MEET HOLLYWOOD TEN
An interview by: Dalilah Montesino
Reminiscent of 90’s grunge rock and 2000’s hard rock, Hollywood Ten is based in Miami, Florida, and consists of vocalist/rhythm guitarist Miguel Fernandez, lead guitarist Kevin Wong, bassist Bryan Ceballos and drummer Gustavo Estevez. The project initially began as a joke amongst friends for the annual school talent show, but quickly evolved into a passion project to give to the community and create. Hollywood Ten recorded and released their two singles “Frost” and “The Only Thing” in their self-titled record and plans to release a new album later this year. The band is inspired by the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana. Here’s a glimpse into their background, the inspirations behind their sound, their artistic process, and their most memorable performances.
DALILAH MONTESINO (interviewer): Hi, I’m so glad to meet you! To begin, can you tell me about each of yourselves and how the band began?
GUSTAVO ESTEVEZ : I’m Gus, I’m a pretty cool guy, I don’t know about you guys. I play drums- I was inspired to play drums by this movie, Whiplash. And yeah, that’s me.
BRYAN CEBALLOS : My name is Bryan- I’m the bassist. A little bit about myself is that I guess I tend to like nerdier bass lines. A funny tidbit is that I wasn’t originally part of the band before everything started happening. I was kind of like, put in, because the guy they had in mind for the bassist wasn’t able to volunteer and put up to it and dedicate his time.
KEVIN WONG: My name’s Kevin Wong, and I play lead guitar for the band. I just really love guitar- one of my favorites is Josh Homme, for sure.
MIGUEL FERNANDEZ: I’m Miguel, and I like a lot of things- I like reading, I like studying, I like playing guitar, I like singing, and I like music obviously. I play the rhythm guitar, and basically the way the band started was as a joke. I’ve been playing the guitar since fifth grade, and now we’re all seniors. Each of us started playing an instrument little by little. Kevin started playing guitar after, but I didn’t meet Kevin until later. And then Gus started playing drums, and so I told Gus one day that the talent show in our school was coming up, so I was like, “Hey, we should play a song. We should do “Heart-Shaped Box” for the talent show”. And he was like, “nah”. We just took it as a joke. And then we needed a bassist, so we got our friend, but then it was kind of complicated because he wouldn’t make it to practice. I originally named the band Heroes of Sears because we would always go to Sears and chill on the couches. We had to kick the other bassist out because he wouldn’t go to practice or anything, so we forced Bryan to play bass, and that’s how it started.
DM: How is your song-making process like?
GUSTAVO (drums): I mean, it’s usually like someone’s like, “hey guys, I got this riff” or “I got this idea”. And we kind of all just hop on to that and we just build on it. That’s what we’ve been doing now since we’ve started. Our single “The Only Thing” came from Bryan- he came up with the bass line and then we just hopped on it.
MIGUEL (vocals, rhythm guitar): I think that someone just comes up with that one idea, and we just bring it to the table, and then we all just start jamming to it. We all have our own instruments, so like Bryan will come up with the bass and he’ll play something and we’ll be like “Hey, we like that” and then Gus will find something that fits perfectly, and then Kevin will just improvise until we get something. Even when we play live, Kevin will sometimes just be improvising, but it works out.
DM: When did you individually become interested in playing music?
GUSTAVO (drums): I got interested in playing music pretty late in my life, like in freshman year about three or four years ago. And like I said, I saw this movie, Whiplash, and I really wanted to do that because it’s about drumming. And there’s this song by Queens of the Stone Age called “No One Knows”, and I listened to their drums track and I thought it was really cool, so I bought myself an extra drum kit and kept building from there, pretty much. But I’m a late bloomer when it comes to playing music.
KEVIN (lead guitar): So in seventh grade, I was listening to music on Spotify, like the generic charts at the time, and at that time I was super into pop music, and a song that was popping at that time was “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes. I was listening to the chords of the guitar, and I was like, this sounds really cool. A month later, my godfather and my dad got me a little baby guitar basically, and from then on I just fell in love. I then got into rock in late eighth grade and early ninth grade, and from then on, it’s just been a passion of mine.
BRYAN (bass) I started getting into music super early in my life, but I never really took the step forward to start learning how to play an instrument. My first encounter with an instrument was in elementary when we were put in guitar classes, and I had pretty good fun with it. After that, I had keyboard, and I actually got myself one and started off with that, but I didn’t really commit to it. Playing bass hit me harder than it did with guitar or with piano at the time, so I kind of just fell in love with it. And now here I am, playing bass lines for this band.
MIGUEL (vocals, rhythm guitar): For me, it was in my fifth grade band class, and my teacher told me that I had a gift, but I thought I was bad like everyone else. I think I’m the only one who took it somewhat seriously, and I just kept going with it. I got my first guitar seven years ago and I started playing songs. A few years later, I started singing while playing guitar, and I wasn’t really a big fan of it, but these guys were, so it worked out.
DM: How has being part of a band helped you develop into the person you are today? How has it developed your friendships with one another?
GUSTAVO (drums): At least for me, I feel like playing rock in front of other people helped me gain a lot of confidence. You play live in front of other people and you give it your all, and it’s like, what is there to be nervous about when you’re already there, you know what I mean? It also helped me play with other musicians as well, ‘cause these guys are the first people I’ve played music with, and that helped me prepare playing with other people.
BRYAN (bass): I guess performing, the way I kind of see it is another form of communication, as I was giving my ideas to other people, so it felt like I got more confident to talk to others. In terms of friendship, I’ve been friends with these guys since elementary with some of them and since middle school with others. It’s made our bond a lot stronger, and luckily, there hasn’t been many problems, so I’d say it’s going pretty well.
