Holy Fuck on How They Pulled Themselves Apart and Put Themselves Back Together Again for 'Congrats'
Published May 26, 2016Six years is a long time in music. "A lifetime," confirms Holy Fuck's Brian Borcherdt. Yet a half-dozen years between albums was welcome and necessary for the international noiseniks, whose fourth album, Congrats, is out now on Last Gang/Innovative Leisure.
The years following their 2010 album, Latin, saw plenty of upheaval for the band, both professionally and personally. "We knew certain things weren't working," says Borcherdt. "You put a band on the road and keep them busy, that's a working strategy for people who are getting percentages of you. But we were burning ourselves out."
The band's geography has always been an issue; Borcherdt and co-founder Graham Walsh live within a 10-minute walk of one another in Toronto, but bass player Matt McQuaid lives in Nova Scotia and drummer Matt Schulz is based in Brooklyn. Further complicating matters, three-quarters of the band — Borcherdt excluded — used the break to start families.
"We were saddled with real-life responsibilities," Borcherdt says "This is the record we made while we were putting our lives together."
Whereas Latin was a record mostly written in the studio, Walsh and Borcherdt came up with many of the new album's seeds while jamming in Walsh's basement. Those seeds were sown in New York later in 2013, when the group reconvened to flesh out ideas.
"It was the first time we had a real break where we could do that," says Borcherdt. "On this record in particular, there were more preconceived ideas, but I still want to call them ideas as opposed to songs."
The relatively refined structure of many of the new songs — particularly "Neon Dad" — are evidence of this new approach. Previous efforts saw the band creating what Walsh describes as "six-minute fast songs of one thing, ploughing ahead the whole time." Many of Congrats' tracks are mid-tempo and clock in under four minutes.
Still, Borcherdt cautions that Holy Fuck operate differently than most bands. Where even the most basic sketches bear some resemblance to a song in most groups, he says that for Holy Fuck, nothing really exists until he Walsh, McQuaid and Schulz are in a room playing together.
Tracks were recorded to tape over two sessions at Toronto's Revolution Recording, at which point each song was about "70 percent complete." The final 30 percent was filled in by Borcherdt and Walsh, who would bike back and forth between each other's West End Toronto studios — also built over the break — running tracks through their collection of pedals and outboard gear.
With an unmastered version of the record finished by the end of 2014, they went about rebuilding the business end of the band, including new management, booking agents and labels.
But with the pieces finally in place, the band are already talking about the next album. "Both of us have figured out our process of working on a record," says Walsh.
Still it's hard to say when that process will actually begin. Though they still find time to jam, Holy Fuck now have to accommodate the myriad schedules of band members' families, not to mention a litany of other musical projects.
"When we were younger and our commitments were different," says Borcherdt. "We could be like, 'Hey what are you doing? Let's jam today.' Whereas now it's like, 'We're going to post up for three days and we're going to write…'"
Check out the video for Congrats song "Tom Tom," shot in Romania, below.