By Kylie Arbini | Photo Credit: Amal Qazi
Top Tracks: Rabbit / Sink in / Special Treat
Comparisons are easy to make– no, lazy to make. Each interview and review I combed through in preparation for my very own Hello Mary experience couldn’t refrain from providing readers with a frame of reference. Be it The Breeders, Nirvana, Belly, The Swirlies, Hello Mary have been credited with sounding like a lot of different things. Hello Mary are a lot of different things, but one thing they certainly aren’t is a diluted version of their inspirations. Helena Straight (vocals / guitar), Mikaela Oppenheimer (bass), and Stella Wave (drums) have managed to navigate their way to the sweet spot of music making wherein they expertly pay homage to alternative rock acts of the past while also being something entirely their own.
All this isn’t to say that songs like “Looking Right Into The Sun” don’t sound like a track removed directly from Nirvana’s debut Bleach but songs like “Evicted”– which, when dissecting the lyrics like “now we’re trapped here alone together” or the rather pointed “I’ve been evicted from the sun”, feels like a reminder of the emotionally turbulent entrapment that came with 2020’s global pandemic– ground their music in modern times. It was this very pandemic which appeared to slow Hello Mary’s rise that was almost guaranteed with early tracks like “Ginger” and “Apple” being their promising introduction to the world of alternative music in 2019 and 2020. Now they’re back with both a debut album and a small string of shows to promote it, DC’s Songbyrd being one of the lucky venues to be granted a show.
In an interview with Alternative Press just before the release of this year’s eponymous record, Helena and Stella expressed their restlessness regarding finally releasing this album, explaining that multiple songs off their debut have been ready for the world to hear for years. It comes as no surprise then that their shows are effortlessly tight and powerful. Set opener “Stinge” began with relentless strumming that almost cartoonishly
astounded the audience, blowing them back and then allowing them to rush forward toward the stage when the drum and bass joined the riff in a perfect marriage. They trudge through a handful of songs before pausing momentarily to address the audience and all their feverish anticipation that produces a tangible warmth throughout the venue. Helena and Mikaela stay characteristically quiet (Mikaela sans microphone and all), allowing Stella to steer the night’s conversation and transition in and out of songs. The drumset far from isolates Stella as her charisma comes through in both her quips to the crowd and her bombastic technique. Helena follows suit partway through the show, playfully scaring Stella at her kit in an ode to the “Spiral” lyric “scaring myself at night”. Mikaela communicates solely through her bass, allowing her magnetic riffs, distorted to hell and back, to pull the audience’s attention to her.
While they all individually provide a strength that Hello Mary’s foundation is uniquely built upon, it is the harmonious nature of the trio’s quiet chemistry that makes their live performances so mesmerising. The drive and dedication necessary to facilitate an outstanding show is not lost upon the three of them as they seamlessly transition from song to song, letting their lyrics of adolescent abandonment, fear, and rage be exercised on stage as it was always meant to. Having now been witness to Hello Mary’s talent, it isn’t without merit to say that it’s only a matter of time before new age alternative acts begin to cite Hello Mary as an inspiration themselves.