Indie rock trio Hello June have been knocking around West Virginia for some time now, but after an NPR-boosted release from the upcoming album, they should be singing in everyone’s ears by now. Their debut LP Spruce called to mind the 90s-era atmospheric pop of indie rock star, Juliana Hatfield, with a heavy, rock n roll impulse. Their latest track, “Mars,” is more narrative and more singular, a testament to guitarist and vocalist Sarah Rudy’s growing confidence in her considerable talent. We are beyond excited that Rudy took time out of her busy schedule to discuss taking on lead guitar for the new album, the Charleston, West Virginia, music scene, and the folks that inspire her.
Tell me about the music you make.
We’re sometimes not great at describing our own sound, but the terms “shimmery,” “indie rock,” and “90’s vibes” do get thrown our way. These days we are a three-piece band at our core, though we’ve played in several different configurations over the years, and always feel comfortable performing our songs on any scale whether intimate or writ-large. We just try to find the appropriate feel for whatever setting we happen to be in. Evolving towards more of a true three-piece sound has allowed us to become increasingly spontaneous and fluid, which we think is evident on our upcoming album.
And your latest release?
“Mars” was created out of a different process and mindset than our EP, Spruce. When I wrote Spruce, I was still of the mindset that I needed to save room for another guitarist to come in and fill space. I think my experience as a female musician cannot be a novel one – the men around me asserted that they were the real guitar players and me, with no formal training, believed that, for a really long time. I’ve finally realized that I’m fully capable of writing a “complete” song and I’m no less a player than anyone else. “Mars,” and the other songs that you’ll hear on our upcoming album all come from that mindset and are written in a three-piece configuration. Whit and I work really well with each other on creating a space within the song that we enjoy playing, and Bud Carroll, who produced and played bass on the record was able to really back what feel we were looking for.
How does your local music scene support you?
While we don’t live in Charleston, we consider Charleston, West Virginia, to be our best local support. This houses our favorite local station WTSQ 88.1, where we feel extremely grateful for how frequently they spin us. Honestly, for a while, I was afraid Charleston would become sick of us for how often they were playing Spruce (ha).
We also feel very fortunate to be very close with Mountain Stage, also in Charleston, West Virginia (which is closely associated with NPR music and West Virginia Public Radio). They nominated us for NPR’s 2018 Slingshot artist, and from that, we’ve been able to experience some really cool opportunities. The day that “Mars” released, not only did NPR premiere the song, NPR Music actually featured us for a whole day on their Instagram account story. That put us in front of eyes and ears that we weren’t able to reach with our own powers, and we are very grateful for that.
Who inspires you?
Well, it sounds strange, because there are so many badass women in music right now, but two southern women who I find inspiring are both named Valerie June. When I was learning to play guitar, my grandfather and I would play Carter family songs the most (amongst old hymns and other older country songs). “Valerie” June Carter Cash, in my opinion, June didn’t get enough credit for what she gave to country music. Actually, Hence, the “June” in Hello June.
A few years ago, I discovered Valerie June, who has Tennessee roots. I appreciate how much she feels within the space she creates for her songs and how exploratory and free she seems to allow herself to be. The beauty that she exudes is timeless to me, and was from the first minute that I hear her record, Pushin’ Against a Stone.
Listen to Spruce here: