Being raised for half of our adolescence in a city with the word “beach” in its name, we find it difficult not to reflect on surfing when under the spell of Holy Wave.
But it’s not necessarily the surfing of sport, skill, and tragically-tight corduroy shorts from OP that we’re paddling toward – nor do we believe it to be the destination of Holy Wave, the group of land-locked Texans who find their epic sound-waves to be a part of Austin Psych Fest for two years in a row.
Rather, it’s a sense of spiritual that we reflect upon when sound-surfing on the face of a Holy Wave. It’s a place full of heart and volume, with enough velocity and air pressure present to keep the threat of a total wipe-out real and present, wrapped within the folds of our brain.
Remarkably, Holy Wave keep their sound-waves from cresting and crashing too soon, making for a smooth but crucially loud ride toward enlightenment or fried amplifiers, whichever comes first. On their magnificent recent LP, “Knife Hits,” the band cuts deeply into that sound, offering the listener the sensation of languid levitation.
But to take our typically-tortured surfing analogy even further out to sea, consider “Surfing into Spirituality and a New, Aquatic Nature Religion,” Bron Taylor’s epic essay printed in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Taylor makes a compelling case for finding the holy somewhere in the wave. Here, he quotes the author of “The Encyclopedia of Surfing,” who declares:
“When wars and flags and religions and nations and cities and rockets … are gone, there will still be an order of things far beyond the order of power-crazed men. It will be the order of a universe at equilibrium with all natural forces in balance.
And that’s what riding a wave is.”
Replace the act of getting tubed with getting down with vacuum-tube-driven musical amplification, and you’ll have found the wave on which we wish to ride.
Day one of this year’s Austin Psych Fest will get off to an ear-melting start on the Beauty Bar stage, with Holy Wave following the formidable sound-surfing of fellow fry-guy Al Lover. We feel fortunate to be on the same wavelength, and fortunate to share the interview with Holy Wave below. Enjoy.
Is there a single musical experience – first time seeing a certain band, most intense live performance, etc. – that you can pinpoint as being central to your musical evolution? What was it about that experience that makes it so memorable for you? How do you think it continues to inform your music today?
Julian: I think seeing My Bloody Valentine with Spectrum in ’08 was pretty big for me. Kyle and I, along with our old guitarist Ryan, got tickets to both nights in Santa Monica and the whole thing was amazing. We planned the trip to where we would drive to L.A. from El Paso, then the drive back was our move to Austin. So seeing MBV right before we set off to another city to start a band definitely changed us, I think. We all fell in love with the wall of sound that trip. I think we try and maintain that aspect in our sound but change is happening so often I never know what the next tune is gonna be like.
How do you see your musical interests having shifted or expanded over the years? Can you think of something – or some one – within music that you appreciate more now than even a few years ago? What album would the younger you be most surprised to learn that you now really enjoy?
Julian: I think we’ve just been rediscovering all the great stuff we grew up with but have sorta taken for granted. Like the Stones and the Beach Boys and all that great shit. I never thought I would be into Harry Nilsson or E.L.O. but Kyle has developed somewhat of an obsession with both so I’ve developed my own appreciation because of that.
Kyle: Jeff Lynne is a “holy” man.
Music’s connection to the “holy” is nothing new, going back at least as far as the earliest Islamic and early Christian cultures, though perhaps out of favor with many populations of listeners today. What does this word mean to you, as it relates to music? What led you to choose the name for the band? What misconceptions, if any, have arisen about the band with regard to the name?
Kyle: It’s kind of like the “God” particle. Kinetic energy exists in everything, no matter how dense. There is a constant motion to all matter. You could say the ‘holy’ wave is the vibration of the ever-humming universe.
We’re more than a little taken with your “Knife Hits” LP, not least because it sounds absolutely huge pouring out of the stereo speakers. Was there anything in particular you wanted to accomplish with this album? Is there a special significance to the album’s title? How do you feel the band has evolved since recording “The Evil Has Landed”?
Julian: Well, I’m glad you like it, man. The combination of loud and pleasant sounds was something we tried to bring to harmony on the album. We really like playing loud and that’s something that is kinda hard to translate on recording. We were originally going to call it “Hits,” but it just didn’t sound right for our first album. Hash was plentiful throughout that last album for some reason, so naturally we were doing a lot of knife hits. After I said “knife hits” in my mind it just seemed appropriate. I think the next record is coming along super bad-ass. I’m actually pretty excited for other people to hear the new recordings.
What can you tell us about what is possibly our favorite song on the album, the wonderful “Gris”? Was this song influenced more by Dr. John, or by Greg Ashley’s band, Gris Gris? What can you tell us about perhaps our second favorite song on the album, “Arab Spring”? Are we hearing the vocals correctly when we hear them sing, “Laughing in the sun/we are one, one, one, one …”?
Julian: Gris was just us trying to get our MBV on.
Kyle: You are correct on the lyrics. “Arab Spring” is a celebration of shared experience. It’s about the revolutionary feelings that can occur when we, as individuals, can fully comprehend the connections we share with the people, situations and environments we’re surrounded by. Whether it’s at a concert, a movie, an acid trip on an island, or a protest in Tahrir Square, the feeling of oneness is something worth celebrating.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite Shapes Have Fangs song and why?
Julian: The Beatles.
Kyle: Jimmie “The Singin’ Brakeman” Rodgers.
Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that you guys have decided not to play Austin Psych Fest this year, in order to concentrate on your new food truck called “Holy Crave”?
Kyle: We actually have ideas for food trucks all the time. Being from El Paso makes us cook better Mexican food than most people, and we feel like we should exploit these talents for financial gain. We also have great material for sketch comedies, motion pictures, multimedia festivals and Fortune 500 companies. Unfortunately, we have neither the time or overhead to manifest these golden ideas.
What was your experience like at Austin Psych Fest in 2011? Are there any bands in particular playing in 2012 that you are most excited to see?
Julian: It was pretty surreal. Seeing Sonic Boom pass by when you’re just walking around an old power plant is pretty weird. It felt like a modern day rock-n-roll circus or something. Definitely an honor to be a part of. For this year’s festival I’m quite excited to see The Paperhead. I’ve been digging them a lot recently. I saw Quilt a few weeks ago but I’m still really excited to see them. And BJM of course.
Kyle: Dirty Beaches simply blew my mind off. The Vacant Lots were great last year and I’m excited to see what they’ve been up to. Olivia Tremor Control is very intriguing, and I’m anxious to see what the live show is like. The Black Angels always put on a great show and I’m sure they’ll be introducing some new sounds. And BJM of course.
Albert Schweitzer – a fairly holy German fellow and undoubtedly a huge Ash Ra Tempel fan – wrote the following:
“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me.”
Kyle: People are programmed only by experience whether they like to realize it or not. As an intelligent, compassionate and selfless man, he was hyper aware of this phenomenon.
This sort of philosophy can help lead us to a happiness, unattainable by those doing what they want in favor of what they know inside they’re supposed to do. I guess you could say he’s referring to a “holy” existence based less on our desires and goals and more on the process and the journey.
Julian: I think we’re a stubborn wave that thinks it can exist for itself.
What’s next for Holy Wave?
Julian: Hitting the road in May and finishing another record.