As well as being the proud owners of one of Liverpool’s most ferocious whirls of sonic attacks, psych rockers HOLY THURSDAY are a welcome return to the band-as-gang mentality. From the collective swells of dovetailing four-piece vocals to the faultlessly choreographed stabs of interweaving, winding guitars, they’re as tight as they come.
It’s not just onstage, however, that Holy Thursday are their own, cohesive unit. Self-produced from their own studio, the group are more close-knit than most, and in interview they speak in collective resolution. “We don’t want to be someone’s project; we want to be our own project. We’ve had people who’ve expressed an interest in [producing us],” says keyboardist Ollie. “Not any major names or anything. I think you’ve got to get us, what we’re trying to do.”
“It’s probably a bad thing to say,” lead producer Ollie continues, “that [at first] I was ready to record other people, that’s what I always wanted to do, but now I just want to record us more than anything. I know there’s some stuff there that needs to come out. I’ve done a few bits for mates and covers bands that want to show off to wedding people, but mostly it’s been our own stuff. Loads of things; stuff that will never see the light of day.”
“It’s an advantage and a disadvantage,” continues Ollie, “because of course you can record loads of stuff but it can make you way more critical of what you’ve actually recorded. Whereas loads of bands would go out and play stuff live first and see how it went down, we’d just be trying to get the sounds.” “We know what we want it to sound like…” his bandmate Callum adds. “It’s a sound in our heads. We want to be able to capture what we hear in our heads, and between the four of us we can do that sufficiently without someone else coming in.” All this affirms the sense that this group, more than most, feel like a staunch, individualist unit. It begs the question of just how long the group have known each other to instil such understanding.
Inquiries duly made, the group respond with an unusually edgy laugh – “quite a while”, says guitarist Barney. “Three of us are brothers…” says Callum, while the fourth is their cousin. “We tend to play that one down a bit…” adds one of his siblings. “We just haven’t talked about it yet,” Callum explains of the revelation. “You’re the first person we’ve told about this, but we didn’t want it to take away from what we were initially doing. Now we’ve found a bit of a grounding with ourselves we’re happy to talk about it.”
Growing up, it was mutual immersion in the music of their parents, the prog rock of Supertramp, the pop of Neil Diamond and Motown and the usual suspects (The Beatles, The Beach Boys et al), alongside the Britpop of their youth that sowed the seeds of musical kinship, though they diversified in approach. “[Our taste] is so varied,” says Barney, “and I think that’s why it took so long for Holy Thursday to really come together.” Indeed, though the four had joined in part under different guises for various musical projects, it was only at the dawn of 2014 that the group as we know them now began to coalesce.
“We sat down and thought about what we actually wanted to last January,” remembers Liam, “and by about July we had a good idea of what we actually wanted to do. We went through loads of different ideas. I think the idea was to sit in a room for a while and figure out what we actually wanted to do first.” “We all write,” adds Callum, “and we all brought ideas to the studio, and we had such a variety of stuff that eventually things just started sitting in the same way, and we found Hurricane was the first track that we all agreed on. Everything else followed on from there. It was the marker.” Original sessions were born out of their long-acquired love for the aesthetics of the old-school, the group quick to enthuse on their favoured timbres in equal part. “A lot of garagey sounds, the kind of sounds The Sonics get… punchy bass sounds, fat drums.”
From that marker, a moderate, though highly acclaimed, series of peaks has resulted, from blowing the heads off an unsuspecting Shipping Forecast in support of The Paperhead (and, in popular opinion, upstaging the headliners), to other face-melting support sets. They’ve impressed at every turn and seen the tongues of NME Radar and Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition wagging, yet with the aforementioned Hurricane’s perforating riffs, the suave pumps of In My Mind and the vintage, otherworldly, She the only recorded evidence of the band’s brilliance available, we’re still as yet left tantalised as to the prospect of something longer, more substantial, to truly set the world alight.
But Holy Thursday’s psychedelic salvation will soon be at hand, perhaps even as early as this month, with a new, as yet unnamed, EP pencilled in for release. Owing to their record-as-they-go methods, they still have quite the musical arsenal to be unleashed. “We could put an EP out right now with the stuff we’ve got recorded – we could probably put out four or five,” notes Liam.
Known or otherwise, familial ties seem a little irrelevant in the face of musical quality. “There’s no novelty in it to us; we latch on to each other because we sound good together and we know how each other is gonna play,” says Liam, and with one of the psych new wave’s most impressive new sounds they’ve no need to market themselves as a kaleidoscopic Kings Of Leon. Yet psychedelia too is becoming a little problematic as a label. “We loved the initial wave of it, but it’s not going to be the sort of things that sticks around forever,” says Barney, and though they’re willing to admit they have, to an extent, ridden the genre to wide attention, he also notes that, “We were very aware that we didn’t want to just recreate sounds from the past, because then we’d just be a revival band.”
“It’s always got its merits in music: it’s in rock music, it’s in electronica as well, it’s happened absolutely everywhere. I think people are getting a bit sick and tired of hearing the label ‘psychedelic’ tied to everything,” Liam expands on the psychedelic tag’s mixed merits. Ollie agrees: “if you just use a bit of echo then lazy journalists can just use ‘psych’. When we first started out with Holy Thursday we were really conscious that we didn’t want to make what we thought people wanted to hear, because if all you ever do is chase somebody you can sound like a half-rate Tame Impala.” Callum, however, still argues that, “It’s a licence for bands to be bands again. Often, when you listen to 60s records that say ‘psychedelia’, it’s just a band. Most of the bands round here are saying they’re psychedelia as it’s a licence to make guitar music again.”
On the subject of their home city’s scene, the band are again a little apart from the crowd – though hardly advocates of the forced iconoclasm of a select few of their contemporaries, it must be said. “You often see the same [local] bands as support for touring bands; we’re not at that level yet,” says Liam, though Callum concedes that, “We can’t argue with the kind of support we’ve had so far. I think that’s the great thing about Liverpool, the kind of support that’s offered to us. It’s given us a platform.”
Us hacks can only return the thanks to them, one of the most intriguing, provoking bursts of kaleidoscopic light to come out of the city’s fertile scene in recent months. Holy Thursday’s shine is unlikely to be fading any time soon.