[KEVIN (lead guitar): As for me, confidence is definitely a big thing, since I’m naturally really shy. Being up there with a guitar and looking at all those people helps build that confidence for sure.
MIGUEL (vocals, rhythm guitar): For me, music has always been a type of escape- I’d work really hard in school and there was all this pressure with school and with relationships and with family relationships and things like that. I feel like it’s really powerful to let go of all those emotions you might feel. Playing in front of a bunch of people and making yourself vulnerable like that, it kind of helps you get outside of your comfort zone and helps you grow in a way that I can’t really explain well, but you feel different after.
DM: How would you describe your band’s “sound”?
GUSTAVO (drums): Damn, I don’t know, I mean we just kind of play whatever- we have influences from a lot of different places. I know Kevin is a really big fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and has a lot of funk in it, and I guess we’re all into just rock in general- grunge, hard rock, anything we find. Honestly, we don’t think about the genre too much, at least I don’t think about it.
MIGUEL (vocals, rhythm guitar): I think we’re waiting on the music we’re making right now to finalize, and when that’s all complete, we’re going to listen back to it. Right now, we’re in the process and we don’t know what it’s going to be like, we’re not planning a theme or just sticking to one sound, we’re just making the music that we like to hear.
GUSTAVO (drums): Yeah, we’re just going with the flow.
DM: What themes were you encapsulating in your songs “Frost” and “The Only Thing”?
MIGUEL (vocals, rhythm guitar): “Frost” was my first song ever, I’m not super proud of it, but that was just like my first thing. The music was really inspired by Nirvana- a few years before I wrote that song, that was all I listened to. I felt a lot of anger and sadness and emotions, and I felt that I could just incorporate that into that song. For “The Only Thing”, I wasn’t home when Bryan and Steven came up with it, but when I heard it, it was like this fresh, new song about kids having fun, so I wanted to keep that fun, carefree vibe.
DM: What artists have inspired you or influenced your music in some way?
GUSTAVO (drums): The person who introduced me to drumming and like how I learned was Dave Grohl, and he drummed in like every band ever- he played in Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters. As time went on, I started listening to more drummers like Chad Smith. I’m also a big fan of Mitch Mitchell, and he drummed on the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and I love that. And John Bonham, of course, you can’t really forget him when you’re drumming. I like Buddy Rich, he’s not really in the genre that I play, but Jesus, he’s fast. And of course, Josh Homme- he’s a guitarist, but he still influences a lot of how I think about music.
KEVIN (lead guitar): At least for me, I’m a super big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. When it comes to rock, I love John Frusciante. I love how he plays guitar- he implements rhythms and beautiful melodies and so many different harmonies. In our upcoming songs, I want to experiment with that kind of stuff, I think it sounds really cool. I really like Josh Homme and how he uses dissonance in a way in a lot of his guitar solos, I think it sounds really cool. And I’ve been recently getting into Eric Clapton, and I’ve even noted that I already have some of his tactics and like really basic things, and I’ve been getting really into some of his songs, so it’s something that has definitely been influencing me a lot. As for bands, definitely Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Jimi Hendrix Experience for sure- I freakin’ love Jimi Hendrix, and Queens of Stone Age as well.
BRYAN (bass): For me, one of my favorite influences from early on was Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers- I just really love the bass lines he would put out and the fun he had performing them in live performances. So I kind of wanted to imitate that fun- whether it was externally or internally, I just wanted that for myself as well. Aside from him, another inspiration that I had later on was the Arctic Monkeys because they can appeal to all the senses in every way- I listened today to one of their songs, and it gave me the energy to move on.
MIGUEL (vocals, rhythm guitar): For me, I think it’s been three major bands, but one honorable mention is definitely Queens of the Stone Age and just Josh Homme in general- his singing and his lyrics are amazing, and I really look up to that. And he’s also this badass, he’s super cool. But the first band that really influenced me was Nirvana, and I feel like that’s a lot of kids' first real inspiration for music and singing. And the second band I really got into and that inspired me a lot was Pink Floyd, and even though you don’t really hear a lot of that in our songs, that band and its lyrics and everything and its whole vibe really resonated with me. It’s something that I look forward to maybe implementing in one of our songs. And the third band that I’m definitely going through right now is the Arctic Monkeys. Their wordplay is amazing and so are Alex Turner’s lyrics- honestly, his entire discography is just amazing, I’m just in awe every time I listen to them before I go to sleep.
DM: What were your favorite performances? What’s the best part of performing in front of a crowd?
MIGUEL (vocals, rhythm guitar): My 100% favorite performance was Tea and Poets, it’s been a year almost since then. I think the best part, at least for me, is definitely the crowd. The crowd makes the show- without the crowd, it’s not really a performance, it’s just us playing in a room. So with that crowd’s energy and the people watching us urging us to go on- we love that. The crowd is just this whole other dimension and brings a new level to performing.
GUSTAVO (drums): Yeah, Tea and Poets was just something else entirely. It was just a really different experience. We had played on a stage finally- we had never played on stage before. That’s the one show that I felt like a Rockstar.
DM: What are your goals for the new year as a band?
GUSTAVO (drums): We’ve been working on a new album, and hopefully sometime in 2021 we can release it.
MIGUEL (vocals, rhythm guitar): We’ve been working on it for a while, and our tastes have changed over time. Even now, we listen to our first two songs and we’re like “Yeah, we like them, but we don’t want to do that anymore.” And we also have songs from around that time that we didn’t really record and release that are going to be in the album, but there are also going to be songs from now. We also might have more livestreams on Instagram and interact more with our followers.