I don't remember how I first heard about Holly Hunt, but I do remember the first time I heard them, as I had to stop everything and go back to listen to "Manchurian Candidate" on repeat straight away. The sheer weight of their sound was electrifying, and their grasp of rhythmical dynamics was up there with the Melvins. They're a hard one to pin down (always a strength for any band), with reference points all over the map from doom to synth pop. Then there's THAT sound. With this being the age of the internet and all that I was chatting to both Beatriz and Gavin soon enough, and was mightily impressed not only by their innate understanding of importance of a good tune, but also their dedication to sculpting the sound of their records to achieve sonic nirvana. "Year One" and the following 12 inch "Prometheus" are both absolutely absorbing, relentlessly heavy, emotionally uplifting and fun listens. Add to this the fact that they are a two-piece, and that they use more amps live than most "full band" line-ups, and there's plenty for readers of the Sludgelord to be excited about. I fired these righteous dudes some questions, which they were kind enough to find time mid-tour to answer
David Majury: Holly Hunt is quite an unusual name for a heavy band, and perhaps doesn't give much away. Was that your intention?
Gavin: In the beginning when we were still in the process of defining our sound we had a couple ideas about the direction the band would take. I think we all agreed it would be heavy, sonically influenced, brutalist and fairly aggressive. I wasn’t interested in an obvious doubling down on that with our band name. I wanted a name that didn’t implicate our sound, something not so obvious but that in an abstract way may lead to more questions and thought. My first choice was Carrie Fisher, a tortured soul, who despite personal failures purservered. We concluded this might cause some legal issues so we kept brainstorming. I brought up Holly Hunt as an alternative. I felt the name illiterated very well and was as far away from a traditional metal band name as any other.
Betty - Holly Hunt was Gavin's idea for the band name. At first I though it referred to an actress. His mother's name is Holly. There is a thing called a Holly Hunt, which has to do with winter and Odin and Norse mythology. There are over 100 women in the US named Holly Hunt, and probably many more in the UK. It reminds me of Adam Ant. The name is unusual for a heavy band… that was the intention.
DM: I know that both you and Beatriz are artists, do you see any connection between Holly Hunt and your visual art?
G: Absolutely. We try and maintain a distinct separation between the two but clearly both practices have begun to inform each other. Many facets straddle both the visual and the auditory but we choose not to blur the boundaries as much as possible. I think visually we both have a practice that explores similar concepts and themes as Holly Hunt. The same adjectives apply to both, naturally... brutal, heavy, entropic, dark.
B - Yes, both things are creative endeavors. Much of the same kind of problem solving takes place, from material usage (equipment) to rhythm (lines and patterns) to notes and tone (color) and possibly also size (volume). The biggest difference with the band is that we are collaborating on the music instead of being single creators, and the audience is different… perhaps it's more fun too.
DM: There's been an increase in the amount of two piece bands over the past few years. Was it always your intention to go for this format, and how does it affect your approach to writing/ playing live?
G: While we didn’t set out as a two piece, we have settled into the nuances and hurdles a two piece project entails. I think we always wanted to take a bare bones approach to our music as a three piece or two. As a two piece though our aesthetic of brutality has flourished. It has brought us closer creatively. Live it often feels like we form a fuller symbiotic connection. We are sharing an intimate experience.
B- We actually started out as a 3 piece, we played a few shows that way. It didn't work out with our bass player. We decided to try it as a 2 piece. With just there being the 2 of us, we have come to value the power of the wheel for moving equipment. Dollies and hand carts make everything better.
DM: The Miami scene is well known for bands like Floor, but also as a bastion of death metal. How does Holly Hunt fit into that whole area scene?
G: Miami has proven to be a very eclectic scene. We’ve played with garage bands, rock-a-billy acts, noise shows and of course traditional metal shows. As an artist, I think you can gain something useful from all live shows. As someone who has insatiable curiosity, I am thrilled to have access and exposure to this much diversity of ideas and projects. We are humbled and honored to be accepted by the wide array people we’ve played with and for.
