With just two singles to their name, ‘Permanent’ and ‘Dream Of Me’, it’s incredible that Holding Absence have managed to secure a place as one of the freshest faces on the SharpTone Records roster. Indeed, after a few member changes, and a bit of a reinvention of themselves, the Welsh outfit seem to be one of the more talked about underground post-hardcore bands of the UK right now.
Blending their style that sits quite comfortably besides the likes of Saosin, Funeral For A Friend, Chiodos, and Emarosa, to name but a few, it’s really in the hook and the melody where Holding Absence have honed their skills here, shortly after recruiting a new frontman in ex-Falling With Style vocalist, Lucas Woodland.
With a seemingly never-ending tour schedule, we managed to catch a rare quick moment with bassist James Joseph and vocalist Lucas Woodland to talk about how the current era of the band came to be, the meaning and messages behind their artwork and style, their singles ‘Permanent’ and ‘Dream Of Me’, plans for the future and more.
DP!: You guys have not long wrapped up a few dates supporting Blood Youth on their mini album release run, and shoved in a few headline shows of your own in between. How was that run for you?
L: It was awesome. Our main objective as a band is to just play as many shows as possible, which sees us doing a lot of headline shows. Having the privilege to share the stage with Blood Youth and Loathe was a welcomed change, and it was so awesome to hang out with, and watch, two of the best bands in the UK right now.
DP!: There’s been a lot of major shifts within the band lately. Originally you guys sounded a little heavier, back when Zac Vernon was taking up mic duties. What lead to him stepping down and your new vocalist Lucas Woodland coming into the picture?
J: When me and Giorgio (ex-guitarist) actually set out to form a new band following on from our old bands, we were actually planning to sound a lot like Landscapes, Champion, Have Heart, etc. We enlisted Feisal El-Khazragi (our current guitarist) and had a vocalist called Phil. However, Phil couldn’t commit to the band due to work and also moving away from Bristol to Birmingham (and now Japan). In the meantime, I was doing a pop-punk/easycore sort of side-project with a guy called Zac (Vernon), who had a voice not too disimilar to Jonny Craig. Eventually this project came to a halt and I asked Zac if he’d like to sing for our band, and that’s when Holding Absence was born.
Despite being heavier back then, the majority of our vocals were clean, so it’s not a huge change. I do think, however, that we’ve come a long way as musicians and a lot more thought and time has gone into our new material. After a few months of writing and playing shows with Zac, it was evident that we wanted to do different things musically and even thematically/lyrically. Zac is back making music in his new project Parting Gift, and they’ve put out two phenomenal singles.
DP!: When you first joined the band Lucas, you were still in the midst of completing a full-time course at university. Was it difficult to balance the two in the beginning, or at least provide the two the full focus that they required?
L: I had just finished, actually, so perfect timing. Before Holding Absence I was in a band called Falling With Style for five years. That band began to split up as I started my third year, so I took a year out from music and after graduating joined Holding Absence. It was like clockwork. Balancing education and your passion is a very hard thing to do, but they’re both super important.
DP!: Once the new line-up came to be, you went on to release your first single under the new era of Holding Absence: ‘Permanent’. It managed to get you some pretty notable traction on social media; what was the vibe like in the band when it started to blow up?
J: Honestly, I knew the song was going to do pretty well, by this point Holding Absence had played about 30/40 shows and had gained a reputation for being a pretty cathartic live band and our first two singles (with Zac) had both done well as far as local releases go. This release would also be the introduction of Lucas (whom had a good reputation in the local scene due to his previous efforts in Falling With Style) to the band. We announced that Lucas was our new vocalist by dropping ‘Permanent’. This change in vocalists was quite a big and unexpected move, and I’m sure lots of people were intrigued to listen and decide if they thought we’d made the right decision or not. We headed out on a 10-day UK tour the day after releasing ‘Permanent’ and there was a generally good vibe within the band. We just wanted to improve every single day, after shows, whether they were good or bad, we’d sit down and plan how to get better. We’re constantly trying to get better to make this band our career.
DP!: The lyrical subject matter on the song is pretty heavy, revolving around suicide and death. Was it a difficult one to write about with enough justice and gusto to its meaning? Especially assuming there may be some residual of life experience in there.
