Interview: Holy Esque, GSA, 7/5/16

You’ve recently played in the USA, how did crowds there compare to say those in Glasgow? Is there a noticeable difference?

Kier: Yeah, I think it’s different. I think it can be more difficult at home obviously because you’re from Glasgow; a lot of the time, the people at the gigs, you can quite often recognise and know. It’s nice to be in a new place, where you’re playing to people who you’re new to.

Ralph: Yeah, American crowds can be more engaging as well. A lot of them come and speak to us after, maybe it’s the first time they’ve seen us, but they’ll ask where we’re from and whether we have a record out.

Pat: The British people are a lot more cynical whereas Americans are much more open to new things, new ideas and new bands. They’re definitely very welcoming and warm as a people.

How important was the Glasgow live music scene in shaping the band and giving you a platform to start off?

Kier: I guess it was good, but I think it’s a subconscious thing, like, we didn’t go out to be seen or be a part of the scene, but it’s always good to be from somewhere where there’s so much good stuff happening, but so much shite stuff as well. I guess it did have an impact, because it made us know where we don’t want to be, and at the same time aspire to achieve what some Glasgow bands have.

Pat: We benefitted from it, but we weren’t actively involved in a scene. We weren’t like hanging about with 5 different bands and being in the whole same circle of nonsense, we weren’t involved in anything like that.

Have you got any peers or influences within the Glasgow scene?

Kier: Not really, I think you can be in danger of repeating what’s come before you.

Pat: I mean, speaking of bands coming from this area, Jesus and the Mary chain are a big one, but as Kier was saying, there isn’t really anything that has directly influenced us and that ties into how we approach our music as a band, we try to think outside of the box.

What have been some of the more memorable experiences whilst touring?

Pat: There are some things I definitely shouldn’t tell you! I think Glastonbury was definitely a highlight in terms of touring.

Did you stay the full weekend?

Pat: Yeah, it was arguably the best weekend of my life! A part of me is still there sat in stone circle! European tours are always great. I think we just enjoy touring in general. Texas was amazing; we had such a great time. America is just so fun, we’ve got a lot of friends there and we have a connection to it because we’ve been 5 times. We just enjoy going away, we’ll say we had a good time here, we had a good time there, but we’re always having fun.

Have you managed to get a bit of travelling in between gigs?

Pat: If we’re going somewhere we try and stay at least a day after the show to see the place. We’re going to Ukraine next week, we’ve got a couple of days in Kiev after the show, it’s pretty mad man, it’s soviet y’know.

Ralph: It’s just the idea that we’re going all the way there for one gig, so we’ll make our own way and stay a couple of days.

Pat: We played Estonia years ago and when you get the opportunity to experience these kind of places it’s actually quite rare, we make the most of it.

“At Hope’s Ravine” has taken a little while to record, could you tell us a little about the album, and whether you have any personal favourites on it and why?

Pat: We officially started recording the album in 2013 in Copenhagen. It was a long process, not intentionally, it was just the way things worked out, we were quite unlucky with a lot of people and certain things kept on holding us back and getting in the way, but we got there in the end. It was definitely more overdue than we initially anticipated, we’re happy with it though. It’s been critically acclaimed with most places giving it 4/5, so we’re happy with that.

Pat: As for personal favourites, for me, ‘Prism,’ ‘My Wilderness’ and ‘Covenant’, we love them all really. But we’re maybe biased in a sense that the newer songs are fresher on our minds, so we enjoy playing them more than the other ones because some songs are quite old and it’s quite a career spanning album. I guess it’s the best possible representation of Holy Esque that we could’ve achieved at this point anyway, and we’ve got our sight set on Album two now.

How different has it been putting an album together compared to an EP?

