Last year, Jim Adame and Elliott Miller opted to double their musical odds.
The longtime friends and collaborators pooled their talent, ingenuity and resources to form Hollow Head, a new Denver-based indie-folk duo.
“Elliott and I started releasing music independently and closely around each other. He started writing songs a year or two before I did, and when I moved out to Colorado initially, that’s when I started getting back into writing music and releasing it,” said Adame, Hollow Head’s vocalist-guitarist who hails from Midland, Michigan.
“I released my EP, and Elliott released his EP. On my EP, Elliott did all the drum work and the lead guitar, and he was already a pretty big part of that project. At a certain point, we realized our songs had a lot in common, and the subject matter was similar as well. Since we had already enjoyed collaborating, we decided to take the plunge and make it a duo project.”
Together, their creative Hollow Head forces produced A Spark of Madness, an emotive debut album immersed in ethereal soundscapes, earnest lyrics, ear-catching harmonies and expansive instrumentation.
“We put words on paper, and then a lot of that came from subconscious thoughts, and we found out what it meant later,” said Miller, Hollow Head’s vocalist-guitarist-drummer who also grew up in Midland and met Adame in 2015.
Each track provides a contemplative, out-of-body experience that allows listeners to deeply reflect on internal struggles, old relationships and life lessons. It’s the ideal sonic companion for a solo Rocky Mountain road trip to reassess the valleys of the past and explore the peaks of the future.
“We revisited the songs, so they’re all more cohesive and share the two of us,” Adame said. “That’s how they all play out. And then, two of the songs, ‘Gasoline’ and ‘January,’ are the ones we wrote while we were in the middle of forming Hollow Head.”
Igniting A Spark of Madness
Inside the vast, shared mind of Hollow Head, Adame and Miller cover deep personal terrain across A Spark of Madness’ 10 lush, atmospheric tracks. The tender opener, “If I Linger,” boldly chronicles traveling outside life’s comfort zone and embarking on a new road ahead.
Pensive acoustic guitar, trailing synth, somber electric slide guitar, calm bass, driving drums and courageous banjo infuse Adame with newfound strength and optimism.
Adame sings, “So give me light, give me darkness/Give me warmth and give me cold/Give me hope and give me comfort/And everything else that comes and goes.”
“I just had feelings pent up, and there were so many things going on in my head that I just needed to express somehow. That’s initially how ‘If I Linger’ started. I was just in the middle of this move and my whole life was changing. I just wasn’t happy with where I had been for the past several years of my life,” said Adame, who relocated to Denver in 2021.
“For ‘If I Linger,’ I had put everything down on paper, and I had finished writing it the day that I was going to record it at Andy (Reed’s). That’s when I had the full song in front of me and played it all the way through. That’s also when I had realized what the song was about.”
After making a life-changing journey, Hollow Head relishes the arrival of a promising new relationship on the Miller-penned “Not Alone.” Fervent electric guitar, comforting acoustic guitar, intrepid bass and thumping drums unveil the unexpected adrenaline rush of instant connection.
Miller sings, “So he might’ve fell into a competition/He watches as the night unfolds/Well, he’s got a grip on his inhibitions/Just a dreamer getting old.”
“It’s the first song out of the entire album that was written. This one is three-and-a-half years old, and it was just meant to be a happy-go-lucky song,” Miller said.
“That song is pretty much me being in the early stages of a relationship, being infatuated with the person and trying to give her a happy message. I had just come out of another relationship, and I suddenly felt very happy, which ended up being kind of false.”
Miller also abandons lingering pretenses on the take-charge A Spark of Madness anthem, “Seasons.” An all-weather system of relaxed acoustic guitar, eager electric guitar, strolling bass, reassuring synth, jubilant piano, steady drums and shiny cymbals brings an unexpected desire to escape stagnation.
He sings, “But I can’t take this/Friends and fake bliss/Send me on my way.”
“You go through life and have the same routine for years on end, and you’re aching for change. And on top of that, you don’t feel like anybody can relate to that. Part of that is because everybody is putting on a façade on social media, and you don’t feel like you actually know anybody,” Miller said.
“I also felt like I was the only person who didn’t care about posting, and I was kind of living in my own world away from everybody in a way. I was ready for a change.”
Like Miller, Adame instinctively answers a wake-up call for change on “Gasoline,” a burning ode to reinvention and renewal. Aerial electric guitar, hypnotic bass, wistful synth and steadfast drums urge trading self-destructive habits for a lifetime of self-care.
He sings, “You listen to all the taps leak/You claim that all your hills are peaks/Stepping on all the boards that creak/Is this why you’re too afraid to speak?”
“I felt like my life was going down and spiraling out of control. The song is essentially … I’ve set myself up for destruction, and I’m already on that path,” Adame said.
“It brings in a third party, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be like a romantic relationship. There are other things showing up that are pushing me down a little faster. Maybe the third party is the extra discouragement from my own psyche.”
Melding the Hollow Head Minds
Adame and Miller initially tapped into their individual musical psyches before forming a shared creative conscience on Hollow Head’s A Spark of Madness. In 2019, Miller started recording tracks for his solo EP while Adame followed suit in 2020.
“I recorded all the other ones aside from ‘Gasoline’ pretty shortly after that … maybe over a span of eight months,” said Adame, who’s inspired by Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran and The Beach Boys.
“And then, when we decided to form Hollow Head, we realized what we wanted this project to be. We were both in Colorado at the time, so we went back to Michigan, and we revisited all of the songs with Andy (Reed).”
In January, Adame and Miller arrived at Bay City’s Reed Recording Company and hunkered down in the studio with Andy Reed for a six-day recording session. Reed helped the duo shape their A Spark of Madness musical vision and added synth and bass throughout it.
“We went into Andy’s studio having had the bones of the song and whatever else we had come up with. And we went in open-minded maybe to tweak a few things because we knew that Andy had good advice … the main things we saw him adjust and improve were the vocal harmonies, a lot of effects and certain guitar parts,” said Miller, who’s inspired by Muse, John Mayer and Avenged Sevenfold.
“I’d been playing something that was really close to what had ended up being on the album, and Andy was like, ‘Why don’t you try going to this note instead?’ Little stuff like that had accumulated to become a big, important kind of vibe switch along with the whole delivery of it.”
Hollow Head also enlisted several other talented collaborators for A Spark of Madness, including bassist-keyboardist Nick Shahin (“Not Alone” and “Black and White”), Norwegian singer-songwriter Piga (“Sober”) and bassist Dave Miller (cameo on “Black and White”).
“Under the guitar solo on ‘Black and White,’ my dad is playing bass. That’s the only song he’s in on the album,” said Miller with a laugh.
With their debut album gaining steam, Hollow Head looks forward to sharing their songs with live audiences in Colorado. They’ll be performing July 16 at Denver’s The Black Buzzard at Oskar Blues with The Regular and Jackson Harkness.
“We’re just focused on Colorado and letting people know that we exist out here before we focus too much on expanding throughout the rest of the U.S.,” Adame said.
In the meantime, the duo will continue to write new material and hone their emerging indie-folk sound.
“We have two more songs written and then the bones of a bunch of others,” Miller said. “Obviously, we’re going to be focusing on this album for a little while. We never really stop writing, but we’ll be going in and out of the studio when we want to work on something.”