B- The DIY scene here consists of Punk (Punk, Crust, Hardcore, Grind), Noise (all kinds), and Metal (from slow and heavy to, slow with very fast parts, to super technical)… there's also outlaw country, garage, post-punk, surf, and all kinds of blends of these styles. So the scene is open to anything that is interesting and earnest. Somehow, we've managed to play shows with all the different styles I just mentioned. It's a great scene.
DM: One for the gear nerds now. You run a pretty impressive set up, can you tell us about your gear, and how important is it to the band?
G: I am a self professed gear junkie. When I started back into music I was inspired by a sound, a quality of tone I heard while at a Torche/Harvey Milk show. What I heard left an indelible mark on me. I needed to have that tone I heard. I needed to have the ability to recreate my experience as often as I wanted. So began the odyssey that has been the making of my rig.
When we lost the bassist, I knew that we would need to focus on recovering the frequencies often relegated to the bass player. With that in mind I figured I would run a biamp set up. One side would focus on mids and highs, while the other would focus on lows. As a long time fan of Pete Townsend and my close proximity to George Scholz (who worked with Harry Joyce of Hiwatt) I slowly gravitated towards Hiwatts as my primary amps.
Currently I own a dr103 and a dr201, the 103 powers the treble side and the 201 the bass. They are beefy and every bit the hype that surrounds them. As far as my guitars, I started this project with standard length guitars that I tuned as low as they would go (Ibanez Artist and a Charvel reissue). I knew I wanted Electrical Guitar Company aluminum but just couldn’t get one early on. When I was able to order my custom I knew I wanted to tune lower still so I decided on a baritone scale (27.5”). I simply love my EGC’s. They are an animal all unto themselves. I have a pretty extensive set of pedals, mostly fuzzes. These are the most fluid parts of my rig. I find myself always pulling one out or putting a new pedal in. The tone trip is never ending. It can be frustrating but in the end is always rewarding.
B- I'm playing a 1984 Tama Artstar Cordia kit right now, 24" bass drum, 18" floor, 13" rack, and a 70's Ludwig Supraphonic. I'm also playing Paiste Rude and Alpha cymbals. The kit is very loud, and needs to be, because of Gavin's equipment, and basement shows.
DM: The way people consume music has changed radically over recent years. What are your feelings about digital releases/ iTunes and all that?
G: I think it has helped relieve some of the climb to get your material out. It has certainly reduced the distance between bands and audience. Personally, since I have acquired a turntable I’ve been listening to more vinyl. It is the most organic way in my opinion to listen to music.
B - I prefer Vinyl, but I've also got an iPod. The more ways for people to share and listen to music, the better.
DM: A lot of bands are using the pledge approach to funding recording and tours. What are your views on Kickstarter and the like?
G: To each his or her own. It’s not a format for which I’ve found a suitable use. I choose a more DIY approach but have found some crowd funding projects I’ve supported.
B - For me personally, I'd rather have people 'pledge' to us by coming to shows and buying our merch. However other bands want to fund themselves is up to them.
DM: What were the last three records you bought?
G: Music Blues. YOB. Aphex Twin.
B - I honestly couldn't tell you as we just came back from tour and we haven't unpacked our tour booty yet. I know I bought a used copy of the Evil Dead 2013 soundtrack… can I just list my favorite bands that we played with during these 2 back to back touring runs?
Tuurd, Christworm, Drose, LB!, Empty Vessels, Shit Brains, Permanent Makeup, Set and Setting, Recreant, Wage Slave, Alma, Foehammer and Ex-Breathers.
DM: What inspires the Holly Hunt creative process?
B - Everything and anything. I will say, I'm most inspired when I see a band I've never heard of before, absolutely kill it.
DM: Finally, the obvious question - what are your plans for the future, and will we experience the Holly Hunt live assault in Europe?
G: After a long run of touring this past summer, followed by the production of the split with Slomatics we are preparing to get back into the lab to write the next full length. Nothing concrete as to completion or sound but we are definitely in the start up phase. We have been discussing Europe as a possibility for some time next year. It would be a huge undertaking for us but we would have a blast I’m sure.
B - Our plan is to continue, and to challenge ourselves, and yes to make it to the UK and Europe, hopefully next year. We have a split 7" coming out later this year with Slomatics. We're really excited about that.