By Sabrina Hornung
When Hiahli comes to town you know it will be a party, not only because you’re in for a killer show. It's a homecoming. The group was started by frontman Ryan Tetzloff and bassist Dr. Jason Boynton, who are no strangers to the F-M music scene.
“The music scene in Fargo is, I would call it incestuous. I mean, like, my relationship with Ryan came about, because I was in D Mills & The Thrills and she knew Kipp, Kipp knew Ryan. Therefore, Ryan landed on stage with us.” Boynton said. “I liked his energy. I thought, yeah, I would like to work with this guy. Then he moved to Austin, right after we played together a couple times. I was like, Oh, that sucks. But then he came back. And as soon as he came back, I jumped on the opportunity to work with him.”
In addition to Boynton and Tetzloff, Hiahli is Matty Johnson on electric guitar, synth, vocals; Bhairav Gupta on the drums; Anthony Price on the turntables, and Steve Wallevand on the big board engineer and mix.
The group started gaining momentum right before COVID hit, sharing the stage with such acts as Brother Ali, Dessa, and Jon Wayne and The Pain. They managed to keep their heads above water, thanks to livestreams made available through Livewire and Ryan securing grants through the Arts Partnership, that went toward gear and recording equipment; and found creative solutions to collaboration from a distance; and kept playing through video and recording options.
Their album started with a recording session at the Aquarium. From there that recording was sent to various players across the Midwest, featuring special guests such as former Fargoan Tom Johnson playing the Dobro, Twin Cities-based brass section Space Monkey Mafia, and keyboardist Kevin Gastonguay – to name a few.
Hiahli is a band name that Tetzloff had been keeping in his pocket for a while, though the band took some creative liberties with the traditional spelling, jai alai, they adapted an “Americanized” spelling. The word itself has origins in the Basque region of Spain, and roughly translates as a “merry festival” or “good party.” It's also a fast-paced sport played in Spain, France and Latin American countries.
Their influences consist of various 90s and Midwest hip hop groups, and their sound is hip hop mixed with rock and roll instrumentation, but it’s more complex than that and even staunch I-don’t-listen-to-hip-hop members in the audience have been known to get their toes tapping. If you think about it, even modern country music has adapted hip hop elements to its sound.
“I mean, we went on, we went on Travis Hopkins radio show, The Other Side of Country because I feel like, yes, we're a hip hop over rock and roll instruments, but people that like country music, or like rock and roll instruments, they might like us, you know? We’re just trying!” said Boynton.
Ryan Tetzloff, also known by his stage moniker, Cold Sweat, is now based out of Denver, yet the band is still engaged in a long distance performance partnership. Due to the distance, they’re playing less but making those performances count.
Tetzloff said, “Now it's like, let's take advantage of not playing in Fargo all the time, which is both a positive and a negative, depending on how you're looking at it and where you're at with show history and stuff like that. So I feel like now we're only gonna play a few times a year here, let's make it really big. It was a reality check for us. We wanted to see if we could actually do it.”
So they made a weekend of it, balancing two shows and a friend’s wedding in early January. Tetzloff admitted to being a little rusty after not playing for a period of time and he could feel it in his voice, the second night playing Laughing Sun Brewery in Bismarck, yet the band played on and the crowd was hyped. When he felt his voice going, the audience would never have known it, because they were singing right along with him.
IF YOU GO:
Let’s get naked: Hiahli Acoustic set
Thursday, March 23, 7:30 pm
Swingbarrel Brewing Co, 814 Center Ave. A, Moorhead
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Check out their album drop:
October 10th 2023
August 24th 2023
June 20th 2023
May 27th 2023
May 21st 2023
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