Album Premiere: Hello June’s ‘Artifacts’ Is a Spirited, Churning, & Charged Sophomore Triumph

Artifacts - Hello June © Rafael Barker
Artifacts - Hello June © Rafael Barker
Hello June’s Sarah Rudy opens up about the band’s spirited sophomore album ‘Artifacts,’ a charming, churning, and charged indie rock record ready to rouse our hearts and stir our souls.
Stream: “Artifacts” – Hello June




Sometimes they’ll be unkind, sometimes they’ll be downright mean, in those times, you’ll bite your tongue and you’ll learn to turn the other cheek…

Hello June’s sophomore album opens by shining a warm light in the darkness, and we can’t think of a better way to summarize the spirit of this record.

Spanning songs written throughout the past decade, Artifacts is far from one-note – in fact, the name “Artifacts” is a reference to how each track has its own color, contours, and gravitational force – but there’s an overall sense of resilience and perseverance coursing through Hello June’s music that’s as undeniable as it is irresistible. You can feel it in the band’s radiant rhythms and dynamic, driving beats; in the heat of smoldering, overdriven guitars that wail, shiver, and shake with cinematic, spellbinding force; and you can hear it in Sarah Rudy’s achingly evocative vocal performance – in the words she sings, and the way she sings them. A visceral set of sonic snapshots full of passion, energy, and raw emotion, Artifacts is a charming, churning, and charged indie rock record ready to rouse our hearts and stir our souls.

Artifacts - Hello June
Artifacts – Hello June
I don’t remember a peaceful time
but I figured there will come a day

And I don’t remember what it was
that you last said to me
But I should have said I love you

I’m tied up to you – knotted forever
I should have said I love you, either way
I don’t know if I’d make you proud
but I’d really like the chance to try
And I know we don’t see eye to eye,
but what I’d give to pick a fight
And I should have said I need you
I’m tied up to you but nothing’s forever
I should have said I need you, anyways
– “Interstate,” Hello June

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Artifacts, Hello June’s long-awaited sophomore album (out October 6, 2023 via 31 Tigers Records). A sonically and emotionally charged collection exploring all the cracks and crevices in our lives, including the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly, Artifacts arrives five long years after the West Virginia-based “Appalachian indie rock” band’s self-titled debut album. Released in September 2018, Hello June received praise from the likes of NPR and Paste Magazine, and was premiered right here on Atwood Magazine, where we praised the band’s hearty, expansive sound and “melancholic palette”: “Moody, impassioned, poetic, and beat-driven, Hello June invites us to dwell in a range of reflections and emotions; to take time out for ourselves, while never forgetting our responsibilities to others,” I wrote at the time. “It’s a truly immersive musical experience, and one we can’t wait to spend endless hours with over the months and years to come.”

The Intimate Alternative Warmth of Hello June's Dazzling Debut Album

:: ALBUM PREMIERE ::



Hello June’s follow-up is several years in the making, and finds Sarah Rudy taking over as a pseudo-solo act, compared to the band’s original three-piece lineup.

I started writing this record in 2020 – my world felt particularly uncertain and dark at that time,” she tells Atwood Magazine. “So when Roger Alan Nichols reached out and expressed some interest in working together, my mental health wasn’t in the best state. On the other hand, though, I wanted something to work on – I immediately went to work on writing songs, and I think that gave my head something to focus on and allowed me to process pieces of my past that I may not have otherwise revisited.”

At that time, my calendar was clear of responsibilities, shows were on hold, and we didn’t have any idea how long that would last. Because I was spending so much of my time isolated at home, that led to diving really hard into a single song idea. Because of this, I felt able to just allow each song to find whatever legs it had. And that was my only vision – to allow each song to find its own space and hopefully say something with the songwriting that I hadn’t been able to do in the past. That was my goal. I don’t think the vision changed during this, but I do think that the vision got clearer with each song that was laid down.”

“In typical fashion, the album contains both moments of raucous guitar lines and ambient, space-creating silence. I don’t shy away from either and any band that we work with live – I generally try to shape the project to lean into that space and also at times, lean into hard-hitting rock and roll. I think this record leans into both of those attributes. This time around, a personal goal of mine was to be able to not make sure that the instrumentation fit the song, but that the lyrics were speaking a narrative that I intended. I hope that we built on what the self-titled laid down, and I hope to keep building and improving and learning with the next one too.”

Hello June © Rafael Barker
Hello June © Rafael Barker



Rudy candidly describes Artifacts as “a step forward,” and it’s easy to understand why.

2023’s Hello June feels more composed and more confident than the version we heard five years ago, while the music itself is just as unrelenting and unapologetic as ever. Yet it’s not only a step forward for the band, but also a step forward for all who listen: Encouraging us to endure our darkest days, see the hard times through, and believe in the hope of tomorrow.