Ralph: It’s frustrating because we recorded 17/18 songs maybe, and because we were putting it onto vinyl, it was a problem, because there’s a time limit for vinyl to cut into and we didn’t want to have a double LP for our first record, because that’s asking a lot for the fans to spend – however much it is for that. So we had to cut it right down, so we were really struggling with what songs to put on, it was kind of frustrating almost, we kept a lot of songs off that we thought would work well together, so we kind of settled for less. We were left with 4/5 songs that we couldn’t put on the album.

Chug/ Hugo: In terms of differences between the EP and the album, for the album we had another 2 weeks somewhere just outside of Brighton, so we had a lot of time to experiment with ideas. Whereas with the EP, it was just a case of trying to get it out quickly.

Pat: It certainly is a very different process. Because the EP is crammed within a short space of time, whereas with the Album you’re meant to let it breathe and grow and you get your teeth into the whole process for an extended period of time. In terms of the actual recording, it’s a long period where you get to experiment and stuff. Essentially it’s a lot more rewarding to do an album, it’s a much bigger experience. You can’t really say a lot in four songs, it’s just a glimpse, it’s just a  hint of what’s to come really, it’s like a promotion sort of thing, but that sounds black and white, it’s just a kinda insight into what we’re trying to achieve with an Album I think. That’s the way I always perceived it, it’s like an introduction to ideas and by the time it comes to the album it all grows and forms itself. Very different experiences.

With regards to what you’ve just said, what have been the biggest challenges in recording?

Pat: Definitely finance, that’s always been the biggest sort of building block from the beginning and it is still to this day. It’s just a constant struggle. People aren’t really investing in music and a lot of people are ignorant of what it takes to operate in a modern day band, it’s quite staggering how mental it is, and people aren’t buying music and stuff like that, the whole system is broken, it doesn’t work and it’s people like us that suffer, so that without a doubt has been hardest thing to deal with. But we’ll get there, we’re chipping away at it and hopefully by the next year, or the next year… One of them (laughter) it’ll get easier.

Were there any songs that took a lot longer to record because they evolved considerably during the process, or they had a deeper meaning to you than other songs?

Pat: I think we genuinely involve as much time in each song- some songs will be more technically difficult to get right on the first take, but I would like to think that we spend an equal amount of time on each track. Maybe we have personal favourites, in terms of parts of a song, but I think it’s the whole thing.

Considering how long At Hope’s Ravine took to record, do you feel as though your sound evolved a lot during the process?

Pat: I don’t think we changed it intentionally, I think we grew and evolved as a band. It’s a natural process, the more time you spend with each other, the more time you get to know each other and better understand each other when you’re playing. It always grows and sound is just something that develops naturally, and we’ll introduce new techniques and equipment and it moves on. But it’s not something that we consciously think about.

Ralph: We never think ‘Oh we’d need to do something different now, we need to change it up a bit’ it just happens.

Pat: Exactly, because you can’t really force it, whenever you try to force ideas then it’s just going to turn shite. It will sound forced, it won’t sound the way it’s supposed to be.

I know that Ralph and Kier attend The Glasgow School of Art, and you’re keen to retain as much control as possible over the visual aesthetic of Holy Esque. Do you think that is something you think about more than other groups?

Kier: I would hope so.

Ralph: I think from the start, we’ve never just put a song out, we’ve always had in mind some visual aesthetic to go along with it. We spend so long writing songs and recording and practising them, that I feel it’s important to keep the visual side in mind. I think you should put out a visual side and try to retain complete creative control. If you put out a song you don’t want a record label to put their own image to it, I’m very conscious of having creative control over the whole package.

What are you studying and what year are you in?

Kier and Ralph: We both do graphics, we’re in third year, I mean we’ve taken 5 years out.

Can you tell me anything about the bands logo?

Kier: We were interested in how the cross is probably the most recognised symbol in the world and if we made our own interpretation of that and put it up in as many places as we could, then other people would maybe subconsciously recognise it. It was more the idea that if we put up this logo then people would know that it was our band without our band name beside it. Hopefully some people can now.

