This Friday, experimental electronica group Holy Fuck is playing at the Canopy Club as a part of the Pygmalion Music Festival. I had the opportunity to interview founding member, Brian Borcherdt. Here’s what he had to say…
SP: When and where did the group originally form?
Brian: Some time in mid-2000 the band came together as a kind of concept. It formed from some friends living in Toronto. What happened is Graham (Walsh) and I remained constant, and we would have a different drummer or a different bass player play with us depending on what was going on. We would try to work together on stage, experimenting with some noise and sound equipment and guitar pedals. So we didn’t have a consistent line up, but all the time we were starting to get busier. We were asked to tour supporting Wolf Parade and Beans, people like that. As a result we’ve chiseled our way into being an actual band with four consistent members. That lineup started just three years ago.
SP: So you say the band started as a concept. How would you articulate the concept behind Holy Fuck? What was your vision when you first came together?
Brian: I’ll try my best to explain it without sounding like a pompous jerk. I was curious about trying to do something that had some sort of timelessness to it, maybe not even timeless as in a classic, but out of time, like out of sync with things around you. And I just noticed that when I listened to a record and heard the reverb and the synthesizer and all the man made aspects, they would have a certain time stamp to them. Especially with computers and having the ability to do a million and one things, and being able to color and texture everything exactly the way
you want to, it’s inevitably going to have some kind of mark of that individual or mark of that time in that person’s life and marker in time in terms of music. I don’t know if this will help, but say you work for a hotel and you’ve been asked to paint the hotel lobby, because the old paint is shitty and dated. They give you a million and one things to choose, and I think if you could choose exactly what you thought would be fitting and what would be smart and hip and agreeable to the patrons, I think ten years later you’re just going to have to repaint it again. People will be saying, “that’s so 90’s” or whatever. So I think if somebody didn’t let you choose any paint at all, and made you use one shitty, ugly, fucked up paint they found somewhere in their basement and said, “This is all you get, now get to work,” first of all, it’s not going to look very good, but it also is not going to look like anything. It’s just going to look weird. It’s not going to look 90’s, or current, or chic, and I guess with music, that’s what I wanted to do.
SP: Since your music is trying to achieve a sense of timelessness, a sense of not belonging in any time period, does it worry you that you’ve begun to structure your material more thoroughly?
Brian: I’m not worried about that. I think were losing a bit of that for sure, but I think it’s okay. When allowing [music] to evolve and change, you’re going to lose some aspects, and also have the opportunity to pick up other things along the way. In the beginning it was a bit more pure, or lost. We’d just press play and hit some buttons and run it through some distortion pedals and do some tribal beats over it. But I think because we kept at it and believed in it, we just got a little bit better at it. It’s not like reinventing the wheel or anything like that. It’s like spinning the wheel
in a different way, and learning to make it move.
SP: Would you group yourself in any sort of genre, or do you see yourself outside of genre entirely?
Brian: Definitely outside of genre entirely. I think all the music we listen to on a daily basis exists in something much more universal than any kind of genre. I mean, there are obviously things you can say, like “oh, that’s an afro beat feel,” or “that’s disco,” or “that’s more punk rock,” or “that’s heavy metal.” It’s good to have qualifying words to help us understand things, but I think the most exciting music out there takes influence from a lot of different sources. If the end results really fits within the confines of a genre, that’s fine, that’s great. I mean if I write something solo on acoustic guitar, that’s fine if somebody calls it something simple like, “indie” or, “folk.” It doesn’t cheapen the music. But Holy Fuck’s music is not written to fit, and that’s satisfying.
SP: Do you feel your band’s sound is complete? Do you feel there is something that can be added to better or complete the ideas you have in your head?
Brian: That’s a good question. I feel like it’s a mix. I feel like so much of the band is complete especially in the live setting, not only in what we have going on sonically, but also how people are interacting with it. That’s not to say I feel we’ve completed our vision in terms of what we can do. When it comes to a record, I feel this band can do so much more. I feel we owe it to ourselves as a band to make a complete record, or a complete vision, and this would mean taking time off the road.
SP: Would you consider an album or a live experience to be a more authentic experience of your music?
Brian: I prefer it either way really. I grew up as a music fan, and I didn’t have the ability to see live music because of where I lived. So, the most important thing to me in my youth was my favorite cassette or my favorite CD. Because we are playing live, I am seeing it from a different angle now. I feel like no band would be completely understood if they weren’t both a live act and a recorded act. I think right now a live show is where you really feel the energy, and I think there’s something special about that. That it happened in a temporal and spatial way. I think that’s still the most rewarding way to see our band.
SP: You guys have grown in success in a very short amount of time. Is this at all surprising? Is it daunting?
Brian: It’s totally baffling. I’m starting to sound like somebody’s grandfather, but with Myspace these days, it’s just vast the amount of information and material there is out there. It seemed to happen really fast. I mean, we’re not one of those bands that’s had a “hit” so to speak. Some songs stand out more than others, but we are not a band that’s a smash success that bloggers go crazy about and the next day we’re on everybody’s lips and playing the tonight show. We started this steady, consistent climb from the moment we started the band, and we haven’t hand any unpredicted spikes and jumps. It’s all just been a lot of hard work, and a lot of driving in the van. A lot of brain cells lost somewhere on the highway.
SP: Do you feel when you play these larger venues you are somehow losing connection with your fans?
Brian: I have felt that from time to time with a large audience, and I’ve also felt that in a small room. There are other factors at work in determining whether or not is a good show. Sometimes when were playing for a large crowd, something happens in terms of a unanimous spirit or a mass energy. Well be two-thirds of the way through the set and suddenly we’ll realize the whole crowd is moving together as one big mass, and they’re all jumping to the beat. It’s such an extraordinary sensation. I don’t feel like it would exist at quite that magnitude if it were a small club even if it was packed with 120 people. But you’re right; a small club can be a more intimate
SP: What’s with the name, and how has it helped or hindered your success?
Brian: I think we chose the name because we thought it was fun. If you really think about the expression it’s quite joyous and celebratory. It doesn’t mean anything ill, or bad, and when people get offended by it, really I just feel sorry for them. There’s also the “too cool” school that doesn’t like the name because it doesn’t fit snuggly into their world of hype where it’s not like a cute animal name, or it doesn’t bear the mark of the “hipster.” But really we can’t wish it any other way. I mean, were on the road. Were having a blast. Were playing shows and there’s
always an audience there. The good times are flowing, so it’s hard to have regrets.
Holy Fuck perform this Friday (9/24) at Canopy Club with Cut Chemist. Tickets are $10 in advance and the show begins at 9:30 p.m.
Image by Nicole Blommer/via Wikipedia (Creative Commons)