The Hails make their mark with debut EP ‘He Seems Upset’


Courtesy of The Hails

The Hails recorded much of their debut “He Seems Upset” amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

South Florida’s five man band, The Hails, were in Boston when the world changed. Their tour, the first of their brand-new careers, was scheduled to take them to Nashville and Atlanta in the coming days, but a global pandemic put their lives on pause, as it did and continues to do to so many people across the globe.

“I remember getting a DM from a fan,” said guitarist and vocalist Franco Solari. “I guess who lived in Atlanta, who was like ‘I’m coming no matter what! I’m not scared of Covid!’ I’m like ‘Yo, we got to pull the plug on this.’”

But despite their tour’s abrupt end and the ensuing departure for their homes, Robbie Kingsley (Vocals), Solari (Vocals and guitar), Dylan McCue (Guitar), Andre Escobar (Bass) and Zach Levy (Drums), the five members who make up The Hails, worked around their forced separation and continued working on their debut eight-song EP, “He Seems Upset,” which is set to release on Tuesday, August 25. 

The five of them met as students at University of Florida, where they played shows around Gainesville and wrote, produced and even performed their music in their living room. Originally, Solari, Escobar and Levy started a band around the age of 12 that lasted until their sophomore year of college, which is where they eventually came together with Kingsley and McCue to form The Hails.

The early days of any artists existence are a time to figure out what works for them and who they are sonically, lyrically, anything. But during this discovery phase of The Hails, they’ve also found success, amassing 164,278 monthly Spotify listeners, with their two biggest hits, “Younger” and “Stay,” both at over 3 million streams. As their music evolved, however, they’ve experimented with different themes. “Denial,” a track on “He Seems Upset” that was released over the summer, is a venture into a much more electronic space, a significant departure from “Younger,” released in 2018, which has a slower pace that gradually builds in instrumental intensity. 

The rest of the EP follows a similar pattern, not necessarily a new concept from what they’ve released in years past, but more evolved into a variety of sonic composition. “Sippin’ on the Daylight,” the first track of the EP, is an up-tempo track with synth mixed in that leads into the electronically-grounded “Denial.”

“Situations,” another up-tempo track that begins with children laughing, is followed “By Empty Castles,” a song marked by only a guitar and an echoy, pained voice of Solari. The EP contains “Heartbeat” and “Heartbeat pt. 2,” the latter of which is a remixed version of the former.

“I think we’ve all matured as people,” said McCue. “I think, yeah, the transition from college to life to adult life and all the feelings that go with that and the anxieties that go with that, impact a lot of the lyrics in the EP. So I think it’s a combination of like new life experiences for all of us and just developing as musicians and changing, forcing ourselves into looking at different processes of making music.”

Most of the recording for “He Seems Upset” was done by January, before the band was forced apart, easing the burden of creating an entire EP during a pandemic. They were also helped, they say, by working apart from one another after graduating and even before, to an extent. 

“We had kind of been used to being apart like forever,” said Solari. “While we were still at UF, in Gainesville, Andre was in Miami like five hours away. And then as soon as we graduated, we all kind of scattered, so it was like, we had been living like this almost socially-distanced lifestyle making music for like a year, kinda before we were forced to.”

The Hails pull from a number of avenues of inspiration, part of which gives them a unique sound. While Kingsley is quick to bring up The Strokes as an inspiration, Solari admits he’s listened to less than 10 of their songs and instead mentions Frank Ocean as a major inspiration, also pointing out his affinity for hip-hop and alternative-R&B, examples of which are easy to spot in “He Seems Upset.” McCue says Radiohead, no matter what, in some way influences all of his writing.

But five people is still five people who all have the potential for different creative visions, and those visions can sometimes be impediments. In McCue’s words, “It’s definitely not smooth-sailing.” Nonetheless, they are still a five-person band of friends who all care about each other and want to make their music better. Lines are never crossed and they ultimately resolve themselves; Solari gave an example of an argument between him, Kingsley and McCue over two notes in a melody. 

“There’s a lot of conflicts,” McCue said. “I think the conflict can help the music in a lot of ways. ‘Cause we all really kind of pull from, there’s obviously like a lot of overlap in all of our tastes, but there’s definitely some pretty stark differences in our musical backgrounds.”

He added: “Kind of the whole compromise aspect of making music, I think leads to even more interesting music than would be made if it was just one of us calling all the shots.”

Despite the seemingly impossible task of creating an EP during a pandemic, it will still be some time before “He Seems Upset” is performed in front of a live audience. 

“That is absolutely the worst part,” as Escobar puts it. It’s a damper in the music industry and for young artists just at the start of their careers. Much of what countless artists hoped for at the start of the year were derailed.

“I’m scared to look at my calendar on December 31 when I have a time to look at predictions,” Solari said.

In the end, though, they can at least cross off debuting an EP. Whenever their next live shows take place is in the air, but a positive of the modern music industry is it allows bands like The Hails to produce and promote their music in the face of the unexpected. Their debut completes a project that had been in the works since October. Hopefully the next one will be followed by a tour.