INTERVIEW: Holy Moly & The Crackers | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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In a world where we are exposed and connected to music and influences from all over the world, it’s not too far-fetched to say it’s becoming increasingly harder for music creators to find ways to really, truly surprise us with something new. This is exactly what makes Holy Moly & The Crackers so special. Bursting onto the scene eleven years ago with their debut album, First Avenue, this band has consistently roared with eyebrow-raising originality, blending sounds and instruments across genres in an exciting, new equation. Their decade-long incumbent has demonstrated they can time and time again create music which surprises and astounds, with each album different from the last, yet surmounted in energy, eclecticism and the raw, punky edge that has won them such a loyal and vocal fanbase.

This streak continues with the release of their latest album, Solid Gold this March. An album of tight rhythms and woozy riffs, it beams with a newness that’s set to delight fans and enthral new listeners. I spoke with their trumpeter, vocalist and guitarist Conrad Bird to discuss their inspirations, as well as what it’s been like as a member of Holy Moly & The Crackers over the last decade.

Key to the band, he tells me, is their closeness with each other. ‘We’re a family and that sticks you together like superglue.” Through creating, releasing and performing, music has given these musicians a closeness, a bond which runs deeper than friendship. Listening to their tracks, how the parts interweave and blend, the succinct timing and beautiful harmonies with no one overstepping the mark or drowning another other out, it is clear that their connection and understanding of each other is vital to how their music works together.

Conrad talked with me about the evolution of their music, and how it has reflected the different stages they have grown through during their 20s. “With First Avenue,” he says “We were making in the moment. We were new songwriters and in some way, I look at those songs and I can’t relate to them, they’re not technically ‘good’, but you know there’s an instinct there that brings its own magic.”

Solid Gold is a different thing, and in this moment, I feel like it’s our most complete album

Their journey as a band has led them through huge periods of growth, with ups and downs, wild times and quiet times – a global pandemic will have that effect! – and now with the creation of Solid Gold, an album of reflection, maturity and emotion. “Solid Gold is a different thing, and in this moment, I feel like it’s our most complete album,” Conrad says. “You end up looking at yourself in the mirror – what do we feel, what we want to write about, what makes us who we are as a band and as individuals, what music moves us, how do we create a sound that speaks to us. It was a natural, deeper process.”

The album takes the listener on a journey through upbeat, toe-tapping jives, driving and catchy choruses, to contemplative, folk-like acoustic numbers, like Come on Down, where the silky, spellbinding vocals of lead singer, Ruth Lyon will grip hearts with the captivatingly sweet chorus line, “Come on down/Down to the river we go.” Shimmering with spine-tingling swing and confidence, the album’s title track, Solid Gold, evokes late-night groove with soaring harmonies and leaping rhythms, harking of neo-jazz merged with indie-rock power, true to the band’s eclectic nature. Towards the end of the album, Jamie Shields’ bass riff in My Money oozes with boldness and a laid-back, unapologetic charm, danced around by the vocals, percussion and guitar in a perfectly irresistible head-bopping number. No track sounds like the one before, and each arrangement decision is wholly original and hypnotic.

I spoke to Conrad about their collaboration with two well-known legends in the world of mixing for the formation of Solid Gold, the Dutch sound engineer Wessel Oltheten and American producer Vance Powell. “It was almost the perfect iteration of the minimalism and soft touch of Europe vs the American monster-truck energy,” Conrad jokes, on the impact their influence had on the end result of the album. On Oltheten, Conrad told me about his guidance during the creative process. “He wanted to develop our sound. He said: “write the bass line, build a groove and let the vocals do the rest” He was very taken with Ruth’s voice and delivery and wanted us to give her that space to move and breathe.” And Vance Powell, six-time Grammy Award-winning record producer, is no small hand to have the help of. “He brought his own energy and gave the album fire” said Conrad. Through listening, it’s impossible to miss the expert and precise mixing style which has allowed this album to achieve a new lightness and freedom, displaying a definite progression from their previous releases. The end result swoons as a perfect record, a project of lyrical wit and eccentricity that listeners will surely cherish.

The album release comes with an announcement of Holy Moly & The Cracker’s biggest tour yet, with gigs in Germany, The Netherlands and the UK. Never straying too far from their roots, the band are also making a return to their hometown, the good and great Newcastle, for a concert at the Boiler Shop this April. I asked Conrad for his thoughts on this home turf performance. “I mean what is there to say but that’ we’re absolutely buzzing. We’ll be joined by some very good and old friends. It definitely feels like a celebration of the journey we’ve made so far. We want everyone who has shared that journey to be part of it.”

Holy Moly & The Crackers are releasing Solid Gold on Friday 17th March 2023 on Pink Lane Records. They play the Boiler Shop, Newcastle on Saturday 22nd April.


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