About This Event
Toledo with dad sports, Hala
For Jordan Dunn-Pilz and Dan Alvarez, Toledo isn’t just their band, it’s a way to blend their minds together and become one. “Individually, we’re a mess,” says Alvarez. “But as a pair, our strongest qualities reveal themselves.” Lifelong friends, Alvarez is the wildcard and Dunn-Pilz, the sensible one. On their new EP Jockeys of Love — co-produced and mixed by Jorge Elbrecht (Wild Nothing, Frankie Rose) — the duo have mind-melded yet again to create a soundtrack for those long drives when the entire world seems to be in harmony with you, and your thoughts seem monumental because of it. The EP strikes a perfect balance of light and dark; its lyrics cover heavier matters like relationship issues, anxiety, depression, and alcoholism, while the music retains a sense of better days just around the corner. You can hear almost the entire emotional spectrum spread across these six songs, but its prevailing emotion is hope. “There’s a lot of that in this EP,” says Dunn-Pilz. “It’s not just presenting a problem, it’s offering a solution as well. It’s pushing through adversity, and taking action instead of sitting back and letting things happen to you.”
Now New York City-based, Alvarez and Dunn-Pilz were destined to find one another in their tiny coastal town of Newburyport, Massachusetts, where they met some fifteen years ago at age 10 while busking for bemused passers-by. They grew up together, developed their own tastes, formed their own bands, and eventually separated for the first time during their college years. They kept in touch throughout, however, continuing to write songs together by trading voice clips back and forth across hundreds of miles. After graduation, Alvarez and Dunn-Pilz agreed to ‘just get back to doing what we were doing before.’
Toledo is a project motivated by that very mantra: Let’s Just Get Back To What We Were Doing Before. Alvarez and Dunn-Pilz have progressed a lot since their busking days. They’ve released a handful of singles as well as a 2019 EP, Hotstuff, in addition to opening their own recording studio in New York City after learning the music business ropes — both through their own output and by producing for others. Now, they seek to return to the pure, uncompromised fun of their childhood days, when music was made for music’s sake and not for money’s sake.
Hala (pronounced haw-luh) is the performance moniker of Detroit-based musician Ian Ruhala. Ruhala’s music is at once precise and playful, skipping breezily between decades and their attendant musical aesthetics while executing them with care and sincerity. On his studio debut Red Herring, Ruhala elevates this formula, applying his genre-agnostic blueprint to a set of songs that comprise a no-concept concept record: a varied LP which explores the tragedy and comedy—often, both at once—that color and confound the modern 22-year-old’s existence.
To execute his wide-lens vision, Ruhala worked with producer Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Vance Joy, Ra Ra Riot) at his legendary secluded Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, Washington. Apart from strings—played respectively by longtime Brandi Carlile collaborator Josh Neumann and Andrew Joslyn—Ruhala wrote and performed each instrument on the record, including guitar, piano, bass, drums, baritone ukulele, xylophone, vibraphone, and all vocals.
The result is a coming-of-age record from an artist recognizing that cohesiveness need not only be expressed in structural sameness. It can and should be found in other experiences, in the complex, poignant, life-and-death fleetingness of a three-and-a-half-minute pop song. Or better yet, 12 of them back-to-back.