Hello Mary Is More Than Just a “‘90s” Band (4/5 at Underground Arts w/ Deerhoof)

This Wednesday, April 5th, legendary indie rockers Deerhoof come to Underground Arts.  However, we’re equally excited for immediate support, Hello Mary, a Brooklyn all-female trio who dropped their self-titled...

This Wednesday, April 5th, legendary indie rockers Deerhoof come to Underground Arts.  However, we’re equally excited for immediate support, Hello Mary, a Brooklyn all-female trio who dropped their self-titled debut LP last month on Frenchkiss Records.  You may have seen Hello Mary – comprised of Helena Straight (guitar, vox), Mikaela Oppenheimer (bass), and Stella Wave (drums, vox) – last May opening for Sunflower Bean at The Foundry.  The band have been heralded by a plethora of major outlets for kicking out retro alternative rock jams – with Alternative Press characterizing their sound as, “indie rock that hinges on ’90s nostalgia, from shoegaze to grunge,” and TIDAL referring to their ability to, “evoke the sound and attitude of classic ’90s-era alternative and indie rock.” – but during a recent video chat with Helena, Mikaela, and Stella they tell me that, while they appreciate the kind words, they’re far more than a throwback band, and that their latest sounds are already drastically more varied than those found on the album that dropped last month.

Izzy Cihak: You released your self-titled debut LP a month ago.  Have you had any favorite reactions to the album?

Stella Wave: I mean, I think it’s been really cool.  This album has kind of taken a while for us to get out into the world, and a lot of these songs we’ve been playing live for a while.  But since the album’s come out, we’ll see people singing along, or cheer at certain songs because they actually know them now, which didn’t happen before.  So, that’s really cool!

Helena Straight: Yes, I would have to agree with that!  I love the live reactions when we start a song, and everyone’s like, “Yeeeaaahhh,” as if they know it [laughs].

Izzy: How do you feel like the album compares to your EP and previous singles, both in terms of sound and even just the process of writing and recording it?

Helena: The process of recording was probably the most obvious difference.  Everything has changed a lot, our musicianship, our closeness as people and friends.  But the actual recording experience was a lot more professional and deliberate.

Stella: With Ginger, that was kind of just Helena and Mikaela and their writing, because I had joined when a lot of those songs were already written, and I was just assuming a position of the drummer to their band.  But, going off of what Helena said, the three of us have become very close.  And I’ve also been writing songs since forever, but at first I didn’t view Hello Mary as a place for that.   Not that I ever felt like I wasn’t welcome to do that, but I didn’t know it was gonna be the dynamic.  And now it’s like all three of us contribute with songwriting and stuff like that, which I think makes the album that just came out cool and dynamic and interesting.  All of us contribute different parts to different songs, which I think wasn’t happening as much before.

Izzy: Last month you dropped “Special Treat” as a single, so I’m curious how that particular track came about?

Helena: The lyrics for that song Mikaela and I wrote together, just like walking around in Brooklyn, just like super random stuff, which is similar to most of how the songs on Ginger, the EP, were written.  And then, I don’t really remember how the round…  The round is a very distinct element, and I don’t remember how that came to be…  Do you guys remember?

Mikaela Oppenheimer:  No.  I don’t even really remember writing that song at all.  I remember we did it all together…

Izzy: You also have a really cool video to go with the song.  I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times, but is the video inspired by the movie Daisies?

Mikaela: It was, kind of!  I mean, we hadn’t seen the movie, but the lady that we worked with wanted to do it.  We thought of the idea, and then we told her about it, and she was like, “This is exactly like this movie!”  And then I watched it, and it was awesome!  It’s one of my favorite movies now…  But yeah, a lot of the imagery is really similar.

Izzy: You’re signed to Frenchkiss, which is such a cool label.  How has it been working with them and being a part of that family?

Helena: It’s been really fun.  It’s cool, because since the label’s pretty small, we’re pretty close with anyone that’s working for us, so we really know what everyone’s like, which I feel like is unique.

