Multi-faceted, multi-tasking Seattle artist Hollis Wong-Wear is in the zone. She produces videos for Macklemore, manages operations for The Blue Scholars, plays in a handful of bands, choreographs, dances, and acts (that was her as Kyla in ACT’s These Streets). What more can a girl possibly get involved with on the arts scene, you ask? A lot more, apparently. The genre-bending musician recently took a few moments from her busy schedule to chat with us about her synth-pop group The Flavr Blue, performing with Mack, and some of her “otter projects.” Wong-Wear and The Flavr Blue play Neumos’ free “Locals Only Showcase” with The Grizzled Mighty and The Comettes tonight.
Can you tell us about the many things you do within the music and art scenes? I am a writer and a performer and a creative producer who’s been doing her thing in Seattle since 2006. Most recently, I perform in The Flavr Blue, a synth pop band; I’ve also released music with the hip-hop duo Canary Sing and the R&B outfit The Heartfelts. I’ve produced several music videos (including “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis) and innumerable live concerts and community events. I handle operations for one of my very favorite hip-hop groups of all time, Blue Scholars. I’m also very proudly a teaching artist for the local organization Arts Corps and am co-coaching the 2013 Youth Speaks Seattle Poetry Slam Team, five phenomenal teenage spoken word artists who will rep our city in August at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam. I’m a commissioner who sits on the Seattle Center Advisory Commission. And some other stuff too.
You had a pretty eventful weekend. Please explain, and list some highlights. True. Thursday night I got to perform at the bodacious/radical/outrageously fantastic Don’t Talk To The Cops! album release party at Neumos; I was featured on their first album and on their latest one, and it is the most fun to double-time rap and punk dance it out with them. The show was packed and lively, and it was also really great to see Katie Kate’s new material and sound. Also the packaging for the DTTTC album by Radjaw is some cutting-edge breakfast-inspired magic.
Friday morning I rolled up to the Gorge with fabulous company to perform with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for their headlining set. I got there, ate some top-notch catering, and took a nap in the tour bus. After a leisurely day with much hobnobbing and stunning vista viewing, I got dolled up and had the privilege to perform the song I feature on, “White Walls,” with the #1 top selling artists in the country currently, in front of the largest crowd I have for sure ever performed in front of. It’s crazy, because last year we made the trip up to see M&RL perform “Thrift Shop” for the very first time ever for a surprise set at Sasquatch. The fact that in literally one year they went from a rickety pop-up platform to a masterful main stage headlining set is a staggering and joyful thing. I’m so insanely proud and awed by their work and their accomplishment and grateful to be a small part of it.
Then we tried to leave the Gorge at 1 a.m. and my car battery was dead. The fact that my car was not broken down completely was another highlight, ‘cause fuck, if your car is broken down at the Gorge! We got a jump and rolled into town after 4 a.m., then Saturday morning I got on a plane to the Bay Area, where I am from, to hang out with my high school BFFs and eat my mom’s food. It was a great weekend. Thanks for asking.
You’ve earned some recognition lately and made some power lists. How do you plan to use your growing notoriety? New projects? Sports drink endorsements? Haha! I don’t know about power lists, but I am grateful for the write-ups I’ve received over the last several months, if anything because they help me harness and articulate what I’m up to for myself. While the notion of growing notoriety partly freaks me out, I would be open to leveraging it for endorsements for the following: ethical makeup products; dim sum establishments; indestructible iPhone case manufacturers; Sapporo Ichiban instant ramen; TC Helicon; Honda Parts & Services, and more.
Tell me about the Flavr Blue. How is it different than your other musical projects? The Flavr Blue is a lot of fun and also a lot of learning and grind. Initially I was drawn to the music itself; Parker and Lace are a formidable production duo with a vision for compelling, excellent dance music, and as someone who likes to dance it was a pleasure to apply and grow my songwriting on that backdrop. The three of us come from hip-hop backgrounds, and we wanted this project to be a departure that kept us excited and challenged. Live, I’m wrestling with gear and performing parts on synths and pads for the first time, performing demanding vocal parts; on the back end, I continue to learn a great deal on how best to release our music and connect with audiences as a fairly new independent band. I’m really proud of both our accomplishments so far and the amount of potential we have as a collective both in the studio and on stage. We’re also rolling out nascent choreography, so be on the lookout for that!
I just typed “otter musical projects” before I corrected myself. What do you think an otter musical would look/sound like? Would you be willing to collab? It would be adorable. I’d be interested in curating an experimental ambient shellfish production.
The Flavr Blue is playing a show sponsored alt-rock station The End (KNDD 107.7) this Thursday. How did that come about? We’re performing at the Capitol Hill Block Party this year and this show is a preview for the festival itself, so that’s one aspect. Also, we were tipped for the bill by our homies The Grizzled Mighty, who we bonded with at SXSW while playing a hilariously crappy after-hours party together. They are bad ass. It’s perhaps an unexpected lineup, but we’re all going to rock out. Incidentally, it’s hard for us to generically contain our sound as The Flavr Blue, as we consider ourselves an alternative electronic dance project, so it’s kinda an alt-rock bill? I’ve actually been bumping a fair amount of KNDD while driving about recently to fuel the show. Plus, it’s my birthday party. Holla.
It’s been stated in print that you plan to release a solo record at some point. What style of music do you see it being. Have you begun to record? Yes! I’m really excited to be working on my solo material. While I’ve written many of the songs I hope to include on the album—just me and my fabulously mid-90’s Yamaha keyboard—I still don’t know what “style” particularly it will fashion for itself. I’m very lucky to be working with Budo (who also has a show tonight, at the Crocodile Back Bar!), who is a fantastically dynamic musician, and we’ve been having a lot of fun exploring a sound that matches my bare bone songwriting. I hope for the new album to be poetic and emotionally resonant with a captivating musicality to match. If it helps at all, we both have a music crush on James Blake.
What other things are in the works? I actually just found out that I was accepted for an Art Interruptions grant from the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, so this summer I get to expand my work into public art. I’m going to install a boombox on a signal box of my favorite neighborhood, Beacon Hill, that bumps the music and recordings of artists in the neighborhood. I’m stoked to get my curatorial craft on!