Greg Hoy is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, recording producer, recording engineer, marketing guru, jingle & sound composer & producer, “people engineer” in the tech world, an art director, and a label owner.
But when you boil it all down—he’s really just a guy in a band. “Music is in everything I do. Recruiting and hiring people is just like putting a band together. I’ve been fortunate that both sides of my brain work in tandem,” the San Francisco-based artist says with a good-natured laugh. When you do more, you do more. So, maybe, it’s the collective inertia of all his projects that propels Greg’s prolific output? Somehow, between wearing so many hats — including tirelessly touring the nation in a vintage Airstream on the Limited Mileage tour — he made time to write and a record a refreshingly eclectic, 22-song double-vinyl self-tiled concept album released as the self-titled Greg Hoy & The Boys.
And his newest release amidst this national tour, Enjoy the View, was recorded mostly live by audio legend Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey) in Chicago & mixed in Oregon by the equally amazing Sylvia Massy (Tool, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers). Clocking in at just under 20 minutes, the band pushes the limits as a meaty 3 piece. The result is an immediately hooky slab of caffeinated, propulsive, plug-in-and-play rock n roll.
To date, the restless creative has issued over 30 albums under various monikers, including The Royal Panics, Greg Hoy (“no boys” for intimate releases), Greg Hoy & The Boys, and Twice As Bright. Mostly these days, he fires up Greg Hoy & The Boys, a loose collective of friends and trusted musicians that includes boys and girls.
Greg’s vibrantly diverse output harkens back to the bedroom 4-track visionary aesthetic of 1990s indie-rock, as epitomized by Guided By Voices and its fearless leader Bob Pollard. When you distill it all down, Greg plays retro rock n’ roll meticulously crafted from the timeless essentials of infectious melodies paired with undeniable grooves. Yet, within this focused path, Greg issues diverse albums aligned in spirit with such singular artists as Jack White, Dave Grohl, Neil Young, Queens Of The Stone Age, Cake, The Jam, The Who, and The Beatles. “All the ‘the something’ bands,” Greg playfully adds.
Throughout his wildly fishtailing career, Greg has worked with Glenn Branca, J. Robins, Steve Albini, and drummer Steve Sutherland, late of Grant Hart's Nova Mob, among others. Greg’s songs have been featured on network television shows such as One Tree Hill and MTV's Made. Select live highlights in Greg’s career include performances at Noise Pop, SXSW, CMJ, and on the main stage at Latitude Festival in the UK.
When off stage or not recording as an artist, Greg runs the record label, 30 Peak, and does production / soundtrack work under the name earhopper. In this latter context, his music and sound design has been featured in Pinterest brand videos, American Express commercials, and as game effects for the software platform Adobe. Outside of the world of sonics, Greg works as a “people engineer” in tech, and he’s known for having hired & built the first creative teams for Facebook, Pinterest, and Lyft.
Greg’s story in music begins at the tender age of 5 with the big bang of hearing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” on headphones at the behest of his big brother. “I was immediately drawn to the richness of the sound, and the idea that you could manipulate emotions with sound—like a certain fuzzed out guitar and drum beat could make you feel a certain way,” Greg explains.
Greg Hoy & The Boys explores a wide array of thematic threads. At times, the songs are the wry musings of a middle-aged guy stuck in the millennial-addled tech world. Some tunes point out the dichotomy of being at the forefront of technology while still loving the lo-fi world of real drums and tape recorders. “Others are about birth, death, drugs, and rock n’ roll,” adds Greg. Interspersed within these loose concepts, is the arc of Greg’s mother’s passing.
Select album standouts include “Brilliant Jerk,” “(Keep Feeling) Caffeination,” “Participation Award,” and “Ready Rock Steady.” The dance-y indie rock of “Brilliant Jerk” froths over with acerbic lyrical wit and twitch-y art-funk that recalls LCD Soundsystem, Gang Of Four, and Fugazi. Lyrically, this is playfully barbed social commentary on the onslaught of brainy bastards in the tech world. The tune’s accompanying video is culled from stock footage as sort of a meta statement on how, when peeled back, what passes for “brilliance” in this world can be flimsy ideas puffed up by big egos.
The jaunty and new-wave tinged “Participation Award” is aimed at millennials and their need to be consistently coddled. The anthemic “Ready Rock Steady” is a revved-up garage-rocker with soaring hooks for a chorus, and a sax solo. “That song touches upon my wife getting ready to get married, and my mom, who lived a full life, passing on. It’s about something being over and something just beginning—each line refers to both of these women,” Greg says.
Greg Hoy & The Boys took 18 months to complete, from writing until mastering. Basics were tracked on 2-inch tape in a three-day fevered recording span at Tiny Telephone with John Vanderslice in San Francisco. Greg finished the recordings at home. The album is available as a gatefold vinyl record. “It’s like a ZZ Top album—you can do weed off it—you can’t roll a joint off an MP3,” Greg says, laughing.
As you read this, Greg is somewhere on tour in a refurbished 1970s Airstream Van. Looking back at the long winding road of his varied career, Greg says: “The most meaningful aspect of this is me getting to the point where I can follow my muse, and structure my life on my terms. As Devo says, it’s all about freedom of choice.”
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What Musical Genre Do You Feel Best Describes Your Music And How Would You Describe Your Sound?
