INTERVIEW: Sharon Malfesi – Hollow Bones

For many bands, once a sound is found, there is a tendency to stick with. It’s a tried and tested system, to stay in the boarders and keep within the lines. Not with HOLLOW BONES. As an up-and-coming band, the Melodic Hardcore quintet strive to tackle personal challenges, mix musical tastes and drive against prejudice and stereotyping. That’s a hell of a lot for one band to go up against, but here they are. With new album Lionheart just out, we spoke to guitarist and vocalist Sharon Malfesi about these, and many other topics.

Hi guys, hope you’re well. First, in terms of you as a band, how would you describe yourselves?

Sharon: Hello and thank you for having us! I would say that we are a group of really passionate individuals that find solace in music. This is our main outlet for expressing ourselves – our views and our feelings. We draw a lot of influence from different genres and bands out there and try to blend those influences into something that we can consider uniquely our own. It’s hard to put a label on it, but if you had to classify us by genre we would fit somewhere in the melodic hardcore/metalcore/post-hardcore section. Although we don’t like to be bound to any particular sound, as we explore ourselves we explore new ways to express that as well.

In your opinion, what’s the most important thing about being a band such as yourselves? Is it the sound, the meaning of the song, or the development of genre and attitude? Or something else entirely? What do you take away from HOLLOW BONES?

Sharon: That’s an awesome question. I would say it’s a combination of a lot of different things. We’ve all been through our own unique, personal struggles with ourselves, our relationships, the world around us, etc. We try to dig deeper into who we are as individuals and come to a collective topic or meaning to discuss in our lyrics. However, we care just as much about how that meaning comes across through the music as well. For me personally, it’s all about that pairing and the emotions that drive it home. If you can capture an emotion and have other people understand and feel it just as much as you do when you wrote it (musically or lyrically), then I personally consider that to be the biggest win of all. We want to connect with other people who have felt the same way. That’s what the music is all about for us. For me, when I listen back to our songs, I go through all the emotions that I went through while writing it. Whether it be loneliness, loss, defeat, self-loathing, or anything of the sort. The music is meant to take you on a journey, and I think we were able to capture those emotions musically and lyrically in a way that is extremely relatable. The best part is when a listener tells you they can relate. That’s when I feel like we accomplished what we set out to do.

Your band name is loaded with symbolic meaning. Do you think that’s important to how you come across as a band?

Sharon: Absolutely. We changed our name back in 2014 (formerly EDENBORN) because we had come to a crossroads in our sound and lyrical direction that strayed from what we were previously doing. The first song that we recorded and released under the new name was Drytooth, which is a song that we wrote about losing someone close to you to suicide. Lyrically, it is very near-and-dear to our lead vocalist, Patrick, who unfortunately lost his brother to suicide. This is a topic that we feel a lot of people can relate to, and is something that we’ve all personally dealt with on some level. We don’t want people to feel alone in their struggle. We chose the name HOLLOW BONES because of its ambiguity. We want the listener to take away their own definition of what that means. When we chose it as a band, it was in direct relation to birds. HOLLOW BONES are what enable birds to fly. So we liked the idea that something so fragile can still have such an amazing purpose. Because of that, we felt it was a very good representation of our sound and general message.

How was the process of getting your sound realised in the recording process?

Sharon: Writing and recording our debut album Lionheart was quite the process, ha. During most of it, we were writing from remote locations. So it was a lot of passing tracks back and forth to each other and piecing songs together as we went. Then once we all got into a room, it became fluid and something that came together fairly organically. At the time of writing we were all going through a lot of personal struggles, which made it easy for us to come together on a motif for the album, as well as the overall sounds of anger, depression, loneliness, and even desperation. Since we all connect on a deep level as individuals, our chemistry became evident. And I think through that we were all able to feel the music in a similar way, which birthed our new sound.

What did you enjoy the most about getting this record together?

Sharon: While it was definitely a challenge at times, we still made it happen. So I think the perseverance, attention to detail, and the general alignment of our feelings and the way we chose to express them was the most rewarding part. I will say that working with our engineer and producer, Randy Pasquarella, is always a great experience. He’s extremely skilled at his craft and he was able to help us create what we envisioned once we hit the studio. With his guidance and assistance, we developed a sound and record that mean the world to us.

You are also a pretty high energy- how do you balance that energy with the emotional impact of the songs?

