Holygram’s Black-Clad Ballads
I love Holygram‘s combination of meaty bass, programmed drums, dangerous and romantic vocals and often expressionistic guitars and melodies. Modern Cults is the Cologne, Germany band’s dystopic soundtrack, a collection of death disco ballads that will get you on the fog-filled dancefloor with the other black-clad denizens of the night. On the eve of their U.S. tour with VNV Nation, the members of Holygram were kind enough to answer my questions.
Who are the people making the Holygram sound? Also, what is your very specific set of skills?
Patrick Blümel (vocals): We started HOLYGRAM in the end of 2015, first just as a two-man-project (Bass/Vocals). After writing the first couple of songs we started looking for people to join in order to bring the music on stage. With every new band member the sound of the band evolved and eventually became what you can now call the HOLYGRAMsound. We wanted to involve every band member’s musical background to find something less generic and stereotype. We try to bring together classic postpunk and new wave with Kraut elements and anything we like. The German cities Cologne and Dusseldorf are the home of bands like Kraftwerk, NEU! etc.
How did you come by your style?
Patrick: It’s a combination of everything we like no matter if it fits at first sight. We try to explore all kinds of music and don’t bother mixing e.g. Industrial, Noise, Pop and Techno in one track. There is no boundaries as for what a song could sound like. We don’t want to get stuck in a certain genre or style.
What are some of your favorite lyrics on the album and why?
Patrick: I can’t really pick specific lyrics from the album that I favor but if I had to choose a song it would be the title track Modern Cults because it pretty much sums up the concept of the album. Getting lost in a city while trying to find your place in the world. It is a strange and ambivalent feeling.
Bennett Reimann (bass): When I first heard the text to Odd Neighborhood I immediately had a whole film in front of my eyes. I immediately had to think of a Tim Burton short film. Simply beautiful.
Were there any specific songs or bands you loved growing up ? What was it your learned from them that has worked for you as a musician?
Patrick: I was pretty much into The Cure when I was at school. It obviously influenced me quite a lot. I love their music and that they always refused to be a Goth band. I like the term happy/sad music for them because they are so much more than just a one-dimensional band.
Bennett: One of the most influential things was VHS-tapes of live concerts from my dad. Hearing the music was one thing but actually seeing how it all works inspired me to try it myself. Tapes from Pink Floyd, Jonny “Guitar“ Watson and Frank Zappa to name a few.
Marius Lansing (guitars): My father was always an enthusiastic music listener and had many records. Early on he gave me an insight into various musical styles, especially the music of the 80’s I had taken a liking to at that time. I remember exactly when I first heard the song Eisbär by the band Grauzone, I was directly captivated by the beautiful monotony. A similar one was also the song Policemen by the band Extrabreit, o.k. the latter is from 1990, but it still has that 80’s vibe.
Pilo Lenger (synthesizers): My parents had a roller disco, so I grew up with 80’s pop music, in the 90’s I’ve started to collect UK Psych music, Rubble Collection / Chocolate Soup stuff.
Are there complimentary bands to tour with in your part of the world?
Patrick: There is a couple of bands I like in Europe like Blind Delon, Rendez Vous, The KVB, Die Wilde Jagd, etc. If you are open-minded the music scene in Europe can be pretty exciting, haha. You just have to dig deep enough.
Who have you toured/played with and what is a good memory from a couple favorites?
Patrick: We toured with OMD last winter. It was a great experience and showed me that you can be a very successful band but still stay grounded. It was amazing to play big concert halls with more that 7,000 people. For 30 minutes you feel like a star, haha!
Bennett: Yes, the OMD Tour was a huge experience for us all. The moment when Andy (Lead Singer/Bassist from OMD) gave me his bass during Soundcheck was a real pleasure and also a bit of an brainfuck cause he used to play a left-hand bass as an right-hander so all the strings were upside down.
You recently played with Whispering Sons. How was that show and what do you think of your labelmates?
Patrick: It is great to see that the genre we are associated with has so many facets. Whispering Sons are a great live band and very nice people. It’s pretty amazing that Cleopatra Records brings both bands’ music to the US.
You’re coming to California for a club tour before supporting VNV Nation. How excited are you to present your new songs and win over new fans? Is VNV Nation a favorite band?
Patrick: It’s crazy that we have a record release show at the legendary Viper Room. We are super excited to play our songs live on stage, Modern Cults is actually our attempt to capture our live sound. We hope that people will like it and we can temporarily add something to the musical scene in the US.
Will you be touring with a live drummer and if so, what does he/she bring to the songs that is different than the programmed drums on the album? How does your music change in a live setting regardless of drums?
Nima Davari (Engineer/ touring drummer) : I’ve been kindly asked by the band to join them for a number of shows that were to take place in 2018, trying to do Sebastian justice, who still of course is a solid member of the group. That being said, the drums for this record have been played by Sebastian as well as programmed by Patrick and Bennett as well as Maurizio (Baggio, Producer).
In a live show you will hear organic cymbals, accompanied by electronically triggered kick, snare and toms. The sounds do vary from song to song and it feels like the only right thing to do is to play like a machine.
Patrick: We always wanted to play with a live drummer and actually recorded the drums on the album with a drummer. It’s a tricky setup on stage as we use electronic samples instead of the natural sound of the drum kit. We are using a lot of fog at our shows and sometimes people wonder if there is a drummer at all or just a drum machine playing in the background. People tend to be surprised in the end when the fog disappears!
What has been some of the feedback on Modern Cults? How is the fan reaction?
Patrick: The reactions are great! It always makes you feel good when someone sees something in your music and can relate to it. I am always excited when someone has an association with a song or some lyrics that were not intended. The songs don’t try to be too hermetic and sometimes it works out.
You’re from Cologne, Germany. What is Cologne known for? What place would you recommend your fans visit that has the best food, the most important history, the most beautiful art, the best music venue.
Patrick: Cologne is known for the carnival. It is a crazy time when thousands of disguised people flood the streets and get drunk. I try to avoid the city during that week but I guess it is an attraction. If you come to Cologne you should definitely visit the Kölner Dom, which is one of the nicest cathedrals in Europe. It is very impressive even with our standards in architecture etc. Cologne is a very multicultural city and you find a lot of great food. Just don’t stick to the touristic areas and you will find some cool places. The best music is played at the Sonic Ballroom, Gebäude 9 and Tsunami Club. Small but very popular venues.
Ok, you’re likely arriving at LAX right about now. What is the thing you’re most looking forward to doing while in Los Angeles or any part of the country beside performing?
Patrick: I know Los Angeles from lots of movies and I kind of expect to feel like being in a blockbuster while we are there. Traveling in the US is going to be so different from traveling Europe I guess. The vastness of the country, we don’t really have that in Europe.
Holygram’s Modern Cults is out now on Cleopatra Records.
(by Bret Miller)
HOLYGRAM TOUR 2018: