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The Grand and Noble Art of Holding Absence

The Grand and Noble Art of Holding Absence

The Grand and Noble Art of Holding Absence

Holding Absence from Cardiff, Wales, has returned with another fine work of auditory artistry straight from the heart.  The Noble Art Of Self Destruction is now available via SharpTone Records, and it’s the stunning final act of a trilogy that began with their debut Self-Titled endeavor followed by The Greatest Mistake Of My Life Highwire Daze recently caught up with Holding Absence frontman Lucas Woodland to find out more about the glorious tapestries foud within The Noble Art of Self Destruction, touring in the United States, looking back on his previous band Falling With Style, and more!

We’re here with Lucas from Holding Absence. Is there any overall story or concept behind that album title “The Noble Art of Self Destruction”?
Yes. This album is very conceptual, actually. It was heavily inspired by “kintsugi” which is the Japanese art form of infusing blue with gold and fixing things to make them look more beautiful. I felt like there was obviously a really really special type of metaphor in there.

As I went on and the more songs I was working on, I realized there’s a lot of beauty to be found in the destruction that we experience as people. The things that we go through, they make us stronger. There’s a lot of metaphors and a lot of deep ideas on this album. The Noble Art of Self Destruction, as a title, is about how hard it is sometimes to go through things, but you will be better on the other side.

I think it’s mentioned in the press release; it’s like the end of a trilogy in a way.
That was something that we felt helped us make this album. It almost made this album easier. We want our band to evolve over time. We wanted to grow. But we also loved everything that we’ve been doing up to this point. We felt like capping this trilogy off and making this third album be the end of an arc, I guess. It was a good way of saying to people, “Look. We love what we do as a band. We’re excited to evolve after this period of our career as well.”

I’m going ask for a few of the songs. First off, what is the Head Prison Blues?
It’s basically inspired by the Johnny Cash song.   I liked the idea of a song being sung from inside a prison cell, basically. A big thing that I deal with as a person – I write a lot about lyrically – is the confines of our own brain, the way that our mind will stop us from doing things or trick us into thinking that we’re worse than we are.

I felt like Head Prison Blues was a really, really good song to start with. It starts with the narrative almost as if we’re in the middle of something. We’re serving this sentence of self, I guess. That song was written almost as a prison letter, I guess, from inside of a mind that is, tormenting the person who owns it, I suppose.

Let’s talk about the single, A Crooked Melody, and the inspiration behind that.
A Crooked Melody is a song about denial, I guess. Basically, the lyric, “I sing myself a crooked melody where I tell myself it’s going to be alright,” I view it as every night, before you go to bed, you tell yourself this lie about your life. It just makes going through life easier when you’re in denial, I suppose.

The idea of it being A Crooked Melody is this idea that it’s easier to swallow if it’s a beautiful sound rather than just a normal voice. I guess it’s this idea of tricking yourself into taking a pill that makes life easier.

False Dawn, tell me a little about that one.
False Dawn is similar to A Crooked Melody, actually. I guess it’s about impostor syndrome. It’s about warning people. This is something I experienced with the band a lot. People say, “Wow, the new album’s great,” or, “I can’t see this band slowing down anytime soon.”

For me, I’m such a defeatist person. I’m so hard on myself. I almost feel like I know people are wrong about me, if that makes sense. I almost tell myself sometimes like, “You’re going to fail eventually. You’re gonna let these people down.” False Dawn is a song that says to the listener like, “Don’t bother putting your faith in me, because I’ll only let you down.”

One of the songs I thought was unusual on the album was Honey Moon. Tell me a little about that song and the inspiration behind it.
Honey Moon, you’re right. It does stand out quite a little bit on our catalog. It’s a beautiful song that I sat down and wrote on an acoustic guitar one day. One of my favorite songs is Where Is My Mind? by The Pixies. I thought to myself, “I wonder how that song would sound if Deftones covered it having that almost naive, dainty, rocking verse, and then having this epic shoegaze chorus.” I really felt like there was something in there.

I wrote this song on the acoustic. I think the hardest thing when writing music is coming up with the melody. Melody is kind of dark magic that nobody can truly conquer. You can only hope that the song is beautiful or catchy, whatever.

I think it’s one of the most beautiful moments of the album. I’m excited to explore that sound a little bit more, perhaps, as we move forward as well. It feels like it’s opened a real door for the band.

The last song I’m going to ask about, The Angel in the Marble, tell me a little about that one. Great way to close the album, by the way.
Thank you, man. The Angel in the Marble is probably my favorite song on the album, super emotional. Basically, that song encapsulates and embodies the noble art of self destruction as a concept. The song began as an idea that I had when I was back to the kintsugi thing.

Another thing that I found really interesting was marble sculptures. Essentially, a marble sculpture is just a block of marble. Anybody can make anything out of a block of marble. It’s this idea that there is beauty with this open canvas. But it needs to be destroyed in order for it to be created. I saw this parallel between, I guess, us as people and the marble becoming the statue. It needs to break. It needs to go through hardship. But at the end of the day, there’s beauty to be found within it.