There’s been a lot of instant hype around your band. Do you feel that this has affected you as a band and your experience of the music industry?

Kier: Yeah definitely, when we put out our first song, everyone was trying to get us. But we got our hopes up a bit too soon, we thought that because of the response we got, it was going to be easy and we were going to get signed. We had loads of meetings and we went down to London and then it turned out that the majority of people had been talking shite. We’d only been making music together for 6 months.

Chug/ Hugo: We weren’t ready for it in any sense, we still might not be ready for it now in all honesty. It was just such a surprise; we were young boys, 18.

Pat: Yeah, I mean, we literally had 4 songs. When you asked us about the process of the EP, it was the only 4 songs we had.

Kier: (Laughs) Yeah, we had four songs, whenever we got asked how many songs we had, we’d always lie, we’d always say we had either 17/ 18 songs.

Pat: It was just quite a shock to the system, we were part of the hype machine, we were on blogs all over the world. It was a learning curve, because at the end of end of the day we weren’t ready for it and we can see through the bullshit now.

People have donned your band as being ‘mysterious’, how do you feel about this supposed tag?

Pat: I think that’s to do with the logo actually

Kier: Yeah, when we first started, we thought ‘who the fuck cares about what we look like’, we were just wee guys who’d made a song and we liked the idea of putting a symbol instead of photos of ourselves. We didn’t want any photos. One journalist called us mysterious because we didn’t have any photos and then some other guy just leeched on it and it all snowballed

Pat: You see that a lot in music journalism, it’s all kind of just recycled.

Do you use social media a lot?

Pat: Only as much as we have to, probably more than we used to, but very hesitantly. It’s all shite really.

Yeah, you see a lot of bands using Instagram as a part of their identity.

Pat: Yeah exactly, it was one of the major plans when we first started, why do bands feel the need to post about their daily routine, or what they’re doing all the time, it just seems over the top and unnecessary. I don’t need to know this information. I just want to hear your music. To me this status of celebrity has become all about self- gratification and bullshit posts. That’s what I think anyway. Obviously there are lots of benefits to social media, we realise that and we do use it. But it can become too much, I feel it moves away from what’s really going on and it should just be about people making music. It just becomes quite trashy I think, the whole experience.

I appreciate that people want an insight into the bands they love and all that, I just don’t think anyone finds a balance these days, it just becomes all about social media rather than the band itself.

Even the sense of celebrity doesn’t exist anymore, because everyone knows everything about everyone. The modern day celebrity doesn’t exist anymore, if you back in time, it would be this really mysterious thing, it would be these people who’re on top of the world and who you don’t know anything about.

Were you friends before forming the band?

Pat: Not really, we became friends.

Do you think not knowing each other as well as say other bands do when they form helped or hindered in any way?

Pat: There was a lot of benefits that came from us all coming from different walks of life, because we all had different influences and came from different places. So when you’ve got four different people coming at it from four different backgrounds, with four different angles, it’s definitely going to help creatively because you’ve got four different minds, rather than four mates who’ve gone to the same school and live round the corner from each other, they’re all coming from the same thing and they’re all probably going to be into the same thing, so they’re only going to take it in one direction. Whereas we’ve got a lot of different things going on and I think we’ve really benefitted from it.

Ralph: In terms of music, we definitely influence each other.

What are your influences, do you all have similar tastes and distastes regarding music?

Pat: we’re all into a lot of similar stuff, but we all come at it from different angles.

Any Key influences?

Kier: It changes everyday, there’s aspects of everything we like.

Ralph: I mean recently we’ve been asked by various blogs to choose two favourite songs each and write about them.

Pat: I mean you find a piece of music that you love and you play it constantly and then you forget about it, so it really does change all the time, I can never pick one thing.

When is the second Album coming out?

Pat: I would love to have the next album out next year, it’s good psychologically to always be working on something.

[Beth Dixon]

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