If you haven’t seen or heard Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo, a five-piece rock band based in Russellville, you’re missing out on one of the best bands to come out of the Arkansas River Valley. Their new extended play (EP) recording “Femi-Socialite” paints a sonic landscape full of dark moody valleys and colorful, reverb-drenched mountaintops. It’s a pleasing mix of rock and folk drawing influence from bands like Iron and Wine, My Morning Jacket, and Radiohead as well as local flavors like Sound of The Mountain and Adam Faucett & The Tall Grass. With haunting lyrics and soulful guitar, they’ve been compared to Fleetwood Mac and Wilco. Songs on the EP are drawn out in a pleasing way, reminiscent of jam bands of old with roaring crescendos, quiet lulls, and more than their fair share of lead guitar. Jamie’s gorgeous voice ties it all together and gives the group focus. They are a local supergroup.
Most members have been involved with various other area bands and projects of the River Valley music scene. Drummer Matt White has performed with Sound of The Mountain, Uncle Fatty & Freeloaders, and The Filthy Kind. Lead guitarist Garrett Broland played with Magnolia Brown and Opal Agafia. Guitarist Tim Pelton was a frequent open-mic performer. Bassist Anthony Oswalt played with Uncle Fatty and the Freeloaders and learned guitar alongside Tim in high school. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jamie Lou began performing at Bugsy’s in 2012.
Back in 2012 and through 2013, before The Hullabaloo was a thing, the current lineup often ran into each other at Bugsy’s Wings N Things, a popular but now closed Russellville bar and grill. Each member had been coming to Fatty and Friends, an open mic that focused on original music, playing their own songs. During their time performing together, they became friends and eventually decided to form a band.
Influences for the band come from all over the musical spectrum. Jamie’s favorite musician growing up was Iron & Wine, a bearded singer-songwriter with a powerful voice and intricate guitar parts. Fleetwood Mac and My Morning Jacket also draw the canvas upon which she writes music. Matt cites his time as a drummer in school bands growing up as well as his time in the Arkansas Tech Band of Distinction as big influences for his style. The rudimentary techniques and precise timings taught through scholastic music translate well to his set drumming. Garrett takes his lead guitar style from 60s and 70s classic rock guitarists. You can hear the echo of icons live on, both tone and technique, in his incredible playing style. Tim’s love for Radiohead and “noisy rock” shapes the band’s sound, and Anthony’s Pink Floyd and MewithoutYou (a Philadelphia based indie-rock band) inspired bass lines bring everything together.
A good portion of the group’s influences are local and their sound is truly Arkansan. “All the bands here [in the River Valley] are sort of intertwined,” says Jamie. Likewise, Russellville makes a good location for a band. “Our central location makes it really easy to play a show in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, or Hot Springs, without having to stay overnight,” says Jamie, “If you live in Fayetteville and have a show in Little Rock, that’s a two and a half hour drive.”
Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo hasn’t always been called Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo. They’ve used names like Jamie Lou & The Whiskey Too and, as they’re embarrassed to admit, Acceptable Karate. Eventually they settled on Hullabaloo because of the massive sound they became known for. Likewise, the lineup hasn’t been the same since the beginning. Matt was added after the first drummer moved away, and Anthony started playing bass when Tim moved from bass to guitar. The current lineup and name has been more or less consistent for the past two and a half years.
In those two-plus years, the band has made a splash in the River Valley. They started playing at local venues in Russellville, Little Rock, and Fayetteville. The band gives off an incredible energy that wins fans left and right. As word began to spread, they began playing bigger venues and music festivals like Foothills Festival in Missouri and Homegrown Music Festival near Ozark, Arkansas. “Homegrown Music Festival held a competition with local bands to win a spot in their lineup. We won that competition,” says Matt. Live performance can be difficult and is something many of us fear. The Washington Post conducted a survey that proclaimed public speaking as America’s greatest phobia, and playing in a band isn’t much different. “When you’re playing live you’re not only playing the song, you’re also having to connect with people. You have to have both,” says Jamie, “You’re not just playing for yourself, you’re creating a moment for your audience.” Matt learned a valuable lesson from his older brother who also plays drums: “If you’re nervous, just beat the crap out of the drums, just really lay into them,” he says, “You’ll sound bad at first, but it will help you slow down and get over the fact that you’re playing for people.” He says that after you’ve gained the confidence, you can begin paying attention to dynamics and playing softer.
The band attracted fans quickly, but had one major shortcoming: no properly recorded music. Last year they launched a successful Kickstarter that far surpassed their goal, raising $3,500 for the recording of “Femi-Socialite.” The recording took place over four days at Blue Chair Studio in Austin, Arkansas, in the hands of Darian Stribling. “We really learned how to record there,” says Jamie. She explains that they learned how to correctly play with a click track, and about the organization of a good recording session.
Matt adds that he learned the importance of recording comfortably while wearing a Wookie onesie while playing. The session wasn’t without issue; Jamie had the flu during the four days of recording and passed it on to the rest of the band. “Vocals were a little difficult,” Jamie recalls. But listening to the EP, you can’t tell that anyone was under the weather. Jamie’s voice still rings true.
The six-track EP covers love and loss with a grace that can only be achieved by a band that has honed their craft on the stage. “They were written over the period of four years,” Jamie says, referring to songs on the EP. Jamie sets the theme for most songs with her poetic lyrics and dark guitar riffs. The band members each write their own part in a constantly changing process, hammering out details in practice. “The songs really evolve over time,” says Tim.
Jamie says, “The Hullabaloo isn’t a conventional band,” referring to their age and families. “We’re not a bunch of young kids ready to go out on the road who can practice every day and live and breathe their band.” Each member, except Anthony, has children, and each member was born in 1988. This makes them a little older than many touring bands. Balancing life and music has been a challenge, but Jamie says the challenge just keeps them working harder. “I’m constantly amazed that we’ve found ways to keep it all going,” says Tim. “Finding days we can all get together without our kids is hard.” The band thanks friends, family, and grandparents for help watching the children during weekly practices and shows. “We’re incredibly grateful for the support,” says Tim, “It’s the large, unseen part of the Hullabaloo… all the kids running around.”