The Hails, Refreshing As Arnold Palmer Mango Iced Tea
by mackenzie patel
Studded with New York City success and a summer in Miami, The Hails are a “must listen to” band from Gainesville, Florida. With five guys and crafted talent, they’ve dominated an entire college music scene in the two years they’ve been together. I had the chance to speak with guitarist Franco Solari over the weekend, and our conversation flowed from World Cup soccer to the Arctic Monkeys to Arnold Palmer iced tea. Just like their music, it was an easy but thought-provoking treat that reflected Franco’s natural aura.
I was interested in piecing together their dynamic, their personal zeitgeist so to speak, and how their five personalities culminated in songs that were exquisite. And I’m not the only person that recognizes their talent. Their recent show at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC happened because their hit single, Younger, piqued the interest of Communion Records, an independent label started by Mumford and Sons.
“They saw Younger on Spotify and on Indie Shuffle, emailed us from there…we wouldn’t even have known about it if they hadn’t reached out to us,” said Solari.
Although Gainesville is a geographic B-side compared to Lower East Manhattan, the intersection of diverse, fervent, and educated students is unique to the Swamp. This unusual energy, both in music audiences and performers, connected The Hails’ sound to their student fanbase.
“College is the reason why we’re even together and allowed The Hails to exist…. college is a place where ideally there’s diverse people and music gets a life of its own from the mix of everything. A lot of us grew up in Miami, but we all had different musical upbringings; that’s reflected in how we got together.”
Solari’s first exposure to music came about because of a telemarketing call for music school in Broward county. His mom answered the phone, asked ten year old Solari if he wanted to play guitar, and the rest is bar shows, leading the student choir at Church, and rocking audiences with Frank Ocean covers. Playing guitar was as natural as being born in Argentina, and the thing Solari was “supposed to do” since he was a child.
“I don’t get this transcendent feeling playing onstage though. It’s natural. I’m comfortable, not nervous, and it’s a fun thing.”
Nonchalance suits the band members well, although as a very not nonchalant audience member, I feel transcendent hearing their music live . Despite their easiness, Solari admitted The Hails were at a crossroads in their musical career – Robbie and Zach just graduated, Franco and Dylan have a year left, and Andre is a bass wizard living in Miami. For Solari, the main priority is continuing to sustain and support himself, whether that be in L.A, New York City, or Chicago. It also depends on the upcoming music they produce, although “musical extremes” (i.e. the starving artist that lives or dies on his guitar strings) aren’t necessary anymore because of the internet.
“We recorded Younger in our bedroom and then ended up playing in New York City because of it,” said Solari.
However, the boys are all willing to make the “this is it” career move – it comes down to timing and the taste of the listeners.
Although the shifting college environment contributes to this uncertainty, the personalities of the band members also aren’t uniform or a vector in one direction. Franco listens to alternative R&B. Zach is into heavy hard rock music. Dylan obsesses over Radiohead and experimental music, and Andre has a fine arts background. They’re all into “normal guy stuff” (Franco’s words, not mine!) as well, but it’s inevitable that five dudes don’t fit the same musical mold.
Solari admitted that he doesn’t listen to the indie rock or pop genre that he produces – “At the end of the year, it’s not in my Top 100. Everyone has their own taste – I’ve listened to maybe six Arctic Monkeys songs while Robbie can probably recite their discography backwards.” He’s more of a Daniel Caesar or Jorja Smith kind of guy, although this proclivity towards individual tastes is an underlying theme of The Hails.
“It’s cool that everyone is tugging in their own direction….it leads to this weird middle ground where it’s not one genre all the way,” said Solari.
And judging by the nearly 400,000 streams of Younger, I’m guessing their formula of eclectic, ambiguous, and accessible music is cooking perfectly. One example of this musical success was their intimate Sofar Sounds performance at Third House Books. Per the Sofar website, “Sofar transforms everyday spaces… into captivating venues for secret, live shows, creating an immersive experience....” During The Hails, I was cross-legged and mesmerized, listening to Kingsley’s hyper-clear voice and surprised at the instrumental liberties taken with Younger.
“We had the most fun prepping for the Sofar show. Younger is usually two chords back and forth, but the Sofar performance was ten chords. Dylan and I are the ones that do the instrumental arrangements and chords since we’re both into music theory… it was freeing knowing that Sofar was different. We wanted to subvert expectations and do the craziness that we love anyway,” said Solari.
To say subversion was achieved, especially with the suaveness of the keys and jazz overtone, is a major understatement. They plan on experimenting further with more keys and synth during live shows and warn their audience not to expect just guitar, bass, and drums. Fiddling with music theory and adapting to new situations explains The Hails’ constant energy when performing Younger. I assumed that most bands got tired of their biggest hits, their fingers plucking strings more out of habit than passion.
“It was a really natural thing spicing up that song. No one is sick of it by now, which is odd because I haven’t experienced that before. I can say without shame ‘I enjoy listening to it.’”
That makes two of us.
I’ve seen The Hails perform five times, but their alternative rock/lowkey grooves strike me each time. And Robbie Kingsley’s voice – it’s glassy and clearer than a new mirror, like he’s singing into your body. Spotify counts a stream once someone has listened for thirty seconds, and I can’t imagine anyone switching off tracks like Younger, Parking Lot, or Come Alive.
Our conversation ended with a question I gleaned from Solari’s Instagram bio of Drinking Jesus and loving tea: “If The Hails had to be described by one drink, what would it be?”
“Arnold Palmer mango iced tea, the half and half kind. We’re got a tropical, South Florida vibe with different personalities…but we’re also delicious, refreshing, and affordable,” answered Solari without missing a downbeat.
Better drink up.
Catch The Hails playing at the Orpheum with King Complex on August 3rd, a West Palm Beach Warped Tour show on August 12th, and a Gainesville back-to-school show in the fall.