Holy Esque – In Conversation

Interviews "We didn't have a master-plan in terms of our approach, we just wanted to go into a space and make a racket"

Formed in 2011 at the Glasgow School of Art, Holy Esque have spent the past five years building a solid reputation as one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the independent scene. The Glaswegian post-punk outfit finally released their much anticipated debut longplayer earlier this year and Monday 25th April sees the band bring the record to Cambridge (tickets here).

Holy Esque formed in Glasgow in 2011. Frontman Hynes and keyboardist Keir Reid both grew up in post-war Lanarkshire new town East Kilbride, a place most usually known for its brutalist architecture and the birthplace of The Jesus & Mary Chain. Keyboardist Reid and drummer Ralph McClure met at the famed Glasgow School of Art (alumni include members of Franz Ferdinand, Peter Capaldi and generations of some of Scotland most eminent poets, writers and painters) and Hugo McGinley joined on guitar.

The debut album follows a clutch of exceptionally well received EPs, which saw the band play all over the world as an unsigned band. Produced by Grammy Award winning producer Jon Schumann (Mew, Kashmir), At Hope’s Ravine was recorded in variety of locations and countries and is a bold statement of Holy Esque’s life to date.

Holy Esque’s music is comprised of tones and textures. Peaks and troughs. Brush strokes and breaking waves of sound. Here chiming guitars interweave with emotive synth embellishments, and all shot through with Pat Hynes’ inimitable vocals, delivered from a dark place somewhere deep within his very centre. In anticipation of the show, we spent some time chatting with Pat…

At the time of writing, ‘At Hope’s Ravine’ is just about to come out, [the record is now out] what is this pre-release period of time like for the band?
It’s been an exciting time for us. ‘At Hope’s Ravine’ has been a long time coming, so the anticipation has been pretty overwhelming. We’re simply looking forward to getting out there and sharing it with the world.

You described the record as ‘overdue’; how does it feel to have it finished? Will you be reading reviews?
It’s a massive relief to have it finished and out there. Though more importantly, a great sense of achievement to be honest. I will read reviews as this is my first experience of the album process and how all that goes with regards to the media. Reviews matter, but only to a certain extent – from there everyday people’s opinions take over, those are the ones that truly count.

What was the hardest track on the record to finish and why?
In terms of the actual recording, we didn’t really face much difficulty. We re-worked several songs for the album which might have been tricky at times but it was more enjoyable than anything. The hardest part for us was probably the actual selection of tracks. By the end of it we had so many songs and we didn’t fully appreciate the constrictions of time placed on a vinyl so that got in the way too. I think we settled on the strongest possible album but it wasn’t easy.

Do you ever write a song with an eye on how it will sound / be received live?
For us, the live experience is what it’s all about. So to be straight forward with my answer, every song is written with a live setting in mind. Our music is very raw and forceful so it really comes to life when played loud and live.

Is the writing process quite democratic within the band?
Very much so, sometimes I will come forward with a song or an idea; other times we will simply see what comes when we play. We work on the songs together, live and it all goes from there.

Were the songs on the album written specifically for the record or have they been knocking around for a while?
It very much varies. Some songs have been with us since nearly the beginning and others might still be considered new. Because we’ve been together for five years, there’s a lot of material to choose from and we’re always looking to keep going and write new material.

How has the positive reception of your EPs and subsequent hype affected you as a band and work on the album?
The positive reception is of course welcomed and appreciated. Hype on the other hand, can be a strange thing. It’s great for generating attention and focus to an artist, but it can also destroy them. It places a level of expectation on an artist which can often be perceived as not being met for whatever reason. For us personally, we detach from all of if. We love making music and it’s as simple as that so we don’t let reception or hype interfere.

How different has it been putting an album together compared to EPs?
Massive. An EP is simply a glimpse or a subtle insight into a world of ideas. An album on the other hand lets you explore that world. The album process is quite liberating in that sense as you have so much room to try new things and really let your creative side go. We hope we can continue making albums for a long time as it really is a wonderful experience.

As a band, are you constantly working on new ideas for new material or are you going to get all the debut album touring out the way before thinking about the next release?
We’ve already began writing for our second album. I feel society with regards to music can be quite lazy in terms of the album process. Why should people have to wait three or fours years to hear one of their favourite band’s new offering? We always like to try new ideas out in the studio so we are always working or rehearsing something new.

When did Holy Esque first get together and what was your motivation for starting the band?
Holy Esque formed in early 2011 after myself and Keir had discussed starting a project for several months. Ralph attended the Glasgow School of Art with Keir, and Hugo worked in a bar with me. We didn’t have a master-plan in terms of our approach, we just wanted to go into a space and make a racket.

How much, if at all, is your music formed by Glasgow?
Glasgow is an incredible city. It really does bleed creativity. I think no matter where you are from, that place is ingrained in your soul and is going to influence your artistic output whether you’re aware of it or not. In terms of what’s formed by Glasgow musically, it’s hard to say. Maybe the content of the songs and the general feel of Holy Esque but who knows. All I can say is that it is without doubt an influence.

Hypothetically you’re going to DJ a disco for us, what is your go-to dance floor filler?
Currently speaking Outkast – ‘Roses’ or Cam’ron ‘Hey Ma’. Everyone loves R&B, don’t they?!

Holy Esque play The Portland Arms on April 25th
‘At Hope’s Ravine’ is out now

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