In the wake of their final tour spanning the entire Eastern seaboard, including multiple shows in Canada, Hello Ocho is headed home for the grand finale. The quintet consisting of guitarist/vocalist Chris Yonker, keyboardist/vocalist Christian Shepherd, percussionist John Gregg, bassist Clinton Callahan, and vibraphone player Crick Childs, have spent the past seven years providing experimental psychedelic music to the ears of Atlanta.
“You know how on Facebook you can pick your relationship status, and there’s one that says ‘It’s Complicated?’ It’s like that,” says Yonker about the group’s impending dissolution. “It doesn’t feel like a breakup. If there is some sort of idea that comes about that would fit under the name Hello Ocho, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t [pursue] it, but we’re definitely putting it down.”
The mysterious explanation somehow feels perfect from a band that has surprised listeners with musical twists and turns since their inception. A concrete resolution would be too simple for a group responsible for such extreme complexity within their musical orchestration.
“It’s hard to put a title on it, because there’s no real word that sums up the open-endedness of it,” says Childs.
For now, we can hopefully refer to it as an undefined hiatus.
Hello Ocho has certainly evolved since their early days as a trio in 2010. After letting go their fourth, unofficial member — a computer — the band welcomed Chris Childs and Christian Shepherd in an effort to create a more composed, organic sound. The results can be heard most vividly on the group’s lush and dreamy In Portuguese LP, released in April of last year, and which features a wide array of musical stylings, from artsy rock to psychedelic freakouts to modern jazz.
“It’s kind of interesting to see how far we’ve been able to take it away from itself and still have the same name on it,” says Yonker. “We even pulled our old EP off the internet in order to reinvent the band.” That reinvention came in the form of their debut, self-titled record, released in 2013.
“The writing process became a lot more collaborative towards the end,” he continues. “The newest record we’ve been working on, which hasn’t been put out, is almost entirely collaborative… In a way, it’s kind of one of the most pure recordings of our playing style.” The unreleased album, which will come out “whenever,” remains untitled, save for a hinted Hot Sauce and Jazz from Childs as he slides a sly grin towards Yonker, who counters with a swift, “No we’re not, fuck you!”
“You can obviously tell how I feel about that,” Yonker says amidst laughter. Regardless of the name, we can only hope for this mysterious gem to emerge from the ashes eventually.
Although they’re ready to move on, the band remains fond of the memories shared over the past half-decade. The affectionately dubbed Mushroom EP, which was constructed in five days amidst copious amounts of psychedelics, and is more commonly known as The Slippery Hand EP, holds fast as one of the group’s fondest moments. However, the band’s favorite story, in which they throw dog feces on someone in retaliation after a member who was urinated on, brings reminiscent laughter to the departing group. Hello Ocho shelves their project with nothing but excitement and hope towards the future.
Individually, members will continue dominating their roles within the Atlanta music scene. Yonker and Shepherd will maintain their leadership within the Mammal Gallery, including continuing to duke it out with developers trying to push them out of the beloved downtown arts venue. Other members will continue to appear with Faun and a Pan Flute, Small Reactions, Aalborg Group, and Palmlines.
“It’s bittersweet in a lot of ways because we all still really love each other and love playing music with each other. We’re doing what we need to do to move on to the next chapter of us being musicians and pursuing whatever we’re all pursuing in our personal lives,” Yonker explains.
Although they will retreat from the local scene, Hello Ocho is confident that Atlanta is thriving musically more than ever. The band broke the mold in terms of genre within the city, and became “a thing” simply because they wanted to see people dancing at their shows. Their energetic sound contributed to the diversity of music overflowing from the city’s local venues, and will continue to inspire for years to come.
Still, Hello Ocho isn’t dead just yet. The group will take the stage one last time tomorrow night at the Mammal Gallery where they will no doubt be surrounded by a friendly throng of longtime fans and admirers ready to send the band out in the style they deserve.
“Doing it in Atlanta and at Mammal will be a night of just spending time with friends and having a good time,” Yonker concludes. “It’ll be one of those nights that feels really nice and is kind of sad because of how nice it’s going to feel and knowing that’s the last time [it’s] going to happen like that.”
Hello Ocho’s final performance goes down tomorrow night at the Mammal Gallery. They will be supported by Fantasy Guys and Facemajik. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $10. 18+ to enter.