By Zach Schepis
Photos courtesy of Alexandra Aller.
Sometimes unlikely parings can bear the ripest musical fruit. Take electronic music producer Brian “Wallstreet” Peoples–with a penchant for synth-heavy abstraction and often dark sounds–and team him up with the graceful lull of Alexandra “Skela” Aller’s folksy voice. You end up with HVLLOWZ, a rare match that suffuses seemingly opposite styles into something new. It’s called goth-trap for all of you genre purists and label-slappers. But for the rest it’s simply an interesting mesh of styles and personalities worth listening to.
The moody atmosphere of each song can swallow the ears whole if the listener isn’t careful. Aller’s soulful wilt swims through the churning storm of Peoples’ ratcheting drums and layers of synth. At their best, the two become seemingly one.
Stay tuned for their first music video for “The Ripper,” which will debut this spring. In the meantime, BTR spoke with the two friends about their process and influences.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): So how did the two of you first meet one another?
Brian Peoples (BP): Actually we met, oddly enough, in retail [laughs]. I was a manager for a store and Alex came in looking for some extra money so I ended up hiring her. From there we talked about music constantly, I would walk into the back room and listen to her playlist–which would blow my mind.
Alexandra Aller (AA): Yeah, we met up initially to work on one song and after that took a little hiatus. We linked up again this past summer. We discovered pretty quickly that we both have similar tastes, which means sad music and trap music [laughs].
BP: We definitely both lean towards abstract and heavy music.
BTR: You each seem to share a similar vision of sound, but I imagine you were both making music long before meeting one another. What different influences does each of you bring to the table?
AA: Vocal-wise I’ve always admired all of the greats, but more recently we’ve been trying to carve out a niche for ourselves in the indie-goth genre by incorporating trap and electronic elements into the mix. Once we knew that was the direction, I started listening to a lot of groups like Evanescence and Flyleaf, but to be honest I’m always influenced by Christina Aguilera. She’s the greatest female vocalist, in my opinion.
BP: To date I’m more influenced by trap artists and underground hip-hop; that’s where my electronic influences are rooted. I really have to credit Skrillex for getting me into the genre… I know it’s not a terribly unique answer, but the way I came across it was interesting. Growing up I was an emo kid I suppose…
BP: I was always drawn to the heavier and darker sound. So one day I stumbled across some dub-step when I was skimming through house music and I thought to myself, “wow, this is an incredible sound.” The artist was Skrillex and when I looked up his picture I recognized him immediately as Sonny from From First to Last, an emo band I was listening to at the time. I remember thinking that if he could make that kind of transition why couldn’t I?
BTR: I imagine suffusing trap music with an older less-listened to genre that bands like Evanescence come from would give it more relevance to audiences who weren’t around in the ‘90s.
AA: Totally, I think anything that is different will be bound to catch people’s attentions. The music industry is so oversaturated. Our platform has primarily been SoundCloud and you get a really interesting mix of hybrid genres there. It’s a really cool way to discover new music that you wouldn’t find on the radio or on Spotify.
BP: You get to a point where you hear enough dubstep and realize how many times can you really hear a wobble drop on another chorus? You need something different, something fresh and exciting. We make a point of not staying consistent within reason. We’re trying to establish a sound, certainly, something recognizable. But you never know what to expect from us, and well, neither do I [laughs].
BTR: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the song “Legend.”
AA: Lyrically it’s all about Greek mythology. I’ve always been really into that part of history. The chorus is, “I want to be a legend/Traced out in constellations,” and looks back towards all of these different Gods, the Sun and Earth, and all of these crazy elements. When Brian and I originally sat down with the track, before the words, it was this really powerful sound and melody. You listen to it and want to throw your body into it, and that sound evoked for me a mythological feeling.
BP: For myself it was a matter of fulfilling a need for a heavier live sound. Something to take the energy up, given our past tracks–which are great songs, but definitely slower and smoother. We’re also finding ways to incorporate live instruments into them, which has been really exciting for me as a producer. On this track in particular I’ll be playing a live piano along with it, so it’s definitely not your typical DJ and singer duo.
BTR: What are your favorite parts about working with one another?
BP: We’re really lucky to have found each other, and turn out to be one another’s biggest fans.
BP: Individually, you probably wouldn’t expect us to do it together. She has a really beautiful way of writing along to the piano. It’s so relaxing, you could drift off to sleep to it; you can sit there and cry…
BP: It’s really clever vocal riffing and my style is really abstract, it needed an outlet. More than anything, it’s an equal partnership, which you don’t see between singers and producers often.
AA: When it works you can hear the zap! ringing out in our ears. It’s magical to find that kind of wavelength connecting to very different artists.
BP: We do a lot of high-fiving while we’re songwriting.