L: Writing lyrics about such a serious topic always has to be calculated. It’s a very personal topic to so many people out there, you’d hate to say something insensitive or incorrect. ‘Permanent’ is a very hopeful song. It’s a plea to a suicidal friend, trying to remind them of all the good in life and to just try and reiterate the fact that suicide is ‘Permanent’, whereas misery and hard times are temporary.
DP!: Not long after, you followed it up with ‘Dream Of Me’, a much more lighter and call-to-arms affair compared to the more fast-paced ‘Permanent’. Was it a conscious effort to put out these singles back-to-back with these contrasting deliveries?
J: We simply wanted to write a more singalong ‘single’ to showcase what we’re able to do. However, after shooting the video for ‘Permanent’ we came up with the idea that the videos should contrast. We’re pleased with how they both came out.
DP!: Were the two songs written around the same time as one another? Did you pen any other tracks at the time that either didn’t get finished or just didn’t achieve the aforementioned contrasts?
L: Believe it or not, ‘Permanent’ and ‘Dream Of Me’ were the first two songs that I’d written with Holding Absence. Nothing was really ‘scrapped’ in favour of these two. We just released them as we wrote them.
DP!: Would you say the two songs indicate the spectrum of the Holding Absence sound?
J: Absolutely not. Over the next few months and even years, the spectrum is going to get wider and wider. We have a very varied taste in music within the band; one minute we’ll be listening to Nails, the next minute Radiohead, the next minute The 1975. We also love the idea of experimentation within music. We’d love to work with an array of different producers, we’d love to pick up new instruments, and we’d love to try and break any genre confinements.
DP!: Along with the contrasting sounds, the videos you shot for the two songs also achieved a similar result; ‘Permanent’ being predominantly black and dark, and ‘Dream Of Me’ being white and light. Was that another contrast thought of in advance?
L: It was indeed. As James said earlier, the music was written to show a contrast in our band and we just wanted the visual element to match the sonic element.
DP!: You guys have been signed to SharpTone Records. How did all of that come together, and how does it feel to be a part of the label and its roster?
J: One of the label’s A&R people reached out to us after hearing ‘Permanent’, and they were keen to get us on a Skype call right away. We had a really great chat, and they said they’d keep an eye on us as well as flying over to watch us play a show in London. We’re honoured to represent a label at such an early stage in our careers, seeing our name next to some of their other acts just inspires us to push this band as hard as possible and make music that is worth something.
DP!: Did you get any other label offers? If so, what made you sway towards SharpTone?
L: We had some lovely conversations with a lot of different people after releasing ‘Permanent’. It was an honour to get any interest at all, let alone the interest we did get. In the end we chose SharpTone purely for their belief in us and the freedom that they offered us. SharpTone really ‘got’ us from the start, and we can’t wait to prove them right.
DP!: Your band logo appears to be a moth, one side full of life, the other being skeletal remains. What does this aim to represent for you as a band, if anything?
J: Our guitarist Feisal had expressed an interest in getting some artwork done by an artist called Kuba Vaniš (@TheRavenFromTheNorth). Whilst showing the rest of the band his work online, we spotted the ‘moth’ on his Instagram feed and were instantly interested in it. We asked him if we could buy it off him to use as a logo and the rest is history. It doesn’t represent anything, but it is open to interpretation.
DP!: Would you say that the duality idea (black and white aesthetic and videos, the split in the band logo, the contrast of the two singles) plays a big and conscious part of the band?
L: We like to keep every element of our band open to interpretation. But, having said that, having only released two songs we feel like we’ve really laid down the law with who we are, what we want to do, and what we can do. No door is ever closed for this band. If it will make us a better band, we will do it, so showing such a wide contrast from such an early on stage kinda says “expect the unexpected.”
DP!: Other than a heavy touring schedule, and an appearance at Download Festival, what else is currently planned for Holding Absence for 2017 so far?
J: We live for playing live, so I don’t think there will ever be a time where we don’t have a heavy touring schedule. However, with the little free time that we do have, we plan to really knuckle down and make headway with writing some new music. We have a cool tour in September to announce pretty soon too!
DP!: Any final words for our readers?
J: If you’ve got this far, then thanks for your interest in our band! We hope you can make it to a show in the future as we’d love to share our music with you in return for your time. We have new music for you all soon. This Is Holding Absence.
The band’s double A-side single, ‘Permanent / Dream Of Me’, is out now through SharpTone Records.
Interview by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)