The title, she says, speaks to the cohesion she found in a world of contrast.

“When I started writing for the album, my headspace was so dark and sort of hazy. I was having trouble writing any thoughts down and when I did write something down on paper, I almost always immediately ended up throwing it out,” Rudy explains. “Because we had set a date to record with Roger, I had some accountability, a goal post to aim. That phase was very frustrating and hard. Getting to a point where I could freely write was difficult. Because of that, the best place to start seemed to be with threads of ideas that I’d started at different times. I wrote and demoed about 20 songs – about half of these I’d started writing between 2 and 8 years ago. This spans quite the time and experience range, and my guess is that this occurrence probably will prove to be an anomaly for me as a songwriter.”

“Because the songs were taken from so many different points of my life, there wasn’t one clear theme to the album, and I was fine with just letting that be the case. The naming of the album though, proved to be a difficult task, and I wasn’t going to be happy with something that didn’t feel perfect. I finally came to the word “artifacts” because I realized that each song sort of had its own set of defined, associated visuals. Each experience that I wrote about came from a deep wound, a memory, a thing I miss, a moment, a person – something bigger than me, and differentiated from an average, passing second that is easily forgotten. I think I realized that these things, these “artifacts” are what we have to hold onto – they make up who we are and they are what people leave us with. Those are “artifacts” we collect while we’re still breathing, and those are the things that matter.”

Hello June © Rafael Barker
Hello June © Rafael Barker



Artifacts may claim to not have an “overarching message” or theme, but that doesn’t stop the album from feeling like a cohesive unit.

From the soothing grit of opener “Sometimes” to the soaring conviction of “Honey I Promise,” the sweet, seductive vibrance of “23,” and the intimate intensity of “California,” Hello June holds our ears and hearts hostage throughout Artifacts‘ 41-minute run.

“It was a goal of mine to make sure that the songs that make the album all are complete thoughts, lyrically,” Rudy says of her own personal highlights. “I wanted to make sure to hold myself accountable for the articulation of the story I was trying to tell, and I feel like I did that. I am proud of the songwriting behind these songs for that reason.”

To that end, she cites a line from “Napkin” as one of her overall favorites. “I dissected this song and put it back together lyrically a few times before I felt like I said what I was attempting to say,” she adds.

“All the houses were glowing
in the distance there like stars

When you and me were dreaming,
we weren’t counting any scars

I wrote it on this napkin
that I would never be what you need

Couldn’t tell myself it’s over,
so I left a piece of me,
so I left a piece of me”



Meanwhile, the penultimate track “California” is a definitive favorite song on this record – one that is sure to resonate with fans as much as it continues to resonate with Rudy.

“I’m thrilled with how this song came out,” she beams, adding how the song, which rises and falls in waves of stunning, deeply emotive sound, is about falling in love and all that comes with it. “I had a vision for it to build momentum as it rolled on, and I love how we were able to make that happen in the studio. The song has moments of synth bliss and equally rocking guitars and in my opinion, we were able to capture this in the exact way I imagined it in my head.”

Artifacts ends, quite tenderly (and albeit surprisingly), with a cover of a John Denver classic. Yet the way Rudy explains it, the more this choice makes perfect sense – both for her, and for Hello June.

“When I decided to cover “Country Roads, Take Me Home,” I think most of my close friends were surprised,” she says. “Growing up in West Virginia, you become quickly aware of how over-used the song is – from high school and college football theme songs to commercials, etc. It’s just easy to overlook the beauty sometimes, but still, even with that, I’ve always felt a connection to this song. When Roger insistently presented me with his idea for the baritone guitar, I immediately knew he understood where I wanted to take the song if I were to do it. I wanted it to be dark; I wanted it to be longing, but I also wanted it to be hopeful. This seemed more accurate to me than some of the “happier” takes I’ve grown oversaturated with. I asked Nashville pedal steel player Paul Niehaus to play on the record – I’m not sure I’ve met another player whose melodic choices are more beautiful. Paul wrote and played on my favorite song of all time, “16, Maybe Less” by Iron and Wine, and knowing that I’ve listened to that song on repeat an obscene number of times, I felt this was an important thing to articulate to him as he was writing for this record. I wanted him to have the freedom to roam around and find the melodic pieces that made the song breathe, and cry, freely. Watching him work is always a joy. I really can’t say enough about how much I feel that melodic piece adds to ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’”

Hello June © Rafael Barker
Hello June © Rafael Barker



A product of passion, of pain, and of perseverance, Artifacts definitively captures Hello June’s heart, as well as her humanity.

It’s a collection of feverish eruptions and unfiltered contemplations on life, love, presence, and being – a cathartic confessional at some points, and an unhinged explosion at others. Hello June holds nothing back on this sophomore album, and the result is a work that builds upon the solid framework of its predecessor, simultaneously expanding the artist’s universe while making the more accessible to their audience than ever before.