Izzy: Instead of asking artists about their biggest influences, I prefer to ask them about some of their favorite albums.  So, what are some of your favorite albums, whether things you grew up loving, or stuff you’ve discovered more recently?

Helena: I actually have been compiling this list…  It’s now at 27, like Top Favorite Albums.  OK Computer’s one of them, Dogs by Nina Nastasia, U.F.O.F., by Big Thief…  Those’ll be my three!  What about you all?

Mikaela: I think OK Computer; I overlap with you, Helena.  And then From a Basement on the Hill, Elliott Smith.  And then I think it has to be I Love You Jennifer B, the Jockstrap album.

Stella: I feel like there’s way more than three…  Recently, I’ve been really into this album called Mind Palace Music by the band @…  They’re actually based in Philly.  They’re fuckin’ awesome.  OK Computer’s a huge one, but I feel redundant saying that…  I mean, U.F.O.F. is one of my favorite all-time albums…  I’ll stick with those three!

Izzy: You have two shows supporting Deerhoof later this week, including a show here in Philly at Underground Arts.  What can be expected of your live show?  I actually saw you last year with Sunflower Bean at The Foundry and really dug it.

Helena: We’re trying to play every song on the album that just came out, so that pretty much gives it all away [laughs].  For an opening slot, that’s pretty much it…  We like to throw in a few new songs, if time allows, because we’re fuckin’ so excited about them.

Izzy: What kind of direction are your new songs going…  If it’s at all different?

Helena: Yeah, it’s definitely different…  What would you guys say about that?

Stella: I think that the new songs…  We’ve been saying this forever, and this is such a common thing, but we’re just so excited about the new stuff.  And the stuff that “just came out” feels old at this point.  Like, “Special Treat,” it’s crazy that that’s only been out for two months, because we have literally been playing that song for three-and-a-half years.  The newer stuff is just better.  I don’t know, it’s cool.  It’s a little more dynamic.  It’s a little less like fitting into a box, I think.  I think a lot of people that hear this album are like, “Yeah, it’s like grungy ‘90s rock,” and I feel like the newer album is gonna be a little more singular and less easily identifiable, not that we don’t have uniqueness happening on the self-titled album.  I feel like we’re slipping into a comfortable spot where we’re not trying to prove that we’re a rock band as much, if that makes sense…

Mikaela: I was just gonna say that the new stuff is pretty math-y, which I feel like we didn’t do that much of prior.

Izzy: Are you excited to get to see Deerhoof play and hang out with them?  Were you previously fans of the band?

Hello Mary, in unison: Yeah!!!

Izzy: Do you have a favorite type of setting to play, like a favorite kind of room?

Stella: It’s fun to have different rooms under our belt, just to compare them and see what’s up, but I think that, for us, it’s really just dependent on the sound being good.  Not in a pretentious way, but there’s a lot of musical interplay that’s happening, and it’s very crucial for us to feel good onstage and hear what’s going on.  For me, I sing and I play drums, so a lot of the time I can’t hear my vocals, and if I can’t hear my vocals, then I don’t know if I’m singing on key and harmonizing with Helena.  If I can’t hear Mikaela playing, then I don’t feel locked in rhythmically.  There’s just a lot of things that can feel really off-putting if the sound isn’t good.  So, I think, regardless of the size of the room, or the stage, or anything, if we can hear what’s going on, that’s what really matters.  I don’t know if you all have something to add…

Helena: I agree!

Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you?  What are you most excited about in 2023, beyond these dates, in addition to working on new music?

Helena: We’re going on tour this summer!  Our first real tour is with Blondshell!

Izzy: I just saw her in January with Suki Waterhouse!

Helena: Oh, sick, how was that?

Izzy: It was really good, and people knew her stuff and were super into it!  I was impressed!

Helena: Yeah, she’s doing really cool stuff!  So, that’s our big plan right now!

*Get your tickets here.

Band InterviewsLive EventsMusic

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.