Smile Politely

Hallelujah and such: Gospel Music

You may be asking yourself, “what the hell, why is there a gospel music show at Mike ‘N Molly’s?” Well, there isn’t. I’m not talking about the Sister Act kind of foot stomping, sky grabbing, hallelujahing gospel music. I’m talking about Gospel Music, an up-and-coming indie-pop band led by Owen Holmes, the bassist of Black Kids. The band, which put out its first full-length album, appropriately named How to Get to Heaven From Jacksonville, FL, this past fall plays raucous and up-beat style of indie-rock that is a pretty safe bet for some kind of an experience this Friday night at Mike ‘N Molly’s, religious or otherwise. 

Gospel Music, at its core, is a fun band. They sound like dancing away a hang-over feels like the night after a long night of drinking and dancing, it’s a bit familiar but god damn it feels good anyways. Holmes brings the same kind of pop edge that his primary band, the Black Kids, feature as well. This is bottle tappin’ twee that is always loose, smart, and has a great time. The main single from How to Get to Heaven from Jacksonville, FL called “This Town Doesn’t Have Enough Bars For Both Of Us” somes this up pretty damn well.

I caught up with Holmes this week while he was out on the road in preparation for his show this Friday at Mike ‘N Molly’s. We talked about twee pop, loose women, and Jacksonville. I hope you enjoy and I hope you come check out one of Kill Rock Stars’ best new-ish artists.

Smile Politely: So let’s get started. Are you still touring for your first full-length album, How to Get to Heaven From Jacksonville, FL?

Owen Holmes: Yup. That’s correct. We are also doing one or two new songs, but it will be mostly that album and a few songs from the EP Duets that came out before that.

SP: So you are traveling with a full band then?

Holmes: Yup. We are traveling with a full band. I feel like it is a pretty close approximation of the albums. There are five of us so it’s pretty full. Bass and drums and keys and all of the guitars and stuff.

SP: On How to Get to Heaven From Jacksonville, FL, and also on the earlier EP Duets, it sounds to me like there is a definite twee-pop influence driving the work, would you say that is a fair assessment?

Holmes: Ya, totally. Ya. I don’t know. I guess some people consider that word, twee that is, a pejorative. But, no, that is what I was going for so if someone calls it that I then I feel like I did my job.

SP: Well, I definitely don’t consider that a pejorative. 

Holmes: Well you are my kind of guy then.

SP: There may be some readers that haven’t heard your solo stuff, so if you had to describe it to someone off the street how would you go about describing it?

Holmes: Um, I guess most simply is indie-pop. I feel like it is, especially live, bouncy and jangly and danceable even. And I take a lot of pride, or I put a lot of effort into the lyrics, so I kind of feel like that is one of my strong points. And it is also pretty heavily Magnetic Fields influenced. Stephin Merritt has been huge for me the last few years so that’s probably the most, well, at least I would like to think that is the most, obvious kind of touchtone for it.

SP: Speaking of the songwriting, most people probably know you as the bassist from Black Kids, so, as far as the songwriting, and even the production, how has this experience been different than your role with Black Kids?

Holmes: Completely, as far as recording goes. Well, Black Kids started as a quote unquote local band too. Or a fledgling group like any other group. But when we made our full length that, you know, that was in a studio in London with a huge budget with Bernard Butler, the guitarist from Suede. So it was pretty, uh, exquisite experience where as I made this record, essentially, in my apartment. I made it myself by kind of pointing a microphone at whatever I was playing. I was really just learning as I went, but, those differences not withstanding, I think the two groups actually have a lot in common in that both bands play kind of short, concise, attentively clever pop songs.

SP: So, I saw you recently released “This Town Doesn’t Have Enough Bars for Both of Us” as a single from the album, are you touring with any special releases or anything else along those lines?

Holmes: Well, that song was just an excuse to do a couple remixes, but, no, I wish I could say there were but there aren’t. While we love the album that we just put out, like most artists I’m already kind of looking ahead. So, when this tour ends in a couple weeks I’m going to start recording the next LP and we have a January or February release date slated for that.

SP: Great. That’s awesome.

Holmes: And, in as much as what you are listening to is a reflection of the music you make, I guess I have been listening less to the Magnetic Fields and some British pop like the Smiths and I think it is going in that direction.

SP: Cool. So, let’s get back to How to Get to Heaven From Jacksonville, FL. A lot of those songs sound like they have a decent dose of love in the foreground, is there a particular narrative that was driving your lyrics and your songwriting?

Holmes: Ya, I guess the narrative is that of my series of failed relationships. Most of the songs start with an experience that I’ve had with, it sounds so trite, with a girl or whatever. And sometimes that story is interesting enough to not have to embellish, but most times I end up twisting the narrative in a particular song to make it more interesting. But ya, they are all kind of rooted in romantic woes. Even the song about running is basically a love song.

SP: You are from Florida, right?

Holmes: Yup.

SP: From Jacksonville?

Holmes: Yup.

SP: Ok, so say for instance I’m going to take a trip somewhere. Convince me to go to Jacksonville. What’s going on down there?

Holmes: (laughs) You are asking the wrong guy. I don’t think the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is going to win any awards any time soon. I don’t know. I mean, it’s a big city. It’s actually the biggest city in the United States, land wise.

SP: Ok, wow. I didn’t know that.

Holmes: Ya, and it’s largely kind of southern, in a bad way, but there are a couple of cool neighborhoods that are great like you would find in any other big city. But, I think, the real advantage to Jacksonville, and probably not many people like myself take advantage of it, is the nature of it. You can be at the beach, I mean, it is on the coast, so depending on where you live you can be on the beach in 30 minutes. So it is nice to have that. I like to go fishing and work out songs at the beach. Hopefully that doesn’t come across in the music though. I’m not really going for the beach vibe. But ya, it’s beautiful and I’m a big time runner and it is really great for that. There are some great dive bars but it doesn’t really compare to Chicago or Champaign for all I know.

SP: Well we like it here, but you can judge for yourself. So, last question. Let’s go with a random tour question. Favorite meal while out on the road so far?

Holmes: Seattle’s Pike Place Market last week, I had a Dungeness crab grilled cheese sandwich from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. And a Virgil’s root beer.

Gospel Music is headlining Friday, June 8th at Mike ‘N Molly’s along side Megan Johns as well as Pamela Machala. The show is $5 and start at 9:45 p.m.

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