More Than Ever: Holy Fiction Takes The Future As It Comes

Holy Fiction is a rare kind of band — they’ve got influences, to be sure, but at the end of the day, they sound like nobody but themselves. They’re the sort of band other bands get compared to; they’ve managed to craft a sound that rides the line between indie-rock, mellow ’70s rock, and soulful folk, with a seriously poetic sensibility and intelligence to it all.

Ironically, the whole thing wasn’t some sort of grand plan, some masterminded vision of what a perfect, smart folk-rock band should sound like, but rather it came together organically, with members of Hemyah, Ethan Durelle, Winter Wallace, Pilot Drift, and A Pacific Model finding one another and fitting together like pieces of a puzzle none of them had ever even seen before. They built the songs in fits and starts, over the Internet and in person, and the finished product, 2010’s Hours From It, seems to have exceeded even the band members’ own expectations.

Fast-forward to now, and the band’s become a “real” band despite the distance between the band members, currently working on the full-length followup to Hours and playing together whenever they can. In the meantime, they’ve created their own “remix” companion effort to Hours From It, Hours From Dance, which takes the Holy Fiction songs and transforms them into synth-heavy ’80s pop masterpieces.

Naturally, they still have their day jobs — the rock life isn’t all limos and wild parties, after all. Violinist Sally Tawfik, for one, works as the director of the Dulles Middle School Symphony Orchestra down in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, and when the Dulles orchestra ran into financial difficulties, she and her bandmates decided to lend their support and perform Holy Fiction songs with the orchestra itself. That’s right: they’re collaborating with a symphony made up of middle-school students. Eat that, Metallica.

With the show looming on the horizon, SCR was fortunate to be able to chat a bit with Tawfik and singer/guitarist Evan Lecker, both about the show and the band in general.


 

SCR: How did the Dulles Middle School show come about?
Sally spearheaded this idea, and we thought it was great. She felt it would not only be a great opportunity for the band and the kids in the orchestra, but a way to bring attention and possibly financial support to the Dulles orchestra.

Was it challenging scoring your songs for an orchestra? Do you think that’ll drastically change the way the songs actually sound? I have to say, I’ve always thought the music itself is very symphony-like.
Sally invested a lot of time into it; I think she found it a bigger task than what she previously conceived, but technology is great, and there are a lot of great software programs out there to help you quickly transfer your ideas over to notes on a page.

What’s it been like working with the kids in the orchestra? How psyched are they about the show? And has the school been pretty supportive of the whole thing, I’m guessing?
The kids are super psyched to be playing a rock show. I think most orchestra kids are secretly metalheads and rockers underneath those fun tuxedos they’re forced to wear at concerts. The school is letting it go through, even after reading Evan‘s odd lyrics.

I know several of you are teachers; what do you think about the state of education today when it comes to music and art in general?
I believe that there are some incredible teachers in the field today reaching some of the most difficult and diverse kids, whether they be emotionally disturbed, intellectually disabled, gifted and talented, at-risk, or whatever.

Unfortunately, the powers that be in our state and federal government, whether well-intentioned or not, make it difficult for teachers to actually teach in any subject, including music and art. And even more unfortunate is that when it comes time to sink a program to save money, the arts go first. This inevitably means one group of kids’ creative outlets are denied within a school setting, while others are not. That is why it is so important for bands, organizations, boosters, and individuals to come together and support the arts; to take the initiative upon themselves to keep these programs alive.

Stepping to a bit of a different subject, this isn’t the first time you’ve reworked the Hours From It songs, right? How did you come up with the whole Hours From Dance idea?
It was a complete joke that Evan did one day on his computer. He was listening to too much Human League and Tears for Fears and thought it would be funny to do some short 30-second clips of a couple of Hours From It songs. He posted them on his Facebook page, saying that he had found some obscure Eastern European band that was ripping us off. His own sister thought he was serious.

Who did the reworking of all those songs, into what’s basically a dance-pop album? How strange was it to take your music and reassemble it like that, so it’s really something completely different?
Evan took the lead on that, doing all the parts on his computer and using samples of his son’s toys and household appliances. We all enjoyed it for what it was, kind of a fun little novelty to pull out at dull moments in life.

