Hi Ho Silver Oh: On State Lines and the Internets

Posted on December 12th, by mbenaim in Sound. 2 comments

Communion – Put It All in One Place and Burn It

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When we learned about Hi Ho Silver Oh, a musical project spearheaded by Casey Trela, we thought it was a holliday album. Turns out our Bruce Springsteen reference radar was broken and HHSO’s music is (blissfully) jingle-bell free. The present iteration of the band is a foursome made up of three Chapel Hillians and a Los Angelino, making music that is lyrical and fun. We spoke with them and learned about the project and the business of making music independently.

Tell us a little bit about this project: how did it come about? Who are the people making up the band?

I started playing music under the name Hi Ho Silver Oh this past year when I moved out to Los Angeles from Chapel Hill.  I wanted a project where I could write songs and play them solo, or recruit friends to flesh them out with bigger arrangements.  During college, I played in a big eight-person rock group, which was really great and rewarding, but I wanted to keep things adaptable to all the places I’d find myself in LA.  Lately, Hi Ho has been a four-piece that includes my buds Jon Mackey and Wil Donegan from Chapel Hill, and my new bud Phil Eastman who hails from California’s Bay Area.


Does the name Hi Ho Silver Oh have any particular meaning or story? Please do tell.

I took the name from the Bruce Springsteen song “State Trooper.”  I listened to the Nebraska album a lot when I first moved to LA while driving around by myself late at night.  That particular song gives this weird haunting feeling with really simple production.
It’s difficult to find a band name that sums up all of what you are musically and philosophically, especially one that will feel right years down the line.  I feel like, at this point, it evokes ideas that fit the music.  This may change at some point and until then, people should feel free to think into it as much or as little as they’d like.

This record was released independently by the band. Do you think the ability for a band to do this while starting out is a sign of the times? Do you have any advice to share with other musicians looking to do this?

The “DIY” aesthetic has been developing for awhile now, and is at an interesting point with all that the internet gives artists.  The roots of the “independent” musician are still in doing-it-yourself, but have moved from physical, community-based operations to a huge variety of internet-based operations.  With this, artists are able to distribute to a much larger population, but also face an oversaturated market.  We’re trying to pick and use the things we like about the new and old DIYs.  I’ve been lucky enough to come up in musical environments where the idea of having physical connections to your musical community were taught and nurtured.

I think it’s a great idea for bands to release music in any way possible.  There’s a lot to be learned from recording music and releasing it out to the world.  A MySpace page is a good place to start, but you have to do more to make your music stand out in the big internet sea.  Play out at local venues or organize your own shows.  Involve your friends and use all your resources.  Be creative and make releases unique.  Also know that it is possible to make a professional quality album that looks and sounds nice without being on a label!  It’s exciting.  We recorded and mixed our own songs, went to our community of friends for artwork, shopped around online for affordable printing and CD replication, and put together all the pieces to make an album.  “Indie” in its truest form should be something inclusive and encouraging rather than pretentious.

Do you plan to tour?

I did a house show tour last year which was a lot of fun.  I love driving around the country and playing music.  It’s something I’m looking forward to doing again. So, once we’ve raised enough funds, a tour shall be had.


You live in Los Angeles. Would you identify your music with the city?

Every time I make a big move, I identify myself with the previous city more than the current one.  Right now I identify my musical mindset more with Chapel Hill than with Los Angeles.  As we play more shows and get to know fellow bands in our area, I think everything is settling together a little more.  There are great communities here like the ones left back in North Carolina.  I’m just going to keep being myself, which will have little parts of NC and LA all mixed together.

Would you care to recommend any music? Any young musicians?

I’m not the best at staying up on the times.  Today, I danced to the song “Look Out World” by The Great White Jenkins.  They’re a really super band from Richmond, VA.  Their lyrics are consistently solid, and they have a jazzy folky sound I haven’t heard many other places.  I’ve been listening to Midtown Dickens’ and Megafaun’s new albums a lot since they came out.  They’re both from Durham, NC, have great albums, and are the most fun bands to experience in real life.  Daniel Hart is an amazing violin player with a band called Physics of Meaning that everyone should listen to.  Watching him play the song “Dream #1” from their last album will make you feel good.  We played our CD Release show with Superhumanoids and Shakey Graves, who have been a couple of the best things about LA so far.  Wil Donegan and Jon Mackey are both young musicians that write really great songs, and I have a good feeling about Phil Eastman.

Hi Ho Silver Oh – Perjury [My Friends and the Sun EP]

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Hi Ho Silver Oh – Worth [Put It All in One Place and Burn It]

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