitely flattering comparisons because those bands are both amazing. I think it’s the vocoder… that’s obviously a very distinct attribute. So, yea, I definitely agree in that sense. But obviously Daft Punk (and Air) are like gods and Make & Model is just a mere mortal.
MFL: What is “Change of Heart” about and how will it fall in line with the other tracks on your upcoming EP, Channel Surfing?
BH: “Change of Heart” is about two people falling out of love. Which sounds sad, but isn’t necessarily meant to be. It’s just something that happens sometimes. All of the songs on the EP touch on some aspect of human relationships, connections, or behaviors, and I think the robotic vocals create this weird juxtaposition of real human emotion being processed through this artificially intelligent filter. The music always struck me as sounding like a piece of technology – like a radio, or TV, or computer, or phone – came to life, and its entire understanding of the human experience was based on the vast amounts of mass media that funneled through it. That’s why I set all the songs to found footage from various decades and sources, and named the EP Channel Surfing.
MFL: How are you preparing for the release of your debut EP as Make & Model?
BH: Hmm… I’ll be drafting a text message to my friends and guilting them into listening to it. Just kidding. Well, that’s probably true actually. But the better answer is I’ll be playing an EP release show at a DIY venue in Philly called Crouch House on Friday, May 11 with some amazing artists, Berndsen, Raindeer, & Blood Sound. Berndsen is a really popular 80s-inspired electro-pop artist in Iceland and this is their first U.S. tour. Raindeer is a band from Baltimore that I’m friends with and fans of – they’re honestly one of my favorite bands on the indie circuit right now. Blood Sound is also from Philly and I’ve actually never met them, but we have some mutual friends, and I love what I’ve heard of their music, so I look forward to meeting them at the show. Should be a fun night!
MFL: If you could perform with any musician(s) out there, who would it be?
BH: For some reason when I entertain hypotheticals like this my mind always goes to artists who have passed, like Prince or Freddie Mercury or David Bowie. I guess just because those scenarios require an extra layer of magic and fantasy. But truthfully, ‘performing’ with them would just be me sitting down on the stage and watching them in awe.
MFL: There is so much music out there. It blows my mind sometimes. With all of that music out there, how do you define success for yourself as a musician?
BH: Success is just keeping my sanity. If I can continue doing what I’m doing and not lose my mind (or push away any loved ones) then I’ll be happy. And when I’m old and I look back at all the music I made, hopefully I’ll like some of it. And that will be success.
Major thank you to Brian Hall for taking the time to dish out the most thoughtful answers! And to Jeremy Theall for connecting us. Don’t miss the release of Make & Model’s debut EP, Channel Surfing, May 11th via Good Behavior Records! You can keep track via Facebook and his website through Post-Echo.