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 broekn 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 – more beautiful still for the contrast. It is these contradictions that might make Holopaw hard to describe, but harder still to ignore.
Holopaw is: Michael Johnson, Jeff Hays, Tobi Echevarria, Ryan Gensemer, and John Orth (also in Ugly Casanova)
Produced by Brian Deck
Released: January 21, 2003
Holopaw / Quit +/or Fight - SP639
Gainesville, Florida’s Holopaw (named after a Florida town none of them are from) rises to more textural, delicate artistic heights on Quit and/or Fight, the follow-up to their 2003 self-titled Sub Pop debut. Since the release of Holopaw the band has toured extensively with labelmates Iron and Wine and “Fruit Bats”http://www.subpop.com/artists/fruit_bats. You might also recall vocalist John Orth from Ugly Casanova’s Sharpen Your Teeth from a few years back; he co-wrote that with Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse).
Recorded by Mike Pecchio, resident producer at Scandalabra Studios in Brooklyn, NY, and with the aide of The Mercury Program’s Tom Reno and Dave LeBleu (strings and vibes) and Daedelus (winds), each dynamic track on Quit and/or Fight, tells its tale through sweet, understated and complexly orchestrated melody that engages as it soothes. Thick with strings, winds, drunken bossanova percussion (“3 Shy Cubs”), stomping, handclaps, wine bottles, synths, and thrift store furniture-as-instruments, the album shows a band unafraid of brash creativity and improvisational instrumentation. The album’s “Ghosties” showcases the strength of vocalist John Orth, a one-man choir swelling out of nowhere to run with the melody, and later the band’s deeply organic, thick fuzz-bass unearths the sweet lament of “Velveteen (all is bright).” Just when “Losing Light” threatens again and again to burst at the seams, Holopaw pulls back the reigns, quieting the song’s core back into a hush. The end result: an improbable group of individuals all coming together to create an album that is quietly moving, filled with small gestures that speak volumes.
Released: August 9, 2005