With the original Hours From It, I was extremely impressed at how mature an effort it was; it felt like you’d been playing together for decades. What’s the history of the band? Have you all really been playing together that long?
We feel like we’ve been playing together for a decade, but it hasn’t been four years yet, not til this July, or June; I don’t remember. We were all in bands for years prior to this outfit, so we’ve all learned how to work within a group setting, whether that be at practice, the studio, or live.

Hours From It was just one of those albums that was created at the perfect time. Within two weeks, Matt [Giessler] and Jordan [McCune] had left Hemyah, Evan’s band Ethan Durelle had broken up, and all three guys had a small collection of songs between them that they felt really good about. It was like the planets aligned just long enough for 38 minutes of music to be demoed.

I hear an interesting world-music resemblance lurking in the music on Hours — was that intentional?
No artist should ever be consciously deciding to make something sound “world” — whatever that means — or resemble anything he or she has been listening to. You can’t help using your influences, but that shouldn’t be your concern, and it’s definitely never been ours. We like to consider ourselves songwriters. If we want to use a kalimba, a saxaphone, an organ, we’ll do it if we feel it will bring something interesting to the listener.

There’s also a serious Peter Gabriel feel, at least to me. Is that something you guys are into? What would you call your primary influences?
Evan definitely listens to Peter Gabriel. But the songs from Hours From It that he wrote were written quite some time before he got into him. We’ve also heard we sound like Talk Talk. We love those artists and we’re sure it’s in there somewhere, but even with Talk Talk, none of us listened to them until Hours was completed.

Our primary influences vary month to month. We all listen to a huge variety of music. Honestly, some of it is not very cool to announce we listen to, but the great thing about being an artist is you can take super cheesy elements and make them your own without anyone knowing you’re listening to Blue Nile or Bruce Hornsby, in your car, alone…dang it.

Looking forwards, you’ve been working on a new full-length for a while now — what’s that going to be like? Does it follow on pretty closely from Hours From It? Or is this going to be a new direction for the band?
It has some familiar elements to it, namely us. We have a new rhythm section now. TJ [McLemore] from Ethan Durelle has joined us on the bass, and Jordan Brace has taken up drum duties. We really dig what those guys have created together, it’s very muscular but still artful.

We’re very happy to have been able to work with Louie Lino (Nada Surf, matt pond PA). It’s always a good time when the guy behind the board likes your music and actively participates in the creative process, instead of moving sliders and clicking “Save.” He knew what kind of a sound we needed and what it is we wanted to accomplish in the studio and brought a lot of depth to the record.

Did the Dance album influence the new “real” songs at all?
Not really, but it did send some of us on an ’80s movie binge on Netflix.

How has the actual recording been going?
It’s done! We’re done tracking. Probably the most relaxing recording experience of our life.

What’s the songwriting process like? Is one person the primary songwriter, or is it more of a group thing?
The initial song is either one of Evan’s, Matt’s, Jordan’s, or a combination of those guys. When we get together, there are rarely any jam sessions. We just don’t have time for unfocused fiddling. We have an objective: complete a song and demo it, whether you like your part at that moment or not; you can always change it later.

Those three have never really told the rest of the group what specifics to play. It’s like they give us a blank page with “a” at the bottom and “b” at the top and say, “Here’s the map, draw the line any which way you want, just make it pretty.”

Do you still have the distance issue when it comes to writing songs and playing together? I know that at the start, at least, you were all spread out across Texas…
We still are, unfortunately, spread out. However, the Internet has been our saving grace, with passing demos back and forth, having long email chains; smart phones have been very useful, as well. Hopefully, one day soon we’ll be within at least 20-30 minutes of each other.

When are you planning on releasing the new album?
No specific date just yet, but we will be playing some of these songs at our upcoming shows.

Beyond the forthcoming album, what’s the plan for the future of the band? Touring, SXSW?
We kind of take things as they come to us. The fact that we’ve done as much as we have so far has been a surprise to us. SXSW is on the books this year, as well as several other festivals. We’ll be releasing more information about when you can come see us as we get it.

Speaking of future plans, I’m told you’re looking at different record labels — is that for the new album? And can you say who you’ve been talking to?
We’ll let you know if anything comes up. END

[Holy Fiction is playing a benefit for the Dulles Middle School Orchestra Program 2/4/12 at Roger Auditorium (500 Dulles Ave., Sugar Land), along with the Dulles Middle School Symphony Orchestra.]
SOUNDS:

Interview by . Interview posted Friday, February 3rd, 2012. Filed under Features, Interviews.

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