|Photo by Norman Wong|
RSVP here to see Holy Fuck with James Supercave and Wunder Wunder May 22 at The Roxy for Red Bull’s next Sound Select show in Los Angeles. The show is only $3 with an RSVP.
Canadian electro-pop band Holy Fuck began as almost an experiment in sound—how can you make electronic music without actually using electronic instruments? Rather than laptops and sequencers, the band chose to use film equipment, toys and other non-instruments to achieve similar effects.
Fast forward 10 years, and they’re sharing stages with the likes of Skrillex at EDM festivals without losing an ounce of their outsider cool. The band’s next show sees them headlining the next Red Bull Sound Select show in Los Angeles May 22 at The Roxy with Aussie/L.A. psych-pop band Wunder Wunder (read an interview here) and L.A. indie pop band James Supercave. We caught up with the band (made up of Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Matt McQuaid and Matt Schulz) a week before the show.
I've read of your use of non-conventional instruments to make your music—a film sequencer, toy instruments. Was the goal there keep things sounding analog or more organic?
I think it had more to do with exploring limitations, trying to maximize the capabilities of a very limited piece of gear. As opposes to working with something, either digital or analogue, that was designed to have boundless potential.
As you've progressed, have you begun to use more sequencing, laptops and more traditional electronic instruments? I imagine it could be hard to tour with some of that stuff.
After touring, especially flying, with our cheap plastic keyboards, we realized they weren't going to last. Every song was based around a specific piece of gear. So as each piece broke, we would lose another song from set. Eventually we started to dump down all the beats and sounds to a sampler. It definitely defied that original concept. But it was a necessary change. In one direction, we opened up a channel towards using samplers and sequencers and more hi-fi devices, and yet in the opposite direction, we regressed back to guitars and conventional means, the same stuff we started with as teenagers.
Are you guys working on a new record? What can you tell us about that so far?
We are at least halfway done our new record. All our recordings have been done live, as four players in a room. And now we live in different cities/different countries, so that has slowed us down. It takes us longer to find those moments where we can all be together. That said, it has been a nice step forward, where we are taking more time with the songs. The older albums were recorded in the midst of touring and therefore showcased a band as a performing unit. Now we are showcasing the band more as a creative project.
That's totally it. Sitting in the van all day long, for months on end, makes your brain ache. There's so much we all want to do and not enough time. Matt Schulz has been playing more free jazz type stuff with various bands including a project with Greg [Saunier] from Deerhoof. I've been working full time with Dusted and a new band with Alex [Edkins] from Metz and Doug [MacGregor] from Constantines. Graham has Etiquette, a band with his wife, Julie Fader. We've all been producing for other bands. The trick will be putting it all in a neat little pile when this new record comes out and we start touring again.
What's it been like to be embraced by EDM fans in the U.S. and play those sorts of festivals? I feel like the music you guys make is so different than, say, that of Skrillex.
I prefer that our music can cross over genres, or hopefully exist without genres. So we appreciate that support, wherever it comes from. But playing those festivals can be a challenge, for us and more so for the concert goers. We fuck up the flow, and people quickly realize our songs aren't going to build and drop around the formula. It can be bummer for us, and them, if they aren't open to it.
Do you guys ever regret calling yourselves Holy Fuck? Do you think it's been more of a help or hindrance throughout your career?
It's hard to outright regret it. In the beginning, it helped us because we stood out so much. It's hard now to look back and speculate how many opportunities we have missed now because of the name. But then again we play mainly instrumental, noisy music that doesn't follow pop structure. So it's not like we would've been number one on commercial radio. I just hope people keep an open mind. Regardless of the swear word, it's not a great band name. It's not very hip, that's for sure. But then again, what is?