Holding Absence: “We’re slowly closing in on finalising what we think is the best thing we can put out.”

An interview from Slam Dunk Festival

Holding Absence: “We’re slowly closing in on finalising what we think is the best thing we can put out.”

By Mark Johnson

Jul 3, 2018 11:21

For a band without a full release to their name, Holding Absence have generated an impressive amount of attention in the past year. Singles such as ‘Dream of Me’, ‘Permanent’ and ‘St. Cecilia’ demonstrate huge potential and their live shows carry a remarkable amount of emotional energy. We caught up with the band at Slam Dunk Festival to get the latest news and discuss that all important, upcoming debut record.

This year marks the band’s first appearance at Slam Dunk, but they’re no strangers to the festival experience, having had the pleasure of playing Download Festival last year. For a band familiar with small, intimate club venues, their sound carried well in a large tent, helping them emerge as one of the stars of the festival last year.

“To be honest our sound is quite big,” explains vocalist Lucas Woodland. “When we play in clubs it’s our show as a band that makes it seem so accustomed to a smaller venue. But if anything it’s more natural to play big stages and bigger venues. If you see us in a club we want to be in your face so you can feel our sweat, but if we play on a big stage like we did at Download, we want that epic atmosphere to transcend and fill the tent.”

“The thing we always try and do no matter who we’re playing to or the size of the venue is give an honest performance,” bassist James Joseph continues. “I think no matter where we play, the people who like us can appreciate that we also appreciate them and the support we get. At Download we were all balling our eyes out before and after we went out there.”

This connection between the band and their audience is a vital component of their rising success. Always hanging around after shows to connect with their fans, and taking the time to communicate through social media, the trio have an obvious passion for what they do, and the environment they create is infectious. “It’s so important to remain humble and sincere about why you’re even doing this,” Woodland explains. “It’s so easy to get lost. We’re still to this day blown away by everything. I step out on stage and feel blessed that there’s ten people there never mind a hundred. Today we’re clashing with Creeper and The Devil Wears Prada and every person that chooses us over those two bands just blows my mind. We don’t take it for granted.” Joseph summarises by adding: “Some bands will walk on, sunglasses still on, and just want to get their money. We always said the day it turns like that for us – when it just becomes some shitty job – it’s over.”

Thankfully, far from being over, the Holding Absence journey has only just begun. Since the release of their first singles ‘Dream of Me’ and ‘Permanent’ back in February 2017, we’ve been treated to a steady stream of songs, up to and including March’s split EP with Loathe ‘This is as One’, and with each track having such consistent high quality, fans are eager to get their hands on a substantial release. While the band are keen to give fans what they’re crying out for, the opportunity to release a debut album only comes around once.

“It’s been no secret we’ve been working really hard over the past year. We’re perfectionists. We’re fans of Holding Absence too; we want the Holding Absence debut to be great and we have the option of making it great. We could’ve rushed it, it could be out now – some people may have preferred that rather than having to wait – but we’ve done everything we can to keep content consistent and we’re slowly closing in on finalising what we think is the best thing we can put out. Even if it takes another year, it’s what we believe is best. “

Fuelling the anticipation for the release is the sense that we still don’t know what a full length Holding Absence record might sound like. Across the tracks released to date, the band have experimented with a range of genres and styles, flexing their song-writing skills to offer heavy, soft, progressive, anthemic, fast, slow, and everything in between. From the outside, it might seem like this experimentation is the result of a band still trying to find their sound, but Woodland is keen to set that straight.

“We don’t want people thinking ‘these guys don’t know what they’re doing’. We totally know what we’re doing: we’re showing you everything we can do. ‘St. Cecilia’ is a pop song, ‘Heaven Knows’ is a borderline metalcore song, ‘Dream of Me’ is an arena rock song, ‘Everything’ is post-rock. If I said times every song by two and that’s twelve songs, here’s an album by Holding Absence, I’d love that. Every corner is being covered and it’s been a very conscious thing. Holding Absence is above genre in some ways to me. The message we’re giving out doesn’t need to be given in any certain way, it’s just about the message being given to everyone possible. We’ll continue to write whatever comes naturally.”

Despite the variation across individual songs, there’s an unmistakable thread that binds them all together. Woodland’s tone and delivery has remained consistently impressive throughout and the atmospheric, yet powerful instrumentals are present in each and every track. Joseph is confident that the record will help create that connection for anyone struggling to grasp the band’s expansive sound.  “The best thing with the album is it will feel more complete, even though it’s got that varied sound. It’s got the same producer, same person mastering, we were all together in the same room, it all looks part of one thing. Instead of one single here and another there, it’s the album. Anyone who doesn’t get it now will go back and think ‘ah, that’s how it all fits together’.”

Woodland adds: “I’d hate for someone to hear ‘Everything’ and think we’re a slow band and I’d hate for people to hear ‘Heaven Knows’ and think we’re some senseless heavy band. I can totally see that there’s a big divide between singles, but there’s a thread to hold everything together.”

While the full length seeks to build cohesion in their music, there’s a more immediate link to rebuild following the recent departure of guitarist Feisal El-Khazragi. For the foreseeable future, Holding Absence will continue as a three piece, and use their network of friends to provide cover during live shows. “We want to be clear that the body of Holding Absence is the three of us for now,” Woodland explains. “It might not be like that forever.  We’re very aware that chemistry changes quickly and by adding a member it could disrupt the whole thing or make it a lot better, we’re just going to be very cautious about how we go about it. Whatever we do will be the best decision for the band. We’ve got two dudes filling in for us who are close friends and amazing musicians, but we’re not going to let personal relationships overtake what is needed for this band. We’re calculating everything and doing what’s best for the band.”

The exit of a key member during the process of writing and recording a debut album causes unavoidable changes to the process, but both Woodland and Joseph feel the change has offered the remaining trio a fresh perspective. “Some things will change for the better, some for the worst. That’s just the way music is. Different people have different attributes and Feisal is still one of our best friends, we admire him entirely,” Woodland asserts. Joseph continues: “Honestly, I think we’re going to be better and I don’t care about saying that. [Feisal] is an amazing musician, but if he’s got an idea and he’s like ‘this is my thing’, it’s hard to improve as a musician alongside that when you’re not allowed in. Some of his ideas were just great and they’re going to make it on to the album, but now we’re writing music in a practice room again and we’re all improving together at a gradual rate.”

“He is such a good songwriter that we felt we didn’t want to try and draw over a Picasso! He’d write some stuff and we’d be like ‘hands off, this is Feisal’s stuff’ but for us now it’s really pushed us – there’s no excuse for us not working hard, each and every one of us. But we welcome the change. If it happens for the worst then I still feel happier for the three of us being more stimulated than ever before. We’ve done some ideas with Feisal and some without and the label obviously listened and to be honest they just want us to be ourselves. Because of the nature of the industry, you think ‘oh my god we’re doing a debut album, it has to be perfect or it’s game over’ whereas the label and management have just said be yourself boys, people like you. Take your time, be the best you can be.”

On the subject of time, the band are refusing to be rushed on a release date, instead taking the time to make their debut record the best it can be. While we may be impatient to hear a full length, Woodland assures us that all good things will come to those who wait: “The time will be when the time is right. With it being a debut, our management and booking agents and everybody will be a bit more aware of the rollout and really trying to make it perfect. Even if we wanted it out by X month, we might get told we need to do videos and stuff. It sucks because we want it out tomorrow, but it won’t be too long and it’ll all be worth it.”

Until then, keep your spirits up by checking out the band’s singles and be sure to catch Holding Absence live at your next available opportunity.

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