Stripped-back blues-rock needs nothing more than two guitars and a microphone. Hollister started out as a couple of school friends learning guitar together and playing covers of classic rock songs. Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, Lynard Skynard, you get the idea. I stuck strictly to rhythm, Jfre played lead guitar as if drunk on the tears of Mark Knopfler.
Negative Return, 2001
Jfre penned a prodigious amount of songs, with life-affirming subjects ranging from industrial decline to the gutter press. We recorded and mixed tracks in my home studio, eventually crafting a debut album under the title Negative Return.
It included Fatal Error, Hit the Road Running, and Black Gold, and sounded as if it had come out of a time capsule from 1977 (but not the punk side of 1977).
Conrwall Tour, 2002
In 2002, after a few years of writing, recording, and rehearsing, Hollister decided to go on the road. With a full album under our belts and a growing repertoire of covers, we had a solid 60-minute set. We packed guitars, amps and a small PA system into an old VW Kombi and took off on the six-hour journey South West. Nothing was planned – we simply drove around looking for a place to play, in the style of medieval troubadours. This led to a number of gigs, including one staged beneath a taxidermized stoat, playing to an audience of three bemused old men and a dog. All in all, a great success!
Songs for Depressed People, 2003
Keen to strike white the iron was lukewarm, we got back into the studio and recorded a second album of shiny summer pop hits, called Songs for Depressed People. We recruited a rhythm section to fill out our sound. Fans said that this was the best we’d ever sounded, and it was difficult to disagree.
These blues are my strength and my weakness,
I’ll walk alone for the rest of these years.
Alone on the streets with the drunk and sleepless,
Reliving moments, recounting my fears.
We grew older. We grew beards. We grew tired.
Many years after the band had eventually drifted apart, the teenagers of the time somehow started hearing our music. Was a demo CD ripped and shared on LimeWire? Did someone bootleg one of our highly successful tour dates? Perhaps we’ll never know how it happened, but every high street and shopping centre was suddenly filled with cool young things wearing T-shirts with our band name emblazoned proudly across their chests. Hollister had finally hit the mainstream!
We could only assume that our albums had become underground hits, bringing the sound of a bygone era to a new generation of disaffected youth, eager to differentiate themselves from their Oasis-loving parents. Yeah, that must’ve been it…