Acting and country music brought together California’s Nicole Olney and West Virginia’s Xander Hitzig to eventually become Desert Hollow, and now the winsome roots twosome are ready to introduce themselves to the rest of the world. PopMatters is here to help today by presenting the music video premiere of “I Can’t Wait For Summer”, one of the five songs on Thirsty, Desert Hollow’s debut EP that will be released on 14 May. A refreshing blend of old-timey country-folk, blood harmonies, and knee-slapping hoedowns, this album will definitely leave listeners Thirsty for more.
In a wildly entertaining email interview, Olney and Hitzig, a rare pair with varying skills and backgrounds who found common ground in music ranging from early traditional folk and bluegrass to indie folk-pop and alt/outlaw country, are also sharing their outrageous origin story. It takes them from a rehearsal for a Los Angeles-area musical to a personal relationship to an off-the-cuff performance at a SXSW showcase to life with a “lovely little RV that we named Dolly” to spending the last several months in a tropical paradise.
So this latest music video they directed seems like the best way to show off their pleasing personalities and carefree charisma. In “I Can’t Wait For Summer”, Olney and Hitzig frolic in locales as disparate as the Greenbrier River in West Virginia and the jungles and freshwater pools of Maui.
They shot and directed Desert Hollow’s first video for Thirsty’s title cut that was released in March, then enlisted friends Christina “Sweet Beets” Boyden and Juliana Berger to help with some of the camera duties for this one. “Most of the old-timey footage was filmed a couple of years ago just after we had finished recording the music itself,” offers Olney, who used an 8 mm film app she “was having a lot of fun with” during a trip to West Virginia to visit Hitzig’s family.
The shooting was completed months after they moved to Maui in August 2020. “It required some creativity because Xander had originally envisioned filming the rest of the video at the end of a snowy West Virginia winter setting, but we happened to be on a tropical island,” she adds. “So we bought some pillows and tore them open and laid the cotton on the ground to make our snowy scene. The whole music video is shot on the iPhone; back in the summer we purchased an amazing anamorphic lens and some filters, and it really gives a cinematic feel to the footage.”
For anyone ready to feel the heat, check out “I Can’t Wait For Summer” now, then continue reading to discover more about the song, the video, the EP, and the daring Desert Hollow duo that will make you want to hoot and holler.
Of course, a couple of independent free spirits who “sort of became official” as Desert Hollow in 2019 have struggled to make ends meet, especially during the global pandemic when they found themselves living in an abnormal world without normal jobs. So matching their vision of the video “with the resources we had at our disposal” was difficult, Olney admits.
“Xander and I have wild imaginations and grandiose visions, and it’s challenging to have to let some things go due to lack of time and budget limitations,” she shares. “That and the lovely laptop we were editing on is about 12 years old and was having some technical difficulties with the export! It took longer to figure out the export than it did to film the video itself.”
Called a “multi-instrumentalist genius” by Olney, Hitzig wrote the jaunty “I Can’t Wait For Summer” during the late winter of 2018, “sitting on the porch with a banjo on the farm I grew up on in West Virginia,” he reveals. “When I looked over to my right at the woodpile and saw that it was getting very low, that kind of triggered the whole thing.”
With Hitzig on banjo and Olney on guitar, their straight-faced singing sequence in the shower looks like a hilarious take on Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting, with the instruments replacing the pitchfork. It became one of Hitzig’s favorite scenes in the video. “Yes, the shower scene is fun; that was inspired by taking many hot showers in a cold environment,” he points out. “If you’ve ever done that, then you would know there are times that the heat of the shower makes you just want to stay in there the rest of the day.”
Some of the song’s lyrics perfectly illustrate that impression and scene: “I don’t want to leave the shower / Cause it’s so warm in here / Outside I can see my breath / And I can’t wait for summer / To get here again.”
At least Hitzig was able to enjoy this past winter with Olney in Maui, the resort island in Hawaii that experiences balmy weather practically year-round. That’s a long way from Renick, West Virginia, where the January high temperatures rarely exceed 40 degrees. The tiny town where he was raised is in an area recognized for its country roads, plentiful wildlife, lush hardwood forests, creeks, and, yes, hollows.
Hitzig, who plays lead guitar, fiddle, mandolin, pennywhistle, kazoo, and five-string banjo on the EP, was a member of Brownchicken Browncow Stringband before he met Olney. His “Take Me Back to Nowhere”, the EP’s only song written before 2018-19, is a rowdy romp akin to Roger Miller’s classic comical turns on “Dang Me” and “Chug-a-Lug”.
Experiences with the five-piece group provided fitting fodder for Hitzig’s songs back then, including living two weeks with them in a van where “there ain’t no shower and there’s hardly any power” in New Orleans, inspiring “Take Me Back to Nowhere”. “I feel nasty, I feel gross / From my head down to my toes / And there’s nothing I can do about it now.”
“You can image that ‘nowhere’ seemed like a good place to get back to as quickly as possible,” Hitzig reflects in a recent publicity release. Yet this Nowhere Man ran into something feeling like serendipity in 2015. That’s when Hitzig, born on 24 June 1984, in Rhode Island, finally met Olney, born on 14 April 1994, in Victorville, California, the city where she was raised that’s also a stop along Route 66 and located at the edge of the Mojave Desert.