Artifacts was the first body of work I created alongside a producer. I wanted the input; I wanted feedback. I enjoyed the process of having to work as a team and come to conclusions, and [make] compromises,” Rudy shares. “I took so much away from the process of recording this record – from crafting the songwriting to learning how to gently shape my songs to articulate an idea better. In terms of what I hope the listeners take away from it, I think I hope that they can find themselves in the stories, and I hope that these songs become as much theirs as they are mine.”

Experience the full record via our exclusive stream, and peek inside Hello June’s Artifacts with Atwood Magazine as Sarah Rudy takes us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her sophomore album!

Artifacts is out October 6, 2023 via 31 Tigers Records.

— —

:: stream/purchase Artifacts here ::
:: connect with Hello June here ::
Stream: “Artifacts” – Hello June



:: Inside Artifacts ::

Artifacts - Hello June

— —

Sometimes

I wrote this song around the time my sister was very close to having her first child. I was about to welcome my nephew into the world, and I was feeling so much because of it. Feeling particularly like a lot of my time and efforts – my blood, sweat, and tears were going into “paying bills” and “scraping my knees,” I felt like I wanted to capture a feeling of hope, in a way, and give insight into the fact that, while life is full of ups and downs, things pass – the good and the bad. To focus on the good moments and set yourself up for less of the bad ones is a solid star to follow. I initially wrote this as a letter to this soon-to-be-born baby.

Honey I Promise

I wrote “Honey I Promise” to capture how I felt about leaving a situation that I knew I needed to leave, but admittedly, at the time, didn’t want to. The song is a burying of a relationship, just like the burying of the bird in the song. It was me, hoping desperately, that something good would come out of the burying of that relationship, or the idea of it.

Interstate

This song is largely based on my thoughts about the passing of my father. Our relationship was complex – like most relationships are, and his relationship with his world was also complex. It’s also about the regrets we carry when we don’t get to say the things we’d want people to know before they go.

Napkin

I started the idea of this song while spending some time near the ocean. I remember looking out on the vastness of the water – knowing that I only saw a tiny fraction of the life that was bubbling under the surface. Similar to seeing and understanding people. I felt misunderstood. I was badly wanting to change myself or my particular scenario to make things “work.” Writing down a statement like “I’ll never be what you need” becomes real the moment that it’s written. This song is about knowing when to move on.

Faded Blue

I wrote this song trying to encompass the feeling that naturally occurs when you feel caged in. I was feeling particularly stuck, watching a relationship slowly wither away to something I barely recognized. The song is written from the perspective of someone who is trying desperately to believe that the situation can and will change.

23

To me, 23 is summertime, saliency, mixed with sprinkles of sadness and growth. During that time, I was so alone, yet so surrounded by people – I felt very alive. I experienced and learned so much because I learned to allow myself to be free and true to who I was.

Soft Love

I started to write Soft Love around the time of my father’s passing. I was dealing with these new feelings, and simultaneously processing my traumas from years past. Growing up in Appalachia, the drug problems run rampant. It destroys just about every piece of anything it touches. We’re all looking for more – we’re all chasing dragons. We choose to get up every day and walk forward or walk backward. Soft love is about following and choosing love, even when your heart is in a broken spot. It’s about believing that you’re worth the step forward and it’s about the work that goes into loving yourself. It’s about believing that you can be loved and it is about the risk that is taken to move forward in that belief. It is about the strength you gain from patience, and it is about the peace that grows from trust. Mostly it is about believing that you are good enough right now, no modifications needed.

No Easy Answer

No Easy Answer walks through the feelings I had to process around a relationship that felt a bit like infinitely spinning down through a circular funnel. Feeling like you’re stuck and unable to move forward, lethargic, and apathetic all felt normal. The instrumental bridge piece to that was written to almost feel like “letting go” of things you can’t hold on to and while also growing as a person.

The Moon

“The Moon” is a love song, or rather, a “see you later” to someone that you’d hoped you wouldn’t have to say that to.

California

“California” is about falling in love and all that comes with it – the saliency of experience, the excitement, and of eventual sadness that comes with the loss of a deep connection.

Take Me Home, Country Roads

I decided to take on this cover of “Take Me Home (Country Roads).” Being from West Virginia, I’ve been surrounded by the sadness and heaviness of the state’s problems – the opioid crisis, the poverty, the lack of self-worth. I’ve had one foot in and out of that my entire life and every strand of my being has been affected by it. I wanted a chance to give a voice to the state, one that leans into the complexities that will always make up our history. Something more real than the happy chords and fast tempos we hear a good bit of the time. I want to desperately believe in hope for the state, and that was my aim with this song.

— —

:: stream/purchase Artifacts here ::
:: connect with Hello June here ::
Stream: “Artifacts” – Hello June



— — — —

Artifacts - Hello June

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? © Rafael Barker

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