Holygram – “Nothing has to be Black and White”

“Nothing has to be Black or White” Artwork: Marie Ingouf.

Holygram, a lush five piece band craft dreamy and contemplative rock. Drawing from a multitude of historic styles Holygram deliver dreamy, texturally thick rock music in a new fashion that defies traditional boundaries. Using gorgeous and elaborate synth textures balanced with noisy, shoe-gaze inspired guitar over krautrock-inspired percussions and slick post-punk styled bass tones, Holygram ambitiously blend past and future. A Love That’s Sound spoke with the during their fall North American tour for their 2018 debut album “Modern Cults”, Holygram shares about the importance of independence in recording, creative accidents, music in Germany and being inspired by David Lynch.

David Lacroix: Welcome to Vancouver. Can you tell us a little bit about your North American tour and sharing the stage with VNV Nation and The Rain Within?

Patrick Blümel: The nice thing about North America is that you see so many places. When you travel in Germany, it mainly looks the same. Here it’s really crazy, you can travel from one city to the next and the landscape totally changes. The faces of the city totally changes, and its people also. That’s something we’ve never experienced before.

Holygram @ the Imperial Theatre, Vancouver Canada 2018. Photo: David Lacroix.

What’s nice is that we’ve been welcomed everywhere, which is always a bit hard for a support band because people come for the headliner and 90% of people don’t know what’s going on. It was great how people reacted to our music which was different from VNV Nation because we are doing post-punk and they are doing more electronic dance music. Although it’s a bit exhausting for me, I could tour forever. 

DL: How would you comment on the revolution in the last two decades in terms of the the quality and availably of musical recording gear. What doors has technology opened up for you and what is some of your favourite gear to play with?

Bennett Reimann: At the beginning it was quite nice to record all of the stuff we wanted to record without the limitations. When you go to a studio, you have to focus totally on what you are doing and sometimes time is the most expensive thing in doing music. When you have the opportunity to record yourselves in a relaxed sort of way, you often have half a year for a song. Nowadays, you can try sounds out by yourself without the limitation of time. Our sound, we never could have accomplished it with the old studio ways.

Pilo Lenger. Photo: David Lacroix

DL:Many of you guys have been involved in psychedelic and krautrock projects in Germany. Where did the inspiration for Holygram come from and what interested you in the post-punk style?

Patrick Blümel: When we started the band we didn’t have a certain genre or style in mind, we didn’t say “we’re going to do post-punk, or dark wave music” or so on, it was more that we were searching for something new that we wanted to do. We were coming from different musical corners. Psych music and so on. We were also a bit tired of these styles and maybe the audiences so we decided to do something new for us. We decided to experiment with sounds for example, how is the bass supposed to sound. We wanted to find something for ourselves and experiment with synthesizer. When we started it was just an idea of what it could be like. We didn’t know each other before we formed the band. Everybody joined under curious circumstances and whenever someone new joined something new happened in the band. When Sebastian joined on drums, we suddenly had this sort of kraut-rock drumming. When Marius joined on guitar, we had this shoe-gaze, noisy kind of guitar.  All of these parts came together at the right moment and they became the sound. It was not like we wanted to sound like something particular and wanted to copy it.

Holygram @ the Imperial Theatre, Vancouver Canada 2018. Photo: David Lacroix.

Patrick Blümel: We actually tried it. When we wanted to record our EP which came out in 2015, we went to a very nice analogue studio and we tried to record 4 or 5 songs and it didn’t work out. The guy didn’t understand our sound, we didn’t have enough time to make it sound the way that we wanted it. It was also a phase when we were uncertain about what we wanted to do. Recording, for us, was a way that we found what we wanted to sound like.  That stuff was never released, although it was quite expensive. Money was another factor. We decided to do it ourselves and we had this super crappy basement rehearsal room. We just had a computer there and some shitty microphones and for us it was more satisfying than going to a big studio and working with someone else. It was very important for us to find our sound. 

Patrick Blümel. Photo:David Lacroix.

On the other hand, it’s easy to record stuff now and it’s easy to release things. You don’t need a label anymore. When we wanted to release our EP, we did it on band camp and it was crazy, we had lots of people commenting and we had a label who wanted to put it out on vinyl within two days. It’s the best time right now for bands to do what they want to do and not to have to do what labels want them to and sound like. I think that’s what you hear, on bandcamp. You hear bands doing what they want to do and they put it out.

Bennett Reimann: I like that you can do it your own way. Sometimes when you are in the studio, it’s “let’s use this mic for this song” but the sound guy says “no that’s not the way to do it”. I really like to fuck things up. I like lo-fi sounds. 

Patrick Blümel: Sometimes you create a unique sound because you don’t go the regular way.  You don’t know how to do it and then you do it yourself and it creates something cool. I remember Nine Inch Nails had a guitar sound that everybody was trying to recreate but it was just like that because it was broken gear they were using. People tried to recreate it in a professional way but it never worked out. That’s a cool way of doing it yourself. Creating something by accident.

Marius Lansing (of Holygram). Photo: David Lacroix

Bennett Reimann: The first record from Peter Gabriel, they recorded the drums in a huge room and then the sound engineer talked while the drummer was playing and Peter Gabriel said “that’s a nice drum sound.” The sound guy said “no that’s just a talk-over mic.” That was the point when the kind of reverb-snare hitting sound was born because there was a huge room and gated reverb on the mic. The engineer said that wasn’t the sound he wanted to make but because Peter Gabriel was big, he went with the sound anyway.

