by Janessa Demuele
Even over the phone, the sister songwriters—Brechyn and Larissa—and singers of local Mercersburg band The Hello Strangers, have a captivating presence that transfers just as well on the phone as it does in their music.
Powerfully sung lyrics hold emotion like a rain catcher, saturating every word with meaning and quenching the musical thirst of devoted fans and first-time listeners alike. Talking to the sisters was captivating, their effervescent personalities and sisterly antics made talking to them just as enjoyable as listening to their music.
The Hello History
The Hello Strangers originally formed in South Austin, Texas in 2006. During this time the band’s members and song writers were solely sisters Larrisa Chace Smith, 31, and Brechyn Chace, 25. Their name The Hello Strangers, didn’t come easily explains Larrisa, “We were ‘The Unsung Heroes’ for like, a week maybe. We spent a long time making lists. I was driving when all of a sudden this folksy colloquialism came to me, Hello, Stranger. I called Brechyn and it over time it stuck.” With a name to their group the sisters started playing music which holds a passion that only close family bonds can articulate. The sisters were inspired to work together due to their family’s musical nature. The sisters found they linked up in a certain way with each other and decided to perform.
Building a Band
Around 2008 the band took a huge step as the sisters added new members to fill out the band’s sound. Kevin Shannon was placed on Lead guitar, Katie O’Neil on drums, and Dave Holzwarth on bass. Kevin and Katie were long time friends of the sisters and Dave was discovered on Myspace. These additions have brought the band to a new level that the sisters are pleased with. “We’re heading in a positive direction. We’ve become a better band with the whole group and our music has more meaning and a bigger, stronger sound. We’ve progressed to a country that can reach multiple listeners. There are people out there who hate country music but love us. That is what we want, to reach listeners of all genres.”
About the Music
What holds the attention of new listeners is moving melodies and soulful lyrics. Larissa and Brechyn write separately from one another and the band, and start the process differently. While Larissa tends to start with chord progression and moves to lyrics, Brechyn works on her lyrics first, though she claims that lately she has focused more on melodies. When each has their piece as finished as possible they share it and work together to create a full song. This process helps them stay true to themselves on stage.
The Road Ahead
Looking towards the future The Hello Strangers are continuing on breaking out in more urban areas. The challenge of being a rural band trying to reach a larger audience is one that they face with enthusiasm. While it may be easier to book smaller venues the sisters want to expand and share their music to new venues, “It was our only goal last year that wasn’t fully completed, but it’s on its way.” Currently the band is on tour once again. As they continue to do what they love, the sisters, “Hope you all come out and see us.”