GH&TheBs are 3 piece plug in & play caffeinated rock band in the style of The Clash, Spoon, The Jam, and The Kinks on their 'Limited Mileage' tour. Now touring in support of their new EP recorded by Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana) and mixed by Sylvia Massy (Johnny Cash, Tom Petty). 'Loud and boisterous, delivered with attitude and flashes of wit' - Stepkid. 'What rock and roll is all about' - Absolute Powerpop 'Clear-eyed rock fueled by straight up melodicism' - Time Out NY
How Did You Get Your Name? Is There A Story?
My mom insisted on Greg Hoy & The Boys after years of changing through multiple band names. Confusion always reigned telling people about my 'new band' even though it's always been me with a rhythm section. The beauty of the name is it can be a lot of different people. I think we're up to 35 or so different 'Boys' since the first NYC shows back in 2006.
What Are or Have Been Your Musical Influences?
The record collection in the house growing up was diverse. My brother was into Kraftwerk, Kool & The Gang (he played some gigs opening for them back in the 70's), and Herbie Hancock. Mom loved Johnny Mathis, INXS, Neil Diamond. My sisters were each into different things... Led Zeppelin, Yes, Genesis, disco. Then my dad would wake up the family on Saturdays loudly blasting James Brown and Big Band / John Philip Sousa. Good luck finding a common thread in all of that!
What Are You Working On Now? Any Future Collaborations We Can Look Forward To?
We're touring a bunch to support a 6 song EP called 'Enjoy The View' recorded in Chicago by Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) then mixed by me and Sylvia Massy (Tool, Tom Petty) up in Ashland, OR. We have a video and single out now called 'Green' from those sessions. Next up is the #womenfirst west coast tour supporting a new single called 'Leaving While You Stay' about a certain clown occupying the House of Cards.
What Is Your Ultimate Goal In The Music Industry? What Is Your Plan Of Action?
Having the opportunity to tour 38 states in the past year was incredible. Getting out to the bars, breweries, and clubs of the USA has never been more exciting. People get their entertainment in many ways. Having live music be a part of that mix still inspires us.
What Is Your Favorite Track To Perform Live and Why?
One of the singles we released late last year off our double vinyl LP is called 'Brilliant Jerk'. It's about folks full of ego and bravado that somehow manage to get attention and influence even though they are horrible people. It's peppy. People dance to it. And they can sing along by the second chorus, too.
What Has Been The Biggest Challenge In Your Career Thus Far?
My knees and ankles hurt! Seriously, the physical challenge of driving 20,000 miles in a van all year certainly takes its toll especially as I seem to be doing even more of it after 20 years of performing. Keeping your physical self in shape is the first priority. Otherwise, everything suffers: your singing, your performance, and your energy. I'm grateful that the music we play never seems to go out of style. It's all about rhythm and melody.
What’s Your Typical Songwriting Process?
There's always a hook. It can be a drum beat, a guitar riff, a melody that lands in my ear. Anything can become the seed of an idea. For example, the song 'Green' we are pushing right now started as a phrase about jealousy 'Green was the color of her love'. Then it became a story of its own about something completely different — how money motivates us to make questionable decisions.
How Has Social Media Influenced Your Career As An Artist?
I'm biased as I worked for one of the biggest social media companies for a few years. It's never been easier to get your art out into the world. And it's also never been harder for it to be found. There's a real art to getting ears and eyeballs on your creative work. Some people don't want to take the time to unlock the formulas. It sort of reminds me of when MTV came out in the 80's. Suddenly all these ugly rockstars had to get personal trainers.
What Are Some Tracks and Artists Currently On Your Playlist?
As expected, it's all over the map. Looking at my Spotify, yesterday I was vibing on the new Desert Sessions recording by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. Then I checked out PJ Harvey, Lil Uzi Vert, Devo, Tyler The Creator, Pixies, Van Halen, and The Kinks, along with my new favorite artist Vanessa Silberman with whom we are co-headlining a west coast tour at the end of April.
What Did You Do Before You Started Making Music?
I've always made music so it's a little hard to answer this question! My earliest recordings are at 6 when I would take two tape decks, record myself singing into one, then play it and sing harmony. I was a multi-tracker before I was a multi-tasker! In the decade I spent in NYC I was a bartender, a man with a van, a graphic designer, an audio engineer... the hustle is the only way to go. Flex yo hustle like Lauren Asta!
Any Advice For Young People (Men or Women) That Want To Succeed In The Music World?
Success is waking up, taking deep breaths, and focusing on making shit. The moment you attach yourself to financial or recognition is the first compromise. There's a real truth to 'if you build it, they will come' and I caution my fellow artistic travelers not to focus too much on the word 'success.' And anyone that says you have to starve to be a true artist is lying. Unless your belly is full and your bed is made, you can't focus on letting the muse in the room. Listen to Iggy Pop's 'Success' and memorize it. Then listen to it a few more times over the next 20 years.
What Would You Change In The Music Industry If You Were A Top Music Executive?
Like all industries, stop squeezing out the content makers. It's an insane world where the people that make the stuff get the least of the financial gains. Control your own shit and never sign anything without a lawyer that you, yourself, are paying out of your own pocket.
How Do You Feel About Originality?
It's highly overrated.
Is There Anything Else We Should Know About You Or That You Would Like to Add?
Making art is the only gift: accept and share it wisely.