Bennett Reimann. Photo: David Lacroix.

DL: What have been some of Holygram’s most fortunate accidents?

Patrick Blümel: One of the biggest accidents is that we met. [laughs]. It was random. It could have never happened better. Bennett and I met in a rehearsal room where we were working with other bands. One day I was there with my garage band and he came in and I thought “okay that guy looks interesting.” I wanted to do something new and I thought maybe this guy is going to understand what I want to do. We talked and met and started it. It was one of those accidents that happened. We stared the band three years ago and so many things happened but I feel that all of these things happened by accident because I feel that the band could have gone in a different way. Sometimes it’s accidents you aren’t really aware of.

Patrick Blümel. Photo: David Lacroix.

Bennett Reimann: You aren’t realizing what you are doing in the process. When you are doing it, it is more spontaneous driven.

Patrick Blümel: One of the main working patterns of Holygram is that we don’t have a certain idea of what things have to sound like. We could end up doing something that we’ve never done before, something you could say doesn’t sound like Holygram. Anything could happen to be a Holygram song. “1997” for example, the synths on there. We have so many recordings, experiments and unused accidents buried on computer drives. I don’t know how many accidents we have on that computer.

Marius Lansing of Holygram. Photo: David Lacroix.

DL: When writing your songs, when and where does your inspiration take place? Do you write in the studio or at home?

Patrick Blümel: We mainly meet at the rehearsal room and start stuff there. 

Marius Lansing: Often, I write songs on my smartphone and use garage band. When I’m on the train or something, and I have an idea, I save it for later and a concept is born. I can write in almost any situation. 

Bennett Reimann:  Sometimes I write on Sundays in the kitchen. I use an acoustic guitar and go over bass ideas. 

Patrick Blümel: Sometimes just the sound on a synth or a bass guitar tone can be the inspiration. You press one key on the synth and it makes you feel something and you try to build something around this sound. It can also be a fragment or lyric. For me, I watch lots of movies and sometimes they inspire me to create something similar in a song.

Holygram @Snoqualmie Falls. Photo: Andy Deane from the Rain Within.

DL: Who are some of your favourite directors?

Bennett Reimann: Carpenter.

Patrick Blümel: I love David Lynch. I totally love Twin Peaks. It’s funny, we were driving from Salt Lake City to Seattle and we stayed overnight about half way. At some point the landscape changed and Andy Deane from the Rain Within said “oh, it starts to look like Twin Peaks here.” We asked about it where they filmed Twin Peaks and it was on the way so we stopped in Snoqualmie and drank a coffee at the dinner and went to the waterfall. That was definitely an inspiration, maybe I’m going to write a song about a waterfall soon, I don’t know. [laughs]. The whole landscape was pretty impressive.

DL: How do you feel the tone and atmosphere of Holygram compare with the contemporary social mood? Does Europe feel very different from North America?

Patrick Blümel: Holygram has many facets and faces. We try to find sounds in songs that are not too similar. When you listen to the record, some songs sound different. That was an important thing for us. We are kind of associated with dark music, with post-punk, dark wave and so on but I’ve always been uncomfortable with just writing sad songs. I’m not a sad person all the time, why should I write sad songs all the time. Our song “She’s like the Sun,” the first song we ever wrote with the band, a psychedelic song then a post-punk song. We tried to change it a bit so that it fits into the record but it still has this psychedelic vibe. I never thought about writing songs about a place I’ve never been to because the initial idea of Holygram was to write a song about the place that we are living.  We didn’t want to do psychedelic music because we weren’t so rooted in that music so we decided to do something with Cologne, the city where are living. In a few days we are going to travel the desert. Maybe the desert is going to play a part in Holygram, I won’t know until I go there and see it. 

Bennett Reimann: When we wrote “Hideaway” we weren’t trying to write a sad song. Patrick did this synth sound on the keys and it was like “okay, that’s great. That’s just it.” We never think about a kind of mood before we make music.

Patrick Blümel: You can have a song that is sad and happy at the same time. Nothing has to be black and white. You can have both elements and it still works out.

DL: How would you characterize the music scene like in Cologne? 

Patrick Blümel: It’s very different. Music in Germany is very special because there is lots of music coming out with German lyrics. 10 or 15 years ago, people started to sing in German again instead of in English. For me, it has never been a question to sing in German, it doesn’t fit me. There’s a big post-punk movement right now with bands like International Music. It’s all post punk music with German lyrics. And you have a big electronic music, it’s been big since the 90s and never shrunk. 

Holygram @the Imperial, Vancouver, Canada 2018. Photo:David Lacroix.

DL: Stylistically what is different about Cologne versus Berlin?

Patrick Blümel: I can’t really say too much about Berlin because I’ve never really been a big fan of it but Berlin is more international and therefore has more influences. When people move to Germany, they move to Berlin and they bring their music with them, they don’t come to Cologne where you have an isolated German society trying to make something. And then you have Berlin.

Holygram @ the Imperial, Vancouver Canada. Photo: David Lacroix

A Love That’s Sound. Photos & Interview by David Lacroix. Artwork by Marie Ingouf.


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