The dissolution of long-running local blues-rock outfit the Dirty Guv’nahs boded that a handful of very talented free agents would soon be set loose on the local music scene. And now two of the band’s standout sidemen—guitarist Cozmo Holloway and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hyfantis—have already debuted a new project, in the form of female-fronted outfit Electric Darling.
Electric Darling played its first show, on July 25, at Scruffy City Hall, to a full house and rave reviews, opening for classic Americana cover outfit Big Pink. What is arguably most impressive about the Saturday night performance is that neither Holloway nor Hyfantis—both of whom rank among the city’s best-traveled and most accomplished players—was the talk of the show.
That honor belonged to 25-year-old newbie frontwoman Yasameen Hoffman-Shahin. With her powerful vocals and an insouciant charisma that belied her youth, Hoffman-Shahin led the band through an hour-long set of groovy neo-soul punctuated by a handful of showcase six-string moments from Holloway, the prodigal—and prodigiously talented—son of University of Tennessee faculty jazz bass virtuoso Rusty Holloway.
“She really has a flavor, a real Lauryn Hill vibe—she has something going on,” a very enthusiastic Holloway says of his new bandmate. “And she murdered it. I’m telling you, this girl can sing.”
Holloway explained that Electric Darling grew from efforts he and Hyfantis—both of whom joined the Guv’nahs around the midpoint of the band’s history—had been making to participate more actively in the Guv’nahs songwriting. “The Guvs were shifting their sound a little bit, and we were just trying to contribute to that,” Holloway says.
A few months later, though, the band made the decision that 2015 would be its swan song, as members moved on to other personal commitments.
“We let the dust settle a little,” Holloway says. “Then Kevin and I talked on the phone: ‘What do you want to do?’”
The duo decided to prepare some songwriting demos, aided by Guvs drummer Aaron Hoskins. Their plan called for Hyfantis, an experienced and talented singer in his own right, to handle vocal chores. That changed when they met Hoffman-Shahin, who sat in with a pickup reggae band that Hyfantis and Holloway were doing with friends, playing for kicks on Sunday nights.
“Sometime after that the light bulb went off,” Holloway says. “Kevin and I were writing songs, and we were thinking about what would give us an edge. So we bought Yas over, and it was amazing. That’s when this thing really changed, from a songwriting project to a full-on live act.”
Holloway describes the new outfit as “soulful, but with a rock ’n’ roll edge. And with a couple of dancier numbers, too.
“But we’re in the early stages, so we’re more interested in putting together a nice collection of songs that resonate with people than hyper-focusing on a particular sound.”
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