We’re dropping the pace down a little from our usual focus today to bring you the delicious sound of California band Echo Hill.
The quintet of Liz McTan (lead vocals), Oliver Tan (guitar, vocals, bass, keys), Chris Dyer (guitar), Chad Kneubuhl (drums) and Bonnie Coral (cello) fuse a wide range of musical styles, from indie and folk to bluegrass and jazz with a bit of a rocky overtone.
Our first taste of this is debut EP Some New Story, from which the band sent us final track I Am Light to have a listen to. The band tell us that the song is about ‘feminist rage,’ and about the importance of every person being treated with respect. You can read more on that below.
I Am Light opens with light guitar that continues under vocalist Liz McTans light vocals “I’ve got a story that’s worth being told, And so do all of us, So do all of us. I’ve been told time and time again to stay small and quiet, Don’t make a fuss or fight.”
The pace picks up through a brief chorus that drops into another laid-back verse, with drums coming in mid-way through it to build up to a bigger second chorus led by Liz’s delicious vocals “She’s been thinking all night that she’s ready, For grace and light to shine on her, Yeah it’s love and light for her, For rage and light to shine from her, Yeah it’s love and light for her.”
It drops down into another laid-back verse, that builds into another chorus that this time focuses on “A mother’s waiting outside, The chain links hide her child.” The pace drops down for the vocals “But we’ve all been put down, Pressed into the ground, Made of tears and dust, But I won’t be told I’m too much, For I am just enough, My skin’s made thick and tough.” That builds into a final chorus of “I am grace, I am light, I am me, Here I stand, I am love, I am free, Yes I’m grace, I am love, I am me, I am light, I am love, I am free.” And the song goes out with Liz’s high-pitched vocals over guitars, bringing it to a delicious ending.
We had a chat with Liz to find out more about this intriguing band. Read on below…
GR: Who are Echo Hill?
LM: “Echo Hill came together when I reached out to Chris Dyer after his last band broke up, to get together to jam to cheer him up. That first night we wrote part of a song and have been going strong for the last year-and-a-half. Oliver and I had already been playing together for years but rather casually as a duo.
“Chris brought in a few more friends, Chad Knuebuhl on drums and Bonnie Corral on cello. They were members of his last band Bless My Stars. Suddenly we had a full band! After a while we started having other friends join us for different shows, specifically Michael White has been a great addition on violin for this album.
“We are all nominally from Orange County, California, but I am originally from Philadelphia and Bonnie is originally from Utah.”
GR: You just released I Am Light. What should people be expecting from the song?
LM: “I Am Light is a song about frustration and wanting to be seen. I wanted to write a song about feminist rage to be real honest. I was fed up of feeling like men were telling me how to feel and what was what. Of being told to be polite about it.
“I wanted a song that explained that we all have stories that are worth being told. We are in what people are calling the #MeToo era and I feel that every person is worth respect and to be heard. But more than that I wanted to be clear that even though we can be angry, underneath it all is a beautiful lightness, grace and freedom when you get to tell your story. That being made to feel small is something many many people have lived with, and yet underneath it is power.
“As the song went along I realized that it’s more than just women almost anyone can relate to that feeling even though that’s what it stemmed from.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
LM: “It’s hard to put a label on it, it’s generally what people now call Americana; a mix of folk, blues, rock, country and jazz but everyone does that differently. I’d call it Alternative Folk Rock if I get to make up my own genre!
“We have a base in folk music storytelling that I grew up with in the Philadelphia Folk Song Society that my Dad heads up. We all love 90’s alternative rock and so there are definitely influences there. We use jazz guitar riffs a lot since that’s Oliver’s background. We love a tight harmony. Every song is a story with a beginning, middle and end.”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
LM: “We all tend to write about our own experiences. So given that half the band is married we have a good amount of songs about long-term love, commitment, and how hard that can be. Oliver and I are married, we write songs to each other when we don’t know how else to say things which sounds really weird but seems to work for us.
“I’d say there is probably an overarching theme that comes back a lot, which is feeling like you’re not fitting or need a fresh start, wondering if you should stay or go. We all love to travel so we’ve got some great ones about that as well.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
LM: “There are so many great musicians that inspire us, so this is hard! I’d say from current music Brandi Carlile and The Avett Brothers, Head and The Heart and Zac Brown Band, Amy Winehouse, John Mayer. Then we love Pearl Jam, Gin Blossoms, The Beatles, Nina Simone, and classic folk musicians like Janis Ian and Arlo Guthrie.”
GR: What have you got coming up through the rest of 2019?
LM: “We are doing some fundraising gigs right now, we love doing smaller house shows for good causes. We will be travelling a bit through the east coast to do some shows in Philadelphia. We are writing new music and hope to do another album within the year. We love writing songs so it’s almost as if we have new material every show we do lately.”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music
LM: “I guess just that it has our heart in it and we hope it touches yours too.”