A Chat With Nashville Indie Alt Rockers Say Kids & Look At Their New Single ‘Hootie Hoo’

Running the risk of sounding like a melodramatic curmudgeon, it isn’t often that you come across a song that is both deliberately transparent with its content, and clever in its approach. Hits like Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” or M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” tend to get drowned out by the overproduced prowess in the bubblegum pop music machine. Let’s face it: when push comes to shove, we tend to tune into lighthearted dance jams over our woefully cathartic Adele playlist. 

Well, Say Kids are back with their latest single, “Hootie Hoo,” proving that you don’t have to compromise one for the other. With clear allusions to an unmistakably fragile topic, yet packaged in a groovy box, the single is a promising vibe to kick off your summer. 

Though Memorial Day came and went, “Hootie Hoo,” was released just in time for the ripening weather, signaling another gorgeous summer. You wouldn’t guess it from the calming reverb in the Hammond B3 organ and uptempo Geddy Lee-style vocals, but the lyrical content is rooted in the dark side of mental health. 

According to the crew, the phrase ‘Hootie Hoo’ was used in its traditional sense– to clear a party. However, the lyrics touch on the pitfalls of trying to figure out the best regimen for coping with one’s mental illness as the subject considers taking one’s own life. The line that stuck with me was, “Don’t you know, you’re showing your scars,” perhaps detailing how the other members felt as they came upon their friend. Hurting and hopeless, yet brave enough to discuss the commonality of mental illness, the song seems to reach a resolve by really thriving off the tasteful balance of light and dark. 

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The alt-rock group consists of Peyton Smith (frontman), William Cheatham (lead guitar), Oliver Finch (bass), and Matt Gay (drums). Smith and Cheatham met and soon conspired plans for forming a band while studying music at Belmont University (go Bruins!). Their debut album, From Earth, dropped in 2019 and is a testament to the timeless charm of the group’s hole-in-the-wall, funky sound. 

We had a blast catching up with the guys on the single, their favorite spots to play around town, and how they’ve managed to find the silver linings in this universal downtime. 

So congrats on y’alls newest single, “Hootie Hoo,” which just hit airwaves last week. What’s the inspiration and influence behind this track?

The single is about a party a couple of our members had attended in LA before Say Kids formed. The night ended horribly and actually led the guys to quit music for a while before ending up in Nashville. The harsh reality of mental illness and it’s effect on people, regardless of relativity to it, is something we tried to highlight with this song. The writing focuses on a topic that’s very personal to us as a band and inevitably a tune was born that honors a time reflective of our experience. 

Where did y’all record it and who was involved in production?

“Hootie Hoo” was recorded live in Ocean Way Studio A in Nashville, Tennessee. Overdubs and organ were added a couple weeks later in Studio B with our producer, Adam Lochemes (Arlie). Adam has been a creative confidant of Peyton’s since high school and has remained a constant influence in his life.  

Will it be part of an upcoming EP/LP, or is it a standalone single?

This song will be a standalone single. But don’t worry, there is more to come.

Are you aware of the Master P song of a similar title (Hoody Hoo)? If not, it’s a jam and you can thank me later.

We were not aware of this song! We will definitely check it out.

Where are some of y’alls favorite venues to play at in town and why?

The End will always be one of our favorites because it’s where the group played their first headlining show. Another venue the group frequented was Springwater, the oldest bar in Tennessee. 

How does the songwriting process work within the band?

Typically, Peyton comes to the band with a song already written and then they break down the chord structures and rhythm together. From there they flesh the song out in practice and before you know it, everyone has their part written.

Who are some of your musical influences that you try to emulate in your songs?

The group is influenced by many local acts such as Arlie, Briston Maroney, Illiterate Light, and Oddnote. Sonically we all draw from Jamiroquai, The Arctic Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, and a lot of ‘70s groups like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, etc.

Do you feel the pandemic has helped or hurt your creative process?

The pandemic has helped us and hurt us in ways. We now have all the time in the world to write and record new songs, but a lot of the studios are unavailable right now. The studio is where we like to play with sounds, harmonies, and rhythms to see what else we can add on top of all the other sounds we have going on.

If life resumed in Nashville as it once was and all locales were deemed safe and acceptable to go to, what local establishments would y’all hit up?

The End and Springwater are definitely the first on the list.

What do you hope Say Kids’ future will look like three years from now?

On the road playing city after city to new faces. When we return home to Nashville, we want to have a show at the Exit/In lined up and go thrift shopping with our fans the day of the show. In three years, the camaraderie will be at an all-time high, jokes will be on sure-fire, and the live shows will continue to be high energy. The group simply wants to continue making music they are passionate about and that shakes through the scene.

Editor’s Note: Questions by Paul Howard, intro by Nina Kindrachuk

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