Photography: Alice Baxley
For most people, the idea of working with your romantic partner is scary—maybe even a little suffocating. But for Jenny and Daron Hollowell, it’s therapy. After moving to Los Angeles last year, the couple started writing and eventually formed Nights and Weekends, as a way out of their romantic rut. The result is their debut album, Music For Marriage, a ’60s-style folk-pop treatise on how to make it work.
At the front of their rule book is “Little Things,” a dreamy take on pain and regret, part Beach Boys, part Leonard Cohen. Fusing upbeat keys with a bittersweet harmony, the single pretty much soundtracks every love/hate relationship we’ve ever been in. And it’ll never get out of your head.
Listen to the BULLETT premiere of “Little Things” and read our interview with Daron, below.
Tell me about “Little Things.”
This was one of the last songs we wrote for the album. Jenny and I did the lyrics for almost everything together, but I did most of this song on my own. It’s really a song about regret—a lot of the themes on the record are about being in one of those traditional relationships where the friction and the heat and the tension bring out something in yourself and in the person that they didn’t even know was there. And this song is about regret for things you did in the relationship that you may have done with the best of intentions, but end up being harmful to the person in your life. It’s about taking a look at yourself—sometimes, the thing that might feel instinctual ends up causing pain to someone else.
How does it relate to the album, as a whole?
The album is really a conversation between Jenny and I—it’s about this place that we were in in our relationship, and this song really gets to the heart of that. It’s me reflecting on how we got to where we were at that time and the part that I played in getting there. I can be an intense person without realizing, and I can also bring a lot of things into the situation without noticing I did. When you hit these walls, sometimes it allows you to see what you weren’t able to before—that’s the beauty of going through a rough patch. And if you end up staying together, you end up discovering something about yourself and your partner—it makes you stronger if you can get to the other side.
Were there any bands or artists that really inspired your writing?
We took a lot into account when we were making the record. We really wanted to capture the moment we were in as a couple. Jenny is sort of new to the art form—she’s a fiction writer by trade—she’s written novels and published short stories, but never really wrote music before this. And she just brought something really unique to songwriting that I hadn’t experienced before because she approached it from a writer’s perspective, not from a musician’s. So that was a major influence for us—to think about these songs in such a different way, and the people who write from that point of view: Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, people who were poets or writers first, and approach songs as a writing craft, with music being the medium they just happen to be working in.
What’s your collaborative process like? I can’t imagine it’s always easy working with a romantic partner.
We were going through a lot of changes when we started working on this, even outside of our relationship. We were changing careers, moving across the country, we were new parents—we were dealing with so much change. We had been together for a while, but it was one of those patches I alluded to with friction, and sometimes that heat can bring things out that you didn’t know were there. So this was a period of discovery for us both. There are a lot of ways of coping—some people go to therapy, they write in journals, or they take trips together. For us, songwriting was a way for us to work out what was going on.
So what’s the hardest part about working with your wife?
The hardest part is being willing to go to a place where you are open to saying anything—a place where you won’t hold back the things you want to say that might be hard to say to your partner in conversation. But when you’re making art, you don’t want to hold back—you can’t be afraid to offend the other person. You want to know that you’re in a safe space to express whatever you need to. So it’s really about getting to a place where you can say, ‘I’m gonna write these lyrics and they’re gonna be about us, they’re gonna be about you, but I’m going to say what I’m feeling and thinking. I want it to be okay for us to do that and I want you to feel safe.’ Establishing that trust, especially when you’re going through a bad time in a relationship and a project, is incredibly difficult. But that’s also what made the record so therapeutic. And what made it work—we were able to get past that part in our relationship because we were able to create something where we could say anything to each other.
You’ve been in other bands before this. What have you been able to do with Nights and Weekends that you weren’t able to in the past?
Most of the other projects I’ve done weren’t bands—they were more, guys in a room banging out songs. When we made records we usually recorded the same way a lot of guys in a room do—by capturing what the band was already doing. This was more of an art project. Working with Adam, our producer, and Jenny, we pieced these ideas together one section at a time. There was no live band in the room—it was, ‘Here’s one part, here’s another,’ and we would take things apart and then put them back together. We had a lot of time to think about each layer, each word we wanted to say, every vocal performance. It obviously took a lot longer than anything I’d ever made, but it’s also a more accurate reflection of who I am as a songwriter and a musician—it was more meticulous because we put on one layer on at a time.
You wrote the record after moving to L.A. How did that affect the record?
We had attempted to move to LA a few years before that, when our daughter was born, but it didn’t stick, and we ended up back in New York. After we had our second child, we couldn’t do the New York thing anymore and went back to LA. There was a huge culture shock after we had spent so much time in New York. The New York lifestyle is one thing, and LA is a lot more spread out, so a lot more isolation happens. But that feeling of isolation really allowed us to go deep into this songwriting—I’m not sure it would have happened in New York because there is so much happening around you all the time and so many distractions.
What do you want people to take away from it?
I just hope people will find parts of themselves in there—I hope they’ll pay attention to the words, maybe see something about their relationships or themselves, or things that they’ve experienced when they’ve been in relationships. But really, my biggest hope is that there is some nugget in there that can be useful to someone.