Tuesday 31 May 2016

“An Enlightened Moment”: A Discussion with Holy Grove

By: Marc Gaffney

I had first heard of Holy Grove from watching a Hoverfest video. Right off the bat I was hit with a smile as if Heart had teamed up with Mountain, vocals of a muse, guitars straddling the fuzz course of perfection and a rhythm section that locked in like a 747 on a mission to get to the Lowell George inspired Spanish Room.

The key is to watch and listen as the fun the four piece has is so utterly infectious that you feel good while it takes a hold of your hips and makes you perform a tasty yet nasty dip into the world of whimsical groove.

Just because music is loud and heavy, does not mean that it  doesn’t mirror a play book in which stories have yet to be unfolded, or personify music from an honest perspective relayed by musicians in it for the stillness only a locked in, sights on, missile of a tune can bring. Look for this in pop music, oh I am sorry, it is not present as you must have a soul to reach out and conquer what could be ailing the mind of a troubled chanteuse or a passenger in this turbulent game called life.

Holy Grove are sincere and genuine musicians that met, rehearsed and grew a magnificent bond that will not let their circle be broken. 

Sit back and enjoy my chat with Gregg and Andrea.

Gaff) First of all thank you guys so much for taking the time and speaking.

Both) Thank you

Gaff) How did you guys first meet?

Andrea) it was funny because all of us at the same time were looking to start a band separately. I wound up hooking up with Gregg as he was jammimg with our original guitar player and drummer, and I met up with them as they hadn’t found a singer yet, they had only been jamming for a couple weeks, and then we met Trent about what, a year later? Trent was looking too, as he was in a band in Portland and was looking for something different and yeah. So we all kind of got together and the timing was right for all of us. It just seemed like we were all searching for something and we just found each other.

Gaff) Had you guys been in this genre of music or playing different styles?

Gregg) I think we were all sort of, this was the kind of music that we live and breathe. All of my previous bands, I have been playing music and in bands for 25 years and it has all basically been heavier stuff with slight variations but always sort of heavier stuff coming from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple sort of stand point.

Gaff) Same thing for you Andrea?

Andrea) this is my first band. I would say that my voice has always blended itself, like I always listened to heavier music and people that had strong voices. Tina Turner is a really strong inspiration for me. I grew up singing along with records but left the actual being in a band for other people. Until I decided to not have that be my life.

Gaff) Before forming, had you all known each other?

Andrea) No we hadn’t.

Gregg)  We were 4 strangers.

Gaff) So you meet and now how long has the band been together?

Gregg) We played our first show in June of 2012. We started jamming together very late 2011 early 2012.

Gaff) And has it been or from the music and videos I have seen, it appears to be a really natural succession with you all.

Gregg) Absolutely, it has never been a discussion about what we wanted the band to sound like, it was just a natural collaboration between us that it just sort of, it really wasn’t a lot of thought, we just knew what we wanted to sound like. You know, it was a real natural feeling. One of the most natural feeling bands I have been in. You don’t have to have those discussions about, “is this the riff we wanna save or is this a riff we are going to ditch?” Everyone was just on the same page from the get go.

Gaff) It tends to be a much more smiling band when that happens.

Gregg and Andrea) Yes

Gaff) So I take it this is a pretty egoless band?

Andrea) Thankfully.

Gregg) I mean we are all, it is one of the few bands I have been in where I didn’t want to kill someone who is also in the band with me. I feel very lucky that we all hang out outside of the band, everyone is cool with each other. We enjoy each other’s company; there are no sets of egos and bullshit.

Gaff) Instead of being married to one person, you are married to 3 or 4. So it is great that you guys are able to have that camaraderie. So, how about the recording process. Are there primary writers, how did you end up in the studio, talk to me about that.

Gregg) So like I said we started in early 2012 and kind of spent the first 6 months of the band coming up with a set and a lot of what you hear on the record is stuff that I had had for a long time and was waiting for the right band to bring it too. Then when I met Trent and he was immediately on the same page and he was a really good asset to flush out the songs and the we played live and played the songs out for just about a year and around that time is when we met Billy through some mutual friends and obviously when you meet Billy Anderson and he says he is into recording your band there is not really any other choice to go with.

