Hello June: Mars
You think you know Hello June. You heard that it is shimmery music. Your friend said that it sounded like Juliana Hatfield, and she would know because she saw Hatfield at Lilith Fair in ‘97. You heard this was something NPR liked. You heard “Colors” or “Handshakes” on WTSQ. You think you know Hello June, but I think you may be missing the point. You won’t find the heart of Hello June’s music buried in the lyrics, the vocals, or the band’s sound; Hello June exists in all those places at once.
Hello June is the musical expression of Sarah Rudy. Already well-established in the Morgantown scene, Rudy is the singer-songwriter at the core of the band. In Hello June, she has surrounded herself with a group of musicians who help her to paint an aural landscape of moods and impressions.
To say that the new lead single, “Mars,” is vintage Hello June seems strange given that the band has released fewer than 10 songs. Like other fans, I have listened to the debut E P, Spruce, countless times at this point, not to mention having seen the band play live several times. To me, Hello June is about the feeling that you get when you listen, and that concept is central to “Mars.” Knowing the band’s admiration for David Bowie, I initially expected the song to reference the iconic “Life on Mars.” Such references are only oblique, however, as Rudy’s lyrics here are impressionistic in the style of R.E.M. The listener can create personal meaning from the words, guided by the warmth of the band’s musical embrace.
For the most part, “Mars” does a better job of capturing the band’s live sound than previous efforts. I have always thought that there was a hint of shoegaze sensibility to Hello June in that the guitars create a haze of reverb that, at times, completely engulfs the vocals. “Mars” hints at that quality in places, though, by placing the vocals front and center, it still allows the listener to clearly understand the song’s lyrics. That said, I think I’d have felt the same about the song even if it had been written in Esperanto. Rudy’s vocals are tender and expressive, almost seeming to teeter on the edge of breaking either into laughter or tears.
To me, “Mars” seems hopeful—optimistic in a way that is neither saccharine nor cloying. Rudy does not ignore suffering in her songwriting, but, in “Mars,” she is lifted by a resilient buoyancy that is as contagious as it is sincere.
“Mars” is the kickoff to Hello June’s upcoming record, which is scheduled to be released in the coming months. Rudy has confirmed that there will be at least one other single released ahead of that album. If what is to come is anything like “Mars,” Hello June fans new and old are in for a treat.