Spotlight of the Week: Hallowtribe

Hallowtribe is the indie folk/alt rock project of John Justus. Originally from Australia and raised in Nebraska, Justus has lived in Arkansas and Tennessee before now being based in Wisconsin, continuously searching for home in different places. Hallowtribe began as a project at the beginning of this year and just played their first show as a band a few weeks ago at Linneman’s.

ME: My first question is, how did you get involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures?

JOHN: This spring in I think April, I started playing at the Bottle House 42 open mic night that Wisconsin Music Ventures hosted, so I met Bruce Humphries. I think I played half a dozen times and they asked me to be the featured artist there one time. Allison was there once out of those times but I never got to meet her, and I was planning to move back to Australia where I’m originally from this summer, so I had this big hurrah where I played like seven weeks in a row. But through one thing or another, like with COVID and everything, I ended up back here in August. A couple weeks before I came back I emailed Allison and said I thought Wisconsin Music Ventures would be a cool thing to be a part of once I’m back, so I had a phone call with her and she said she liked my stuff. She hooked me up with this LA band called St. Oshun, who used to be the Charles Walker Experience, and I was in LA at the time so I ended up staying at their house for a few days and we did an acoustic song together. It was mainly through the Bottle House 42 connection.

ME: Yeah. It’s hard to say no once you know what you’re in for. It takes you to shows in interesting places, for sure.

ME: Speaking of shows, you had your first one with the full band recently. How’d it go?

JOHN: It was sweet; I actually just got a couple videos like ten minutes before we logged on here that my drummer’s girlfriend took. It was super fun; we actually set it up with two other people from Wisconsin Music Ventures, 7000apart and RAF & Company.

ME: Nice, well there’s a lot of venues across Milwaukee to check out, and Linneman’s is a good place to start.

ME: So your band is a three-piece?

JOHN: Currently, yeah.

ME: What does your songwriting process look like?

JOHN: Well, I’m the main songwriter; I started Hallowtribe in February and had the intention of putting an album out this Saturday (laughs). That was my New Year’s resolution last year, and so I set all these smart goals out – write by May 1st. pre-production by August 1st, etc. Along the way I decided to move to Australia and that kind of derailed everything. But I wrote a good chunk of the songs that we’re playing right now between January and May, and then I met Will the bass player in September and I’ve known the drummer Kevin for about a year and a half. Kevin came to see me at open mic at Linneman’s and it was Will’s first time going to the open mic the same night. The following Monday night we all got together and jammed and we all thought it was fun, so I showed them a bunch of my songs. RAF and I had been talking about putting on that show so really it’s been very new; I just brought to them the chords, lyrics, and melodies and they wrote their parts in rehearsal just in time for that show. The week and a half before that show we were just rehearsing every day just making sure we got all the parts down, so that’s been the process so far. Will does a good amount of arranging, and Kevin’s listening repertoire has been mostly hip hop… he said that for a good chunk of his life that the only band he knew of period was Linkin Park. Like, he could name artists, but couldn’t have named other bands.

ME: Interesting.

JOHN: Yeah, so we all kind of bring a different vibe to the band but it’s been cool watching it all coalesce together.

ME: It sounds like it!

ME: What are your plans for New Year’s?

JOHN: I’m going down to Texas to visit my family. My sister and her baby live with my parents right now so I’ll be surprising my parents by showing up on New Year’s Eve. It should be fun.

ME: That’s wholesome. Hopefully it’s a bit warmer down there. Not that it’s been terribly cold this winter but hopefully it’s nice out when you go down there.

JOHN: Me too. I mean, last year they had that snowstorm that knocked all the power out in Texas for like five days, so fingers crossed that something like that doesn’t happen again.

ME: My last question is, what are your immediate goals for 2022?

JOHN: I want to reorient where I want to take the band, so trying to figure out whether I want to go with the model of learning those four-hour sets and playing anywhere we can or trying to do more things like Linneman’s with the slot in a lineup of bands. That’s where I’m leaning moreso, but my bandmates are taking some time off at the beginning of the year so I’ll probably be doing a lot of writing and hopefully recording. I might be working with the guitarist from 7000apart on some production and just seeing what we can book. I’ve been in contact with a couple places but no one’s really booking for the first quarter of 2022 because of COVID. I might focus on some online performances. We do have a show booked with Next Paperback Hero in March.

Visit Hallowtribe’s website here.

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