Memphis Hill was born out of a mutual love of modern blues and rock and a refusal to stifle musical creativity, which manifested itself in full-blown jam sessions in the 8’x6’ freshman dorm room closet shared by roommates Collin Cherubim (drums), Alex Holloway (bass), and Austin Marcus (guitar) at Carnegie Mellon University in 2010. After the trio were instructed by their house fellow to quit practicing due to noise complaints (a common theme in their career), they took to sneaking into the music practice rooms on campus. Collin, Alex, and Austin soon gained a reputation as respectable musicians known to host a motley crew of local talents for late night jam sessions in the basement of their house, known as The South, during their sophomore year. Elle Allen, a CMU vocal minor and local jazz singer, was asked to join the jam sessions after serenading the boys with her soulful vocals. Despite an initial reluctance to form a band due to her focus on education, Elle was soon captivated by the allure of the music and became a permanent feature of the group’s sessions.
The group truly gained momentum when Victor (guitar), driven by an unrelenting brotherly bond, moved to Pittsburgh from Rochester to reunite with Collin in the perpetual quest to make music as the group’s fifth member. Victor afforded the group newfound complexity and infused a vibe of confidence, which stemmed from the rhythmic connection the brothers had fostered long ago jamming early Black Keys and Ramones songs. Out of these five-member jam sessions, Memphis Hill was born; with a love and a passion to play good music and immersed in the inspirational environment of the intense friendship of The South, the band took their name from their first fan and dear friend, Memphis Jane Hill.
Shortly after, Memphis Hill played its first show at a speakeasy-style jazz club called The Space Upstairs. The show, consisting of a few blues rock covers and experimental improvisation, immediately grabbed the attention of writers for the CMU music magazine, The Cut. It did not go unnoticed, as it was the first time the owners and frequenters of the club had seen an entire audience standing and dancing to a set—a promising start. The band was driven to write original songs, perform around the city, and in its first year pioneered the annual Wilkins Block Party in their own back yard.
In the summer of 2013, founding member Austin Marcus parted ways with the band. Coincidentally at this time Malcolm Inglis (guitar), a true blues junkie and childhood friend of Victor and Collin, moved down to Pittsburgh and found himself drawn in and, like many before him, living on a couch at The South. Soon after Malcolm began joining in on some jam sessions and it was not long before he was fully welcomed as a member of the band. Malcolm’s arrival brought a renewed energy to the group resulting in an explosion of creativity and professionalism in their musicianship. By this time the band had accrued a respectable following in the Pittsburgh community and a number of original songs; with the addition of the new guitarist and writer, they began writing more originals, spanning from the deepest of the blues to the energizing bass thumping of modern rock ‘n’ roll.
With a newfound focus and a range of new songs, the band set its focus on recording their debut album. With three of the members attending Carnegie Mellon, the band was lucky enough to secure some recording sessions with the students of Riccardo Schulz’s Multi-track Recording Class. Out of these sessions comes Memphis Hill’s debut full-length album, Backwards Beginnings. Lead singer Elle Allen parted ways with the band in Spring 2015 after recording the band’s sophomore release, Live at the Wilkins Block Party: The Elle Allen Years. With the departure of Elle Allen came the arrival of lead vocalist Lucy Clabby (Ferdinand the Bull) as well as saxophonist Logan Randolph. Lucy brought a certain charisma to the band, fueled by her background in musical theater while Logan added a much fuller sound to the band with his exceptional talent afforded by his extensive training with tenor and alto saxophone.
Since forming years ago, Memphis Hill has remained loyal to its blues and rock ‘n’ roll roots. They’ve often been compared to the Alabama Shakes, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, or as one fan put it after attending their first show, “something you’d find at Woodstock ’69.”