I came across a quote from Michelangelo about the Statue of David. He said, “There was an angel in the marble, and I had to set it free.” I just remember thinking how poignant that was. Because he obviously saw something in that marble block that nobody else on earth could have seen, and nobody else could have created. I just found it really beautiful how there is beauty to be found in destruction.

I guess that song takes that metaphor and says, “We are blocks of marble. It is up to us how we want to become.” It may hurt. But there is beauty within all of us.

Holding Absence – Photo by Jack Lue

I believe you’ve performed The Greatest Mistake of My Life in its entirety, at least, once. Is this Noble Art of Self Destruction something you would like to perform in its entirety sometime?
That’s a good question. We did perform The Greatest Mistake in full. But it was for a live stream event. It was during the pandemic as well. It was quite a unique circumstance.

In the meantime, since then, there are 2 songs of that album we’ve never actually performed in front of people. It’s a weird one, because every song we write, we write with the intention of performing live. But then at the same time, there’re so many moving parts that some songs just don’t make sense to play live when you’ve got only half an hour, or you’ve got a whole forty-song catalog to play songs to.

Myself and the boys have spoken about perhaps at the end of this trilogy, before we move on to the fourth album, we would love to do 3 nights in a row of us performing every album in full. That’s something we’d love to do. But it’s tough. A lot of planning goes into that. I think it’d be very hard to do it full like that, you know?

What are you looking forward the most about your upcoming US tour with Senses Fail?
Everything. It’s such a joy to be able to tour America and meet so many wonderful people and see so many beautiful places.

I actually think some of the best days of my life have been just waking up on the van and just going for a wander down the road, trying to see if there’s any cool vegan food, just seeing what the sites are in the local city, whatever that maybe, and then play in a brilliant show, and then meeting everybody afterwards.  I’m looking forward to everything. I absolutely cannot wait.

On top of that, I will say though that obviously it’ll be our first tour with the new music out. I am excited to play some new songs on that tour, for sure.

The first time I saw you was out here in Los Angeles with Dayseeker. I wanted to know; what was it like doing that tour with Dayseeker in the midst of the pandemic?
It was definitely weird. I guess, at that point, we were in the clear a little bit it. It felt like the first big break – making a break for it. Touring is back, but COVID still exists. The 2 did coexist for a while.

But it was weird. I’ll always look back at that period of time as a really weird version of events.

But at the same time, it was our first ever time in America. We were living the dream in the background of all that fear. I think another interesting thing for us was we weren’t sure that we would ever actually go back to America either. We were just happy to be there.

In the meantime, in September, it will be our fourth American tour in twenty-four months. We’ve been very fortunate. But yes, at the time, there was a real sense of “savor this”, because we don’t know when we’ll be back.

What was it like returning with The Amity Affliction and Silverstein?
Magic. Those are 2 bands that we grew up listening to. It was really, really special. It was cool as well. Because, of course, the shows were bigger. It felt like visible growth for our band. Every time we’ve gone back to America, the response has been better and better.

I always say the first time you do something is cool. But the second time you do something is even cooler, because then that doesn’t mean that it’s a fluke or it’s luck. That means that it’s part of your life. It’s something you can consistently do. Going back was a real dream come true. I still can’t believe we got that still.

Tell me about The Lost and the Longing split you did with Alpha Wolf. Did you get a chance to tour together?
Funnily enough, we did not get the chance to tour together. We played Blue Ridge Festival a day apart. We were really close to being able to get the live collab. But unfortunately, we couldn’t make it work.

But that split EP was really, really cool. It’s something different with a band that you wouldn’t normally put us together with. But they’re some of our best friends in the music scene. It was a really, really cool experience. I’ll always be grateful that they were willing to do something so unique with us as well.

When you look back on your work on your previous band, Falling With Style – which I just discovered yesterday – what do you think of it now in retrospect and the fact that that was ten years ago?
God, man, yes, ten years. Wow. I’m still really proud of it. I’m still the same person I was back then as well. I feel like I’m far better at my craft. I’m better at writing music. I’m better at singing. I’m much better at writing lyrics. It does feel like far away from what we are now.

But I’ve always had the intention with music that I want it to be fun to perform and for people to watch. I want it to be emotional. I want it to connect when people sit down with the lyrics as well. There are some songs from that band that I feel like we could re-record now, and people would enjoy.

But more than anything though, I’m really proud that I’ve got a very long track record of just working hard, over a decade of writing and recording music pretty much every year. I’m really proud of that. If sixteen-year-old Lucas could see me now, man, he would think everything was very cool. Everything worked out in the end, I guess.

Are you currently involved with any other bands or projects outside of Holding Absence?
Good question. No, I’m not. I got to be honest. I would love to release a solo project or something like that. I feel like I’ve got a lot to give as a creative. Holding Absence has only got so much that it can do really in terms of genre and stuff. I think it’s just one of those things where ultimately, I just don’t have enough time. We’re writing so much music with Holding Absence.

The only time I think I could do a solo project is if I could do it and it didn’t affect Holding Absence’s productivity. Honestly, I’ve had that idea for years. But the moments never come, because we’re just so hungry and so constant.

Do you have any messages for your fans out here in the States who are reading this now?
Just thanks for caring. We absolutely love America. We love touring over there. Just keep flying the flag. We’ll be back as often as we can. Then we hope you enjoy the new album.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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