You know, it is all sort of serendipitous that he moved up to Portland the time we wanted to record and we met him at a show and everything seemed to happen from there. So we spent quite a while on the record just due to conflicting schedules and being a completely self- financed band we would pay for a chunk of studio time and then I would go back to work, for 2 weeks and then pay for another chunk of studio time. I am sure you know how that goes. We really took our time on exactly getting what we wanted out of the record. We were not under any pressure to get it out so, and we all had really wanted to make a record that we all had been wanting to make for a while.

Gaff) Was the studio aspect relaxed? Some bands can get tight in there. Are you guys a band that likes the studio and live aspect?

Andrea) I think that, as far as being tense, there really wasn’t part of that element there, and I attribute a lot of that too working with Billy. Initially I think we were all fan boys of Billy and could get a little nervous around him and he was really good at disarming us and making us feel comfortable, not feeling like we couldn’t do another take, he really encouraged us to try and do some different things. This record, we really wanted to make a studio record. I mean we recorded it in a really beautiful studio in Portland called Type Foundry studio. It had a huge room with high ceilings and I was able to do a lot of my vocals with Billy at his home studio. The live element is there but probably not as much as if you had seen us live.

Gaff) You can tell when something, I don’t want to stay fake but it is kind of thrown together. The tracks I have heard, it has a nice seemless feel. Well it is one of those records where the bass groove is so fucking tight, drums are great and the guitars are so nice, it is almost like feathering a bed for the vocals. So I think your band has 4 really spectacular parts and through the recording you can definitely hear that, as it is a nice blend of the parts as equals, not heavy in one instrument. Did you guys have a big part in the mixing?

Gregg) For sure, that was one of the best parts. I love playing live and that is the best part of being in a band is the live part for sure and I love going to see bands, I see as many shows as I can. I love the studio too and to be in the studio with a knowledgeable engineer and have him mix your record and sit there and hear it come together was fucking awesome.

Gaff) You know, I think sometimes you forget it is you when you are listening.

Gregg) And then when you hear the whole, all the pieces come together and you hear the mix come out of the speakers it’s like, “Oh Shit”?.

Andrea) We were there through the whole mixing process with Billy. When we were finished or when he was finished and we were able to just listen to the record as a whole, it was a big experience for us. His ability to mix a record the way he does it is truly an art you know.

Gaff) Like I said, the end result is happening

Andrea) Thanks. I mean I will tend to over think things and he really encouraged if ever my voice would crack a little bit he wanted it to sound like there was a person behind the voice. Not something lifeless.

Gaff) Yea, I mean you can listen to pop music if you want to hear that shit.

Greg and Andrea) Right

Gaff) Andrea, do you right all the lyrics?

Andrea) Yes I do,

Gaff) Are you someone that writes on the spot or from an emotional stand point?

Andrea) I think in rock n roll we all take out of the same pot for certain themes. I am not doing anything that original in writing about fantasy, folklore and mythology. I definitely add a story telling perspective. I think that telling a story is really important. I tend not to speak from my own perspective, but I might sing from the perspective of which the story is about. I try to stay away from being too literal I guess.

Gregg) The melodies will come really fast, and then she will go home and bring back these amazing set of lyrics that fill the space with melody that was already in place.

Andrea) I think there is a definite, I mean I am more of a blues singer you know, I can sing on the top and if something sounds catchy I will stick with it, you know.

Gaff) The vocals are slamming. There are a lot of albums in which the vocals get overlooked and for me, there is groove but the vocals are so powerful, they kind of hit you in the chest in a spectacular way.

Gregg) Speaking for myself, like having played in bands for song long where the vocals were totally an after thought. It is very hard to find a singer of Andrea’s caliber. I have been in the studio with bands where the singer is scribbling down lyrics in the vocal booth. To have someone that is an amazing singer but also putting in thought to the lyrics and the melody is a pretty new experience for me. It’s been totally nice to have that as part of this band and that was something that we all set out for before we met Andrea. We thought it would be a total uphill battle and we were not going to settle for a screamer or someone that wasn’t totally dedicated to their craft.

Gaff) Was there a point in the studio when you guys were like, here we go? This is fucking spectacular?

