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(photo: Vlad Borimsky)

Interview: Greg Hoy talks music videos, influences and upcoming EP

Greg Hoy “Comfort Vendetta” (indie/rock)

Operating under a slew of alternating monikers over the past few decades, rocker/singer-songwriter Greg Hoy is taking his birth name for a spin this time around. After over a decade in Brooklyn, NY, Hoy relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area as a part of the 2010’s tech boom. Relentless with his prolific music output, Hoy’s experiences working there informed his music with a rising consciousness of the triumphs and woes of mankind’s progress. Yet with over 30 albums released, Hoy can tackle any imaginable topic with his candid lyricism and authenticity of sound. Whether blowing out amps or intimately ballading over a piano, Hoy never fails to inject his voice into the hearts of his listeners, who (funnily enough) end up being the ones feeling “heard” through his genuine homespun tunes. With his most recent album, Yay For Effort, Hoy lends his humor, wit, talent, and sincerity to contemplating modern societal woes, like climate change, the pandemic, love, and mental health. Check it out and catch him live this summer as he tours the Northeast with his rock trio Greg Hoy + The Boys.

An upbeat track from his recent album Yay for Effort“Comfort Vendetta” is Greg Hoy’s fuzzy, 90s-inspired reflection on dating an emotionally unavailable partner. The song launches out the gates with a sunny synth motif over a guitar and bass strutting in parallel. With the strain and grumble of his voice, Hoy brings to life the agony of constantly stretching out a compassionate arm to a partner in continuous withdrawal. Despite its difficult topic, the song begs to be sung and danced along to—a product of a skilled songwriter balancing emotional tension with infectious musical energy.

See life after lost love in the “Comfort Vendetta” music video directed by Hoy and starring Anna Copa Cabana. In the video, we encounter Anna post-breakup, realizing she won’t get the connection she needs from her ex. Instead, she takes her stuffed ducky Gordon (aka her inner child) out for a day of exploration around Brooklyn. Their adventures together shine like the bright synth motif, hinting at the growth and positive self-awareness that can emerge after escaping a doomed relationship. This is what makes Hoy special—synthesizing an entire personal journey into a cheery four minutes of pop-rock reflection and capping it with an engaging video. Lucky for newcomers to Hoy, there’s always more to discover.

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Did you have any influences when it came to creating the visuals for “Comfort Vendetta”?

My youth was spent watching MTV during the music video golden age. Artists like Spike Jonze working with Beastie Boys, Huey Lewis & The News, Madonna… fun, goofy, exciting stuff that tells a story. Since the song is a throwback to ’90s guitar rock, it made sense to intersperse the band performing along with the narrative of someone going through a break-up.

In the video for “Comfort Vendetta”, is there symbolism for the duck plushie that the girl brings around with her?

My first idea for the video was to have the same break-up story told through the view of both people. So, for example, seeing her decide to dance after seeing herself in the mirror, then cut to her boyfriend in the same scene but crying, etc., etc. After a few takes, that story line wasn’t really that exciting to me.

I asked Anna Copa Cabanna if she had any small stuffed animals she could bring along. Gordon the Duck was perfect. He represented her own inner child, and how the worst part of a break up is often dealing with self-realization. Having Gordon as a physical totem, so to speak, gives her the power to rebuild herself. It’s like the spinning top in the movie ‘Inception’ – grounding and familiar during a time of chaos and upheaval. I mean, it’s still just a goofy music video, but that was my deeper idea, anyway!

How do you want your listeners to feel when they listen to Greg Hoy? Is there any specific emotion that you try and target?

That’s a great question. There’s a few thoughts that come to mind. The first is around authenticity. This has always been important to me in all aspects of my life. Musically, in the early days of auto-tune, I was working with a well-known indie producer that wanted to “tune up” my vocal take, and I was like “Hell, no, I’ll re-sing it, thank you.” The second thought is that making music, for me, is a physical thing. That can be a drumstick hit, feeling the air move by my guitar amp, or a head nod listening to a great record. There’s an authentic, visceral reaction to feeling it.

We just came off a two-week tour. The best shows are always the ones where the audience is moving, feeling, interacting in real time. My hope is that authenticity is felt by the listener, absorbed, and recycled in another creative way – whether that’s dancing, or cooking, or exercising. For example, I’m answering these questions while listening to Bryan Adams’ LP ‘Reckless’, and this mofo is belting out ‘You’re all that I want, you’re all that I need’ like his life depends on it. And I believe him.

How has your work over the years helped you become better at your craft?

Teamwork makes the dreamwork! At 16, I started my first job working the grill at McDonald’s. Let me tell you the smell of fried food is something you never get rid of until you quit. There’s a lot to learn in the quick food and bar service industries. I can instantly tell when people haven’t worked a service job (looking at you, terrible tippers at JFK airport yesterday… BOO). Many of my closest friends have been bartenders, cooks, waitstaff. Even people that are wildly successful later on in other industries, and maybe, it’s *as a result* of that service mindset. When I was living in NYC for over a decade, I got the hustle down pretty good. Graphic designer, man with a van, bartender, DJ… sometimes, all in the same day! We as a society need to remember more than ever that we need each other, and we are here TO SERVE each other. Don’t let those little colorful buttons on your phone distract you from this very important insight. We are, to quote Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, all people who need people.

Do you think it is important to create a good visual for a new song? Why so?

Sometimes! Videos are a great creative kick for me. It’s probably why I’ve made so many of them at this point! Like anything worth doing, though, do it well. Unless you’re just making them for yourself. For me, I want to give people a compelling reason to loan me their attention, eyes, and ears for 3 plus minutes of their busy lives.

You create, mix, and master your own music. How do you think this helps you as an artist?

It’s a combination of curiosity, mastery, and empathy. Playing all the basic instruments for a rock n roll band is part of what I love about music. Often, I perform, engineer, mix, and master my own stuff. (In the case of the new album, no one else worked on any of it but me). In that way, when others fill those roles live, or in the studio, I have empathy for their position – the limitations, and expectations of it are familiar. I’m the type that likes to know at least a working knowledge of every aspect of a shared experience. Like sometimes, at a restaurant, I’ll ask to chat with the chef about a dish (if it’s not busy like at the dinner rush). I like to learn from people that are good at what they do. And sometimes, ya learn a bunch or even more from the ones that *aren’t* very good at what they do, too.

How has your latest LP, Yay for Effort, helped show off how far your artistic journey has come?

I’d say there’s a rawness, a directness to it that is ironically more focused. I say ironic because the album sort of fell into place without a conscious plan. Some of it is experience, and accrued wisdom. A lot of it is probably becoming a dad, and letting vulnerability inform my decisions, and where to spend my time. There wasn’t a plan to release a record of piano songs, and the response to it has been just fantastic.

Long time friends and fans have been complementary to a point of blush. And while that’s not the reason I get out of bed in the morning, the accolades are always appreciated. The thing that these last years have shown us all is no one knows what’s happening, or how to go about our days. So-called rules are only there to help some chosen, select few rich people. Feel free to keep questioning authority, and make a lot of art about it, please.

Any exciting plans that fans of Greg Hoy should look forward to?

Here at GH HQ, we’ll be working this new LP for the rest of the year. It’s something worth the time to continue to promote. I’m still not sick of the songs even after spending a few years making it. That’s saying a lot for an ADHD restless creative like me. Thanks for the great questions!

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