Holopaw, a five strong, ragtag group of string-benders, knob-twiddlers and finger pickers from Gainesville, Florida, came to our attention by way of Isaac Brock (he and Holopaw's John Orth co-wrote some of our favorite songs on the Ugly Casanova record). Isaac played us their demo and we haven't been the same since. Throughout, human fragility teeters on the edge of electric malfunction, dutifully powered along by pedal steels and steel pedals alike. We quickly came to realize that the strength of this band lies in the many contradictions they present: stripped acoustic arrangements are unsettled by electronic pulses and swells that fade in and out of songs like the warble of a short-wave radio. The sweetest melodies are splintered with stories of broken backs and horses tangled in bridal veils. A sweet, spare vocal track is suddenly pulled under by a rush of dark, spiraling voices, only to surface again â€” more beautiful still for the contrast. It is these contradictions that might make Holopaw hard to describe, but harder still to ignore. We asked our friend Isaac Brock for his own description.
Holopaw Holopawâ€™s from Florida, theyâ€™ve been playing together there, in one form or another, for the past three years. I moved to Gainesville, Florida by accident shortly after they started playing together. And I wasnâ€™t really all that thrilled when I first arrived, 'cuz, like everyone else, I assumed Florida was all about Spring Break and the elderly. That's pretty much accurate - on the coasts. What I didn't realize was that the rest of Florida is also the Deep South and it's beautiful - bizarre and beautiful.
I'd lived there for a little while when I went out to see a band that a friend described as "the shit" (I guess that's good). I watched that band and then the following band, Holopaw. By the time Holopaw were done, I couldn't even remember that first band's name. I shit you not.
I don't believe that many people actually sing these days. Generally "singing" usually sounds like some sort of talking or yelling in tune. Bjork sings, Chan Marshall of Cat Power sings, that Thom Yorke fellow from Radiohead sings, and, yes, you saw it coming, John Orth from Holopaw also sings. That's what really grabbed me: the singing and the lyrics. With a quivering, liquid voice and lyrics that make you feel like you're standing there and smelling the air of all four seasons; the sky is the perfect color that it only becomes for a few minutes, every once in a while. You're heartbroken, you're in love, the world's not complicated.
John and I became friends and we ended up making the Ugly Casanova record together. But I also knew that someone needed to put out a Holopaw record so I figured I'd start a label. Holopaw went into Engine Studios with fellow Ugly Casanova member and producer Brian Deck. After they recorded it and after it became pretty obvious to me that starting a record label was more than I had time for at the moment, I played it for a couple of friends at Sub Pop. They loved it.
Florida, May 2002. Some friends from Sub Pop and I head down to watch Holopaw play a show. I was wondering what the vibe would be like for the show... Would it be at a bar? At some house party in the basement or living room? In some sort of warehouse? I was kind of anxious about this because I was already familiar with the vibe of the band, and wanted the situation, whatever it was to reflect the beauty and subtlety of Holopaw. We meet up at Mr. Orth's house to head over to the show. His friends and he are cooking food for the event: pulled pork, collards, and a variety of other southern treats. We head to the show, a pot of collards on my lap, and we drive through downtown. Not there yet. We hit the outskirts of town. Not there yet. We get to the countryside. Not there yet. We head up a dirt road to a house on a small lake. This is it. We all hang out and eat and have some drinks under torches. The atmosphere is soothing, comfortable and pretty fulfilling just as its own thing. Fireflies, the sound of frogs and no shortage of mosquitoes fill up the air. Holopaw plays, 1950â€™s parade footage drifting behind them all the while, and it's impossible to tell where the sound from the woods ends and the music begins. The whole feeling is so complete and well thought-out, and my only complaint? Why couldn't other people make music such a complete experience?