Andrea) For me it was putting harmonies to the songs. I never had that but harmonizing with myself was pretty great.

Gregg) Second day in the studio we had recorded most of the bass tracks. The drums and bass are all live and then we built on top of that. Usually the first or second take we used on drums and bass. Then we started building up the songs a little bit. When we knew that we only had a certain amount of time at the actual studio and then at Billy’s for overdubs. He had Andrea lay down a bunch of scratch vocals and I remember standing in the control room and hearing the playback of the music for the first time but also listening to her lay down scratch vocal tracks, I was like “Holy shit, this is sort of what I have hoping to do and accomplish since I started playing music”.

Gaff) That voice in your head starts to smile.

Gregg) Absolutely, absolutely.

Andrea) Also, the reverse cymbal; that was a fun moment.

Gaff) You gotta let the drummer get some

Gregg and Andrea) Right

Gaff) Yeah, if you are going to go into a studio, why the fuck not use it as a studio?

Gregg) That was sort of our approach. We are going into the studio, let’s do what we want. Keep a live element to it, not make it sound too “Sgt. Peppers”, but if we want to overdub a guitar part or vocal harmonies, then why not do it?

Gaff) Especially if you have a singer that can do it, why cheat yourself

Gregg) Right, if you put in the right amount of energy live, an audience isn’t going to expect you to pull it off live.

Andrea) 3 of those songs have been previously released in different forms, Live at Jr’s. We didn’t intentionally try and do something different, but if you listen to the album and the video or live, you enjoy the songs for what they are.

Gaff) It is when you can pull it off live and in the studio is when you know something is happening.

Gregg) Right, especially when a band performs the album live note for note, why don’t I just stay home and listen to the record.

Gaff) I’d rather stay home and listen to Steely Dan if it is going to sound just like the album, fuck it.  So Billy recorded and mixed the album, who mastered it?

Gregg) Justin Weiss, out of Track Works in San Fran. He is Billy’s mastering guy and does all his albums. Billy said this is who you should go too as he understands how I record, the low end and that is who you should have master the album. So we took his word for it.

Gaff) So it sounds like the whole process was nice and easy?

Gregg)  I feel like it was pretty easy. Billy is a busy dude so it was just trying to find holes in schedules to get it done. Also, saving up enough cash to pay for it. 

Gaff) Talk to me about the Portland scene and the emergence of really amazing female vocalists.

Andrea) There has always been an incredible scene in Portland but people are more tuning into heavier music. I do think that Witch Mountain had a huge part in bringing female vocals fronting a rock n roll band to the forefront. Christian Mistress is another.

Gregg) It is weird how there does seem to be a strong contingent of woman who are involved in heavy music, people tend to move here for their art so it reached that peek where it became possible to do that thing and become more of the norm.

Gaff) For me it is so nice to hear a heavy band with melodic vocals

Andrea) It is so important and not to just have a good singer but a good drummer. If you have a band that has everyone firing at all cylinders at once and working really hard to play the best then it will show.

Gaff) So plans now to tour on the album?

Gregg) Not a full US tour but up and down the coast and into Colorado and Nevada and then Psycho in August.

Gaff) What night you playing?

Gregg) Friday night

Gaff) So are we (Gozu).

Gregg) I can’t wait for that, it is going to be crazy

Andrea) Yes it is

Gaff) The only word I can come up with is interesting regarding that weekend.

Gregg and Andrea) That’s a good way to describe it

Gaff) So in September, Europe, will this be your first time?

Gregg) Yes

Gaff) How did u hook up with Heavy Psych and the fact that Gabe also books tours, did that come into play?

Andrea) Totally

Gregg) For sure. When we finished the album and started shopping it. Gabe let us know that he also booked tours in Europe and threw it on the table right away. So that was a deciding factor for us because we all wanted to do it and it made sense.

Gaff) So everything is going great

Andrea)  We are committed to seeing this through. This is our band for as long as we are together. This is so important to us. We didn’t set out to get signed or go to Europe. These things, like you said about the record coming natural, this is also just a natural progression for the group. We are not foolish enough to say no, this is the dream you know.

Gaff) The dream is going pretty well.

