Henry Hall was a bandleader and regular performer on BBC Radio in the first half of the 20th Century. He was notorious for his 1932 recording of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” which if not seen as playful and delightful, can be downright terrifying- but maybe not as terrifying as “Here Comes The Bogeyman,” chock full of that scratchy, old-timey melodic horror, appropriate for the season and a movie like The Shining.
This Hall harnesses an innocent pop-rock charm often delivered with a humorous and inviting style, and it’s ever-present on the new album. His last single he released prior to the album, “Not in My House” is a perfect example of Hall’s style, which is unique, comical, and entirely his own.
He has a natural feel for entertaining both with his music, and behind the camera with his music videos. This is no surprise, however, as his mother happens to be the incredible Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Yep, that one. And she just so happens to be Hall’s biggest supporter. (naturally)
Hall produces a danceable, feel-good style to his music, which is found throughout the album. The twangy, undulating guitar riffs that complement his often bouncy melodies make for a sound that you might expect to hear in a Smiths or maybe The Cure classic.
Songs like “Guy” deliver a grooving, chillwave type sound that builds (lots of not-chill waves in the video too), while his newest single, “13 Besties” offers more of his signature indie pop-rock sound, but the constant is Hall’s high-register singing style full of cheeky and witty lyrics. The 13-song collection that is Neato is bound to delight, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to listen again and again.
We had the chance to chat with Hall to discuss the new album and much more.
So who or what spurned your interest to start writing and playing music?
I think I’ve always had the urge to make music — almost compulsively so. When I was really little, if I heard a noise from an appliance or a creak in the house, I would have to sing a musical response to it in my head. That probably contributed to my immense childhood anxiety in some way, but we’ll have to leave that to my therapist.
My dad really introduced me to music and spurned my love for it. He showed me Simon and Garfunkel and The Smiths when I was too young to feel angsty and sad like you’re supposed to when you listen to that kind of music, so I just heard the incredible melodic sensibility present in those songs.
Are you involved in the acting world as well?
I have to pretend to be mad at my parents’ new puppy George so he doesn’t bite too hard. I’m not actually mad at him, he’s too cute to be mad at. That’s a form of acting, right?
And I have to ask: do you have a favorite Seinfeld character? (other than of course your mother)
I’m a huge fan of Bob Sacamano, Kramer’s friend who we never meet (I don’t think). He is God to me.
So you recently dropped your newest single, “Not in My House,” a few weeks ago. What inspired this track, and what made you choose this one as a single?
When I write a song, it usually starts with a chord progression, but in the case of NIMH, it started with the titular lyric, “Not in My House.” There’s just something so absurdly overconfident and funny about that phrase that also speaks to my neuroses in new or unfamiliar places. It really inspired the whole song from the melody down to the drum arrangement.
The lower register singing on this song is something I dive into a lot on the album, as well as the big build towards the end of the tune. NIMH felt representative of what’s to come on the full-length (other than the obo solos that are featured on 8 of the 13 tracks, of course).
You also filmed a delightfully choreographed music video for it. What was the idea behind it, and where did y’all film it?
That was such a fun video to shoot. You can thank Ethan Young, the video’s director, for that choreography coming together. The way he edited it somehow makes my extremely off-putting irl dancing seem cool. We shot the video in a theater in Santa Barbara where my dad performed in his first ever play, believe it or not. There was some good energy in the air because of that, I think. It’s also just generally a stunningly gorgeous theater. It’s so dramatically designed and built and so is the video and so is the song — it was a perfect fit. I wanted this project to be as intense as possible and I think it came out pretty intense.
And your debut LP, Neato, just dropped this past Friday. What’s the overall influence or perhaps theme for this collection of songs?
To me, albums have such a broad reach into the experience of the person making them, so I wouldn’t say there’s one overall influence or theme for this record. The songs on Neato are on more of a spectrum that has debilitating anxiety on one end and euphoric melancholy/nostalgia on the other. The songs exist along that spectrum, each with their own combination of those two poles. And then underneath that spectrum is a sense of humor that pokes its head out or undercuts everything throughout the album. That undercutting is really important to me. I hope people can find some relief from their own anxieties in these tunes. That’s really the goal of the album, at the end of the day — I want Neato to be a respite from these anxious times through exploring and tackling anxiety head on.
When looking back on this album ten years from now, what might you reflect back on most fondly?
Definitely the recording process. I love being in the studio more than anything, and my co-producer and engineer, Dylan Bostick, really made the experience of tracking these songs unbelievably fun. Memories, baby!
You have a very unique music style, especially vocally. How do you describe your music?
Thank you! Wow, that’s a big question. I hope my music is soulful and gets stuck in your head, but you can also go crazy and rock out to it. And laugh sometimes too. So… sticky-soul-rock-crazy-witty music? Sorry if that’s unbelievably cringe lol.
What can you picture people doing while listening to your music?
How important is humor to your music?
Very, very, very important. I think you have to have a sense of humor about everything in life because no matter what we do, we’re all followed around by the fact that we could just croak at any moment. That makes life and ambition kind of absurd, but if you look at it optimistically, it’s kind of hilarious. So to combat that absurdity and darkness, you might as well laugh at everything. That sentiment is something I want to get across in my music, without a doubt.
What does a dream gig look like for you? (when shows exist again)
A show at Gold-Diggers, one of my favorite venues in Los Angeles. I love it there. Support your local venues! They need it right now!
If you could open for any living (or hologram) artist, who would it be?
If you could have a beverage or perhaps a toke of a legal or illegal substance with any living idol and pick their brain, who might it be?
What might fans expect from Henry Hall to close out the year?
More fun stuff relating to Neato! Some new music videos, some merch, and even some virtual shows, and more!!! Stay tuned and thanks to anyone who read through the whole article to this point. I love you!