The transition from North Florida college town to South Florida metropolis would be a culture shock for anyone. But for Gainesville-made indie-pop quintet the Hails, joining Miami's music scene felt more like a homecoming.
Before taking over the Gainesville scene, guitarist and vocalist Franco Solari, drummer Zach Levy, and bassist Andre Escobar played in a band during high school in Miami. A coincidental meeting as students at the University of Florida brought lead singer Robbie Kingsley to Levy, who connected the band members to guitarist Dylan McCue.
In Gainesville, the band began performing at local events and parties, then scored a regular gig at High Dive downtown. They were building a fanbase, but they opted to change course: Moving to Miami, they felt, would allow them to introduce themselves to a new audience in the city where most of them grew up. So, after graduating in summer 2019, they headed south.
The only Hails member who didn't grow up in Miami is Kingsley (he's from Tampa), and the pull of their formative home must have been strong.
Solari recalls playing around in South Florida before he, Levy, and Escobar were of legal age.
"I'd be playing a guitar solo at Tobacco Road in front of some 50-year-old grandpa sipping on his fifth beer telling me, 'Yeah man, bring back rock 'n' roll!'" Solari recounts. "It's such a weird situation, but that weirdness is like permission to just be who we are."
The band's debut EP, He Seems Upset, is an apt amalgamation of the influences the band members have picked up along the way. The mellow strumming guitars point to their formative time in Gainesville, while the bright synth and shimmery drum beats complete the pop picture and reflect their current surroundings.
The eight-track EP opens with "Sippin' on the Daylight," one of several pop gems that are balanced out by bouncy tracks such as "Heartbeat Pt. 2" and "Flatlines (Interlude)." The acoustic "Empty Castes" offers a change of pace thanks to its rawness and a different sound courtesy of Solaris' lead vocal. He Seems Upset closes with fan-favorite "Younger," the band's most popular song with more than four million Spotify streams.
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"I hope [He Seems Upset] just gives off a teeny bit of Miami vibes," bassist Escobar sums up.
McCue and Solari produced the EP along with (among others) Magdalena Bay's Matthew Lewin, who frequently works with the Hails.
PJ McGinnis and Ruben Cardenas also receive production credits, and the band members say they hope to continue collaborating with Miami musicians. On that score, Escobar says he has reached out to former high-school classmate Denzel Curry for a collab.
He's awaiting a reply. In the meantime, the band plans to drop a few remixes from tracks on the EP soon.