Andrea) Thankfully you know

Gregg) We just wanted to write some songs and play some shows and then to have these other things, Europe, Psycho, it is all gravy and we are just happy to take every opportunity to play.

Andrea) I just wanted to sing more.

Gaff) The natural progression is nice. Start on a Monday night, then asked to play a Thursday, a Saturday night, then you get 3 free Miller Hi Life’s, fuck it, you made it,

Gregg) Throw in a couple free tacos, yes.

Gaff) I have to ask as people love gear, so what are you playing?

Gregg) A Rickenbacker and the same SVT that I had since I started playing bass in the mid 90’s. It has never failed me and I have never felt the need to go anywhere else. So the SVT, 8-10 and a few pedals.

Gaff) What are you using for pedals?

Gregg) I have an Old God pedal which is something that Billy turned me onto. It was a pedal a fan made for Billy. We used it on the bass tracking and ordered one. It is a guitar fuzz pedal but translates great to bass as you don’t lose any low end. I also use a wah pedal.  Trent has an old Marshall Super bass head. I think it’s one of the best sounding guitar heads out there. He also uses an Orange head also. He is constantly changing pedals also quite a bit. He is a great tone chaser. Also, plays an SG.

Andrea) We are lucky that Portland has a few pedal makers here. Mr Black, a store named Old Town Music, amazing pedals there.

Gaff)  Right on. So we talked about a ton, who came up with the name?

Gregg) It was one of those things as we had been looking for a name forever and once we knew we had something good going we kept asking what should we call ourselves. I remember sitting after practice and everyone was rattling off names and once Holy Grove came up, boom there it was. Everyone agreed right away. It just sounded perfect.

Gaff) It definitely generates the vibe of the group.

Andrea) We talked to our friend Nate, drummer in Witch Mountain and he was like, great name, you can read it, spell it, say it and looks good on a poster. I know the thing that we intentionally tried to steer clear away from was having the name somehow cue in that there was a chick in the band. We didn’t want to be pigeonholed in anyway. We wanted it to represent the individuals in the group.

Gaff) Yeah, you didn’t call yourselves, Josie and the Pussycats.

Andrea) Yeah, “Andrea and her rotating cast of characters”.

Gregg)  “Andrea and the dudes” that was the closest.

Gaff) So a lot of great stuff is happening. What makes you the happiest? Is it the friendships in the band, the high you get from playing or the fun you get from playing.

Gregg) For me it is when you are in the practice room and the first time you play the song through and it just clicks. The live show is something we all put a lot of emphasis on and we really try our best to leave it all on stage and bring it. Then the studio, capturing what you have been working on so hard. Also, my 3 best pals are the members of the band so it has been really rewarding for me.

Gaff) Andrea

Andrea) One of the best things since singing with Holy Grove is truly the relationship with my band mates. The months we spent hammering away at the songs are some of the best times of my life. Despite how sweaty, hot it gets there is no place I would rather be than with these dudes fleshing out these songs. When we lock in with each other’s rhythm it is unreal. To be able to experience the power of music is amazing. Also playing the live show, I am on stage and present but not really because it is like an outer body experience for me. Coming down from that high is intense. The fact that we spend all this time writing this music and we get it to a point where we want to play it for others and to have a stage to perform on is still, I am awestruck, I am seeing things for the first time and playing live shows in which people want to see us play live will never get old.

Gaff) Music is the only place where you can be yourself and there are no masks needed to be worn on stage. It is its our own pharmaceutical company. The first note, first pedal step, everything else is a wash. Thank you guys so much for taking the time and I will see you in Vegas.

Gregg) Thank you so much.

Andrea) Thanks Marc

Well after speaking with Andrea and Gregg, my opinion of them has catapulted higher than before our conversation. Hearing them discuss the enjoyment of the crafting of tunes, to the live performance, to the sincerity of the studio, how can you not root for this band. I know it is not cool to praise people these days or to say you truly enjoy what they do. Well to the people that still believe that, you can pick up your Jonas Brothers tickets at Wil Call.

Music, when created out of trust, desire and a spiritual goodness, should be placed in a spot where it can shine and be heard by the masses. That such place shall be Holy and in a pasture of goodness, a Holy Grove

Tranmission Ends

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