By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Nick Rogers.
Nowadays you can find anything on the internet. A band drops a new single and within seconds it’s blaring on computer speakers from New York to China. The image of an artist often circulates beyond the sound waves themselves. Everything is transparent, for better or for worse.
Holy Tunics is the anomaly to all of this. They’re a band that has somehow managed to slip past the media monster undetected–all you can find is a YouTube video of one song titled “Clutching the Straw Map to Your Heart.”
Luckily for them, it’s a damn good song. We won’t ruin the surprise for you, so check it out for yourself. In the meantime, here’s a word from the elusive Nick Rogers, principal songwriter behind the ever-secretive Holy Tunics.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): So you guys maintain a certain level of mystique. Besides a YouTube video, there isn’t a Bandcamp or a page to hear a lot of the music. Was this a conscious effort to stay off the grid, or is more of an online presence in the works?
Nick Rogers (NR): Well, yeah it was actually a conscious effort to not reveal everything right up front. Just through my past experiences with bands… For this one, we definitely wanted to mystique-build a little bit.
Before this I had a band called Hippie and we basically gave everything away. I’ve since discovered that the less you give away online upfront, the better it works out. People want to seek out the music. And we definitely want people to come to our shows, buy the vinyl or the cassettes, and come for the whole experience. We had somewhat of an idea to be an anti-internet band [laughs].
BTR: I can completely understand. Given that, do you plan on maybe releasing more tracks in the future, or are you going to stay in the shadows?
NR: Yeah, that first track is a demo and we’ve been in the studio. We have a record coming out on Sea Green Records in April. It’s going to be a 7-inch 45. We’re really excited about it. The band has spent the last couple of months developing; we’ve got all the members now, we’ve been playing out a lot live.
BTR: Playing out and honing your sound before spreading the image.
NR: Yeah, we wanted to really treat the songs with the respect they deserve by making sure they’re sounding right. You have to let the suspense build and see if anybody’s interested. We’re not in any rush.
It’s kind of like throwing a snowball through hell, getting your songs out there. So we wanted to make sure we had the best snowball before we threw it. [Laughs]
BTR: So this 7-inch that’s coming out–is it in the same kind of spirit as “Clutching the Straw Map to Your Heart”? Is there a similar thread in the sound, or is it something completely new?
NR: Well that song is going to be on there, but it’s a new version that’s recorded a lot better. I love the low-fi sound, the demo sound. We went to one of our pals at Space Cat Studios, Joey, who’s in a band called Savants. They have a lot of nice gear in there–old tape gear–and he’s a really chill, relaxed guy. We don’t usually like the “studio” vibe, where you pay money and everything is like, “We’ve gotta get this right, and we have to do it in a certain amount of time.” We like to take our time.
BTR: You said you really enjoyed the low-fi sound originally; did you maintain any of that essence? Obviously, you’re using more sophisticated audio equipment, but in terms of the rawness?
NR: Yeah, definitely. The equipment is slightly better. We went through the 8-track and I tried to maintain the “home recording” feel, except we got more people in the room and everyone’s doing their own part. But yeah, you’ll notice if you hear the songs there’s definitely some tape effects that you can only get with that old equipment.
BTR: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the writing of “Clutching the Straw Map.” What kind of headspace were you in while making it?
NR: A lot of my songs are, at least for this collection of songs, love-related. In terms of trying to make relationships work. That one is kind of a reflection on obsession and the courtship ritual: how traditionally a man finds a woman, takes her out on a date, and then they decide to get married. They have kids and follow the American dream and all that stuff. It’s kind of making fun of that, in a way, and touching on how love can be a very possessive, obsessive thing. It’s kind of ugly.
BTR: So what was your thought process on assembling that really interesting juxtaposition of black-and-white classic motifs with insects in the video?
NR: Well, there’s a lot of public archive material online that you can use. I was sifting through them and I was looking for something that would represent traditional courtship. And also, something that would really make people feel uneasy and a little disgusting. So I found this “How to Deal with a Housefly Infestation” video that they made in the ‘50s. And they made all these cool-looking “How to Ask a Girl Out on a First Date” types of videos too.
BTR: Reminds me of the nuclear family, all of those endless suburbs.
NR: There was actually another one that was a commercial from the suburbs and I grew up in the suburbs, around that sort of pressure. That societal pressure is still spilling over from the ‘50s mentality–consumer culture and all that stuff. So if you grew up in the suburbs, everyone kind of feels that, so it was nice to just find the source–which were these ‘50s propaganda movies. And it was also a cheap way to make a music video [laughs]. Plus I’ve always been a fan of collage art to get my point across.
So the flies are pretty disgusting, juxtaposed with the love story sort of thing… self-loathing sort of thing. I don’t know what it is. I don’t want to explain it away.
To hear more from the Holy Tunics, go catch them live! Or tune into BTR’s very own In the Den.