Sharon: Well, I think the energy comes with the emotion that’s packed behind it. With songs like The November Diaries and A Murder of Crows, the anger and desperation is so evident. Not just through the lyrics, but through the energy and heaviness of the song itself. I feel it would be an injustice to the music and to the listeners if we didn’t put on a high-energy performance to accompany that message and feeling. Even for songs like Altruistic Lung and Wolfrcone (which are on the more post-hardcore spectrum of what we do), we find ourselves getting lost in the feelings when we perform them. So even if it’s not our heaviest song, the energy that we put out on stage and on the record are exactly what we want the listeners to feel. The dynamic balance is just as important as the content itself.

There’s obviously a presumption about having female members in a male dominated band that that is somehow a gimmick- have you ever had that sort of frustrating experience, and if so, how do you combat it?

Sharon: All the time, unfortunately. Most people that make this assumption will just compare me to the big name front-women of bands like PARAMORE, EVANSCENCE, or whatever other band comes to their minds…whether I sound like them or not. It can be pretty annoying because I do have a personal identity that I believe is unique me and to Hollow Bones, but it’s also flattering because they are the best names in the game. I usually just shrug it off and continue to work just as hard as I always do. I don’t like the idea of labeling people, whether it’s gender identity, race, sexual orientation, etc. In my eyes, we are all human, and we all have different feelings and passions. If you know yourself, then whatever other people say doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. I do hope that this genre will become more open-minded and welcoming to myself and my female counterparts over time. There are a lot of amazingly talented women in the industry right now that get overlooked. I’m a firm believer in giving everything a chance. So just remember that before you write off a band that has female members, they work just as hard as the next person and have just as much to say. Give everything a chance before you deem it “the same as [insert other female-fronted band here].”

Lyrically you have a very expressive style, is there any one thing that inspires you?

Sharon: I would say that humanity in general is a main inspiration for us. Feelings, where they come from, experiences and how each individual feels those experiences differently, the general state of the world we live in, and how we interact with one another. It’s fascinating. And I don’t think that we will ever fully understand ourselves as a race. So I think we take that high-level concept and try to dive deeper into each section of it, in hopes of finding a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

You have a unique take on music, incorporating various vocal styles and a range of genres into your songs. What drives that?

Sharon: First off, thank you, that means a lot. There is just so much beauty in art. Each of us in Hollow Bones listen to a variety of different music. While I personally enjoy bands like Coheed and Cambria, PVRIS, and Being As An Ocean, my other guitarist (Andrew) listens to things like MESHUGGAH, CANNIBAL CORPSE, and FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE. I think the variety of music we listen to allows us to explore different sounds and work together to find something that we can call our own. Vocally, I am inspired to continuously grow, improve my technique, and develop my own personal flair. Patrick and I both really love UNDEROATH, so the way they use their dueling vocals was a big influence for us and the way that we write our singing. We think it’s powerful and that our female/male blend will give this genre a new perspective. I also listen to artists like THE WEEKND, BROODS and HALSEY – very skilled singers. I like to challenge myself; I don’t want to become stagnant.

Being quite up-and-coming, how do you feel the scene is changing?

Sharon: I’ve been playing music in this scene since 2005 (yikes), and I’ve seen it go through some massive changes since then. I remember being able to sell 300 tickets when opening for EMMURE in 2007 at a tiny venue. Those kinds of sales and attendance are hard to come by for up-and-coming bands now-a-days. We’ve entered a digital age, where a ton of the promotion and pushes need to be made online instead of in person. The problem is that reach is limited due to over-saturation and having to pay for ads for your music to even be seen. I am hopeful that the music can speak for itself and reach people in the ways that I hope it should. Local bands need to keep working hard, if not harder, than we used to in order to get noticed. Keep pushing your content. Keep pushing the mold. Strive to do something different and unique. Focus on your branding and your relationships with others in the industry. Treat your fans as your equals. All of that is crucial to your success. As for listeners, support your local bands and artists. Without your attendance at shows, your streams online, your shares on social media, your generous purchasing of merchandise and music…bands cannot sustain without you. You are the reason we do this. You are the reason we succeed. And you are the reason that we can continue to create music. You are the reason we can tour. All of your support is whole-heartedly appreciated. Be the change you want to see.

What can we expect from Hollow Bones in the coming months?

Sharon: Well, we will have a new music video for Altruistic Lung coming out soon, and another track-by-track video as well. We also have a headlining show lined up in Poughkeepsie, NY, on July 12th with our friends in Sabretooth and The Machinist. We have two gigs booked for August, one in Long Island and one in New Jersey. You can probably expect at least one more music video for this album as well as a short tour with our friends in TRIBUTE this fall. We have not and will not slow down, so make sure to keep checking back on our Facebook for updates!

Thanks for your time guys!

Sharon: Thank you for having us!

Lionheart is out now.

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