by Herndon Hasty (Digital Performance Manager)
On the surface The Oh Hello’s sound so earnest as to not be worthwhile, save if your earth lacks salt. Brother and sister combo, with a rotating cast of another dozen characters backing them up, awash with beards and moustaches. Touting their ‘intentionally independent’ (record label-wise) status everywhere they can. Fawning NPR coverage. Their first record a ‘concept album’, meant to be listened to cover-to-cover. A bootstrapping origin tale and a charming story about their name.
I was beyond lucky that I listened to their first album nonstop from start to end. Followed quickly by their freshman EP. Followed by the founding members’ Bandcamp demos. Followed by whole catalog over and over again before I had the chance to come across tidbits which, had I not already taken in their soaring melodies and Polyphonic-Spree-without-the-robes ensemble instrumentation, I may have been tempted to eye-roll away.
Tyler and Maggie Heath of San Marcos – about 4 hours South of Saddleback, and still not quite half the state of Texas away – originally brought their talents together in a birthday album for their mother. The album includes ‘Will You Have A Drink With Me‘ which describes the moment an Irishman stumbled out of a pub the Heaths were passing on a family vacation to the Emerald Isle. He stopped in his tracks, and face beaming with unspoken revelation, asked their mother – in front of her family – ‘Oh, hello! Will you have a drink with me?’ And thus with a single-worthy (if not a bit short for as great a melody it has) tune and an inside family joke, The Oh Hello’s were born: Folk but not wispy, rock but not electric, built on the Heath siblings’ voices but nothing without the chorus of voices and instruments backing them up, reverent but not preachy.
This was followed up a year later by their eponymous EP, and a year after that by Through The Deep Dark Valley – which, true to word, can be enjoyed piecemeal, but is made all the better by carving out 40 minutes off your listening schedule to take it all in at once. Their Christmas album, a series of four beautifully seamless amalgams, is seasonal in tone but only subtly so in sound, making it as welcome and fitting at Easter as it is in Christmas. All of which have brought the Oh Hello’s success and notoriety on the independent and folk circuits.
And now their collection grows one bigger: October brings us the heart of the college football season, Halloween, and Dear Wormwood – The Oh Hellos’ fourth release. Building from their last album, Dear Wormwood (a reference to CS Lewis’ Screwtape letters; the previous album’s Lament Of Eustace Stubbs was also a nod to Lewis) exists as a fast-forward for the protagonist of the first album, itself a look back on history and struggles past. What that means we’ll find out soon enough. You can already take in the first two singles, the deceptively upbeat Bitter Water and the overtly downtrodden title track Dear Wormwood.
I may have been driving when I found out the long-anticipated album was coming out. I may have pre-ordered it on my phone at a series of red lights. Kids, don’t try this at home…but definitely check them out when you get the chance.