Austin Anderson of Slow Hollows on succeeding in music without selling your soul

The frequent Tyler, the Creator collaborator spoke to Document about growth, his booklist, and what's on his 20s bucket list.

Austin Anderson’s impossibly short career has been marked by one artistic collaboration after another. By the time he was 19, he’d racked up several credits as an artist on Frank Ocean’s “Self Control” and Tyler, the Creator’s albums Flower Boy and Cherry Bomb, and at 17, he was selected to walk in a Saint Laurent show by then creative director Hedi Slimane. But first and foremost is Slow Hollows. Over the last six years, Anderson’s band has grown from a local solo-act to a four-person crew of talented musicians with two albums under their belts and an upcoming appearance at this year’s Lollapalooza.

The growth of Slow Hollows is due in no small part to the quietly focused vision of its frontman. Despite the wide range of projects which he’s led and taken part, there’s nothing random about Anderson’s career. Now 21, he spoke about looking outside music for inspiration, his drive to up the ante, and growing with each album while constantly recalibrating— weighing these curiosities with the understandable fear of artistic compromise. In an industry populated with aggressively multi-hyphenate artists, where Instagram following is increasingly the price of entry, Anderson’s intentionality and conviction comes across as refreshingly restrained. And it’s paid off.

Following his appearance in Document S/S 2019, Anderson spoke to Document on how he chooses his collaborations, what to expect from Slow Hollows’s forthcoming album this fall, and rounding out his twenties bucket list.

Clara Malley—So you’ve know done several collaborations with Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean which are remarkable and then you also have your band Slow Hollows. All of those projects involve you practicing music with other people. Do you like being constantly steeped in collaborations—in fashion, in art? Does that help you create or do you have to take a step back?

Austin Anderson—I think it’s both. I really, really enjoy taking a step back and not really seeing anybody for a few months and kind of doing my own thing. But then it’s also great to do the complete opposite and be so integrated with the community of musicians that I know—exchanging notes and talking about things that we’ve been thinking about because that’s so inspiring in itself also. You can only be by yourself for so long until you go around in circles thinking about the same things.

Clara—When you take time away, where do you turn for that? Is there a place, or is there art that you’re drawn to?

Austin—I really like podcasts and writing. Not so much music because it’s nice to get a break from that. Hearing sound all the time can hurt even if it’s really pretty.

Clara—‘Podcasts and writing.’ You’re talking about doing your own writing?

Austin—I don’t know if I would ever do my own published writing. Not to say it might be too late for that, but I don’t want to be stepping into some form where I just do not belong right now. But who am I reading? C.S. Lewis is always really cool. I’m reading this book called The Screwtape Letters. Thomas Pynchon is really inspiring. This one book called…no, I don’t even want to say it. It’s gonna make me look like a tool. It’s called The Principles of Topological Psychology. It’s fucking stupid.

Clara—[Laughs] Are you interested in psychology?

Austin—To an extent, yeah. It’s hard because then you think about it too much and then that can just kind of consume like your every move. Then it’s noise at that point, and you’re kind of always thinking about how everything you do relates back to that question that maybe you’re thinking about and that can get draining.

Clara—Is having a focus or having experiences outside of music productive for you or does it make you feel like you have to sacrifice one thing for another?

Austin—I’ve always been concerned with the compromising aspect of that. I’ve been hesitant to do too many things on the modeling side just because I don’t want that to kind of take the lead. But the more work I do in both fields,  the more I’m realizing there’s no real divide here. Even though it’s kind of worlds away, it feels like I’m doing similar work. It’s all going toward this one goal or something like that. So it’s important to have a different outlook like, ‘Ok, I can express myself this way, try to make new relationships with these people who aren’t working at a record label and are solely interested in clothes.’ Because it also enhances the music. A beautiful visual is just as important as whatever sound you attach.

Clara—So are you interested in exploring fashion more, in terms of modeling or other things?

Austin—I definitely want to integrate it more. I think that just means being more confident in fashion and music together, making sure whatever collaboration I’m doing between them is pulled off authentically. I just want it to make sense. I think that comes with learning more and more about both things. Still, I’ve barely even scratched the surface of fashion at all or anything like that. So I think starting to do that more would just make me feel more confident about collaborating both of them. I just want to learn as much as possible before I open my mouth and say anything.

Clara—That’s a good way to go about it I’d say. Quick pivot but Slow Hollows has an album coming out sometime soon right?

Austin—Yeah, it’s done at this point. We just finished it. So I guess the next step is just it being announced and I wish I could, but I don’t know when it’s going to be. It’s gonna be soon. It’s been long enough I think at this point.

Clara—Can you say anything at all about how this album will feel?

Austin—It’s definitely a departure from things we’ve put out in the past. But that doesn’t mean it’s like a bad thing. I think it’s just growth and like trying new things out. I think it still sounds like what a Slow Hollows record would sound like, just presented in completely different form basically.

Clara—So long term, is there anything you’re interested in exploring? A twenties bucket-list of sorts?

Austin—I’d love to have released at least like one medium of every art form if that makes sense. This is way long term, but I would love to do like a movie, and I’d love to do a book or something like that. Just keep expanding outside of music but always keep it thoughtful. And never just be doing something to do something, just because it feels cool. I want to make sure it feels right.