Female-Fronted Power Pop Band The Callouts Decodes their Cryptic Lyrics and Band Chemistry

When I first noticed the high-octane energy of The Callouts and their undeniable attitude, I knew they were something special. The intricate guitar articulations layered with the spunky vocals and driving drumbeat are a force to be reckoned with.

The Callouts is led by badass vocalist extraordinaire Missa Hills. She’s supported by shredding guitarists Andrew Peasley and Mike Grillo, while reliable bassist David Delmonico and beast-mode drummer Daniel Ulmschneider hold down the beat.

I really appreciated the opportunity to ask them some questions about their experiences as a band, how they got started, and why “There’s gum on my seat, gum” is such a fan-favorite lyric. Read on for all that and more, below!


Angelina Singer (Motif): How did you form The Callouts? Tell the story of your band’s beginning and what you set out to accomplish five years ago.

The Callouts: The Callouts were formed out of the ashes of a PVD band called THE JESSE MINUTE. Missa, Mike and Drew played in the final lineup of that band, and when it was over in 2012, wanted to do a new band but didn’t want to repeat themselves. Dan, our drummer, was in a couple of local bands (6 Star General, Coma Coma) and he agreed fill in on drums when we couldn’t find anyone, and eventually he just became our drummer. It took over two years to find the right people to complete the lineup. We had friends from other bands fill in on some early demos to try and find players, but nothing clicked until summer 2015 when we found our bass player David and finalized our lineup. He responded to a Craigslist ad. At the time, he didn’t have a bass and had just sold everything he owned and moved back home to Rhode Island after living in Iowa. On a whim, we gave him a shot and he was the perfect fit. He borrowed some equipment for the first few practices and then eventually got his own equipment. Once we had the lineup complete, we just wanted to play shows and make at least one album and see how things would go. Having been out of the local scene for three years, it was weird jumping back in. Most of the bands we used to play with had broken up and there aren’t really a lot of bands in our genre in the area. That being said, five years later, we’re still going [with] two albums released and writing for a third one. We have a pact that when one of us can’t or doesn’t want to do the band anymore, we’ll probably just end it then instead of trying to find a new member. The chemistry among the five of us works, and that in itself is an accomplishment. 

AS: What’s your writing process like, from lyrics, to melodies, to riffs?

The Callouts: So songwriting is a big thing in our band. We take time to make sure each song works and that we don’t repeat ourselves. We’ve had a few songs for a few weeks and they’ve been okay, but if a better idea comes up, we stopped playing the old idea for the better one. We wrote for two years before having a full lineup, so we’ve seen a lot of songs come and go. Usually Drew or Mike will have the skeleton of the song, and then the rest of the band fills it in. If there’s an idea for a chorus or a line that we came up with, we suggest it to Missa, as she writes 98% of the lyrics. Sometimes the ideas work, sometimes they don’t. After that, it’s all about feel and seeing how the song goes while we’re in the room playing and working on them.  When we get to the studio, that’s when a majority of the back-up parts get finalized and we let our drummer Danny sing most of the harmonies since he’s got the perfect voice for it, but live it’s usually done by Drew and Mike.  Occasionally, we’ll write something off the cuff if there’s a riff or someone plays something and it’s like “WHAT WAS THAT PLAY THAT AGAIN.” So far we’ve done that twice with a song on our full length Hot Tuesday, and a new song that’ll be on our next album. The biggest thing is we don’t force it. 

AS: How have you been keeping busy during this unprecedented time for the entertainment industry?

The Callouts: So basically during this pandemic we’ve been writing.  Slowly. We’ve been doing our part to stop the spread and support where we can. Back when we thought this was going to be a temporary thing, we did an online event to raise money for workers of the clubs and we thought this should help until things get better, but we were way off. We also put out an unreleased song on a compilation for The News Café in Pawtucket. The amount of financial debt and hurt people are going through is awful. We are lucky enough to have jobs and not do this band as our full-time job, but so many people we know have been hurt and are going broke. We love Providence and all the clubs and venues and wish them all the best and just hope they’re able to stay in business until things get back to the way they were. None of us are accepting this as the “new normal.” Touring bands, friends from shows, bartenders, bouncers, bookers and promoters: WE WANT TO SEE YOU ALL AGAIN, but we’re willing to wait until it’s safe. 

AS: Which of your songs best sums up your sound and why?

The Callouts: From our first album, Check Your Friends, “GO ALL OUT,” and from our second Album, Give up, “California” both are raucous anthem sing-along style songs. We love playing them, and usually these are the songs where our mics get stolen and people sing along with us. Both have that appeal of singing or screaming that hook part that just gets caught in your head. 

AS: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced while being in a band?

The Callouts: Putting up with each other – just kidding, kinda. Actually, our band name comes from calling each other out on our bullshit. The serious answer would be finding our rhythm section. That took a little longer than expected. Lots of Craigslist try outs, and we went through a few bass players that ultimately just didn’t fit the style we were going for. No bad blood or anything, [they] just didn’t work out. 

AS: Funniest moment at a gig?

The Callouts: We’ve had a few. Missa forgot lyrics on a few occasions, [and] Drew jumped through the window during another band’s set at Dusk. Also Danny never learning song names always brings laughs among us when we have to play a riff to cue him before we start. But the one that takes the cake is from our second show ever. It was March of 2016, and David (our bass player) had a zip-up and the hood became a mask and it was IRON MAN. He wore it through the whole set. 

AS: Who are your biggest musical influences?

The Callouts: We all listen to a lot of different bands and styles, so that’s hard to narrow down. One band we can all agree on is Piebald. The first cover we learned was one of their songs. I guess the best way to list some of our biggest influences would be to list the artists we’ve covered: Jimmy Eat World, Tom Petty, No Doubt, Built to Spill, Letters to Cleo, Foo Fighters, and Rod Stewart. 

AS: Which of your songs has the most surprising meaning behind it?

The Callouts: “Reverse Clooney” — the song is about the movie Speed as a reverse Clooney is a Sandra Bullock. There’s a group sing along “your last day” and it’s about the woman in the movie who plays Helen played by Beth Grant. She gets blown up by not playing by the rules of the game in the movie. The whole idea came about because Missa wanted to sing the lyrics “There’s gum on my seat, gum!” multiple times in a song. We already had the music, and [the] lyrics fell into place perfectly. All of our songs aren’t necessarily what you might think they’re about, with this one being a perfect example [of that]. So basically, I wanted that line in a song — any song — and then formed the rest of the lyrics around it, like “might as well just write a song about Speed.” I liked the line because she used it as a way to get out of a bus seat with a guy that was pestering her. I always wanted to use that line in real life. 

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