The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has sadly forced some bands to derail and put their plans on hold, but for Holding Absence, they decided that they couldn’t wait any longer to share their sophomore record, ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’.
Thankfully it paid off, with rave reviews from fans and critics across the board and an ever-growing fanbase even when live music for the foreseeable remains on ice. That is other than the UK Government regulated Download Pilot, allowing the band to finally share these songs to a live audience.
Before their set that Friday, we sat down and spoke with vocalist Lucas Woodland about creating ‘the album experience’, what he’s been up to during the lockdown, their forthcoming full album playthrough livestream, and their transition into this new era.
DP!: How does it feel to know that you’ll be finally playing music live for people face-to-face later today?
L: It feels so good. Honestly it’s very surreal because at the moment I haven’t even watched a band yet. Obviously lots of bands are here and everybody’s all set up, but because we’re here so early and no bands have played just yet I do still feel like Ashton Kutcher is going to pop out of a bush, haha. I’m trying not to get too excited, I’m trying to wait for the moment that it happens.
DP!: Well, like everyone else it’s been so long since you’ve performed in front of an actual audience. Are you feeling a little anxious to be going back up there again?
L: A little bit, but I feel like I always had the right to be anxious anyway, so if I stop being anxious now it’s kind of stupid, do you know what I mean? I’m an anxious person, haha, it’s like my default setting. So, for me at the moment it’s just a case of knowing that with some things in life you’ve just got to close your eyes and plunge, and you’ll find your way down there.
DP!: Obviously with livestream events, which you’ve done a few of over the past few months, there’s the potential of thousands upon thousands of people worldwide watching you perform. Does that ever feel more daunting with that in mind?
L: I will say that very rarely are livestreams live in the moment. A lot of the time you’ll do a livestream by filming it and then it streams at a later time, so in all honestly it isn’t live and it doesn’t feel live, because you don’t get that immediate reaction. Even then, you’ve got to compare it to playing a show and reading the chat, because when you play a show you see the reactions whereas when you’re livestreaming you don’t. You see the camera and you just assume that you’re smashing it, so there is a massive difference. You could be doing brilliantly and you wouldn’t know, so you normally find yourself in the middle of hoping that you’re not doing awful and assuming you’re not doing brilliant, and just doing alright in the middle.
DP!: Other than your new album ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’, which we’ll get onto in a moment, what else have you been doing during the downtime of lockdown? Did you take on any lockdown hobbies?
L: It’s really random but I’ve been working on comic scripts, and I’ve been working on a book and stuff, too. It’s basically for me to get in touch with the other side of what I do. I started this because of my love for music, and I ended up falling into quite a love for poetry and literature and words and the connection that they can have with people. So, I kind of realised that if I was going to step back from music a little bit, let’s explore the other element of it and really try to get to grips with the English language and how I write if that makes sense. I’ve loved it and it’s been really, really interesting. It’s very much a future thing, but it’s something that I’ve been focusing on lately. I’ve been ploughing hours and hours into it which is wicked. There’s been no better time to explore it really, and I probably would’ve gone mad without it to be honest so I’m glad that I picked up a hobby like that.
DP!: Before the new album and right at the start of lockdown, you released two singles – ‘Gravity’ and ‘Birdcage’ – which act as kind of a bridge between the first era and your new era. Were they written and intended for this purpose, or were they songs you worked on that didn’t seem to fit into either era fully?
L: ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Gravity’ were both written on the same day, so that says a lot about the fact that ‘Afterlife’ was an old-ish kind of song and ‘Gravity’ was quite a fresh song when we recorded them. It was basically a case of knowing that we wanted to put out some songs and we liked the double-A kind of thing; we’ve done it before and also did a similar thing with the Loathe split as well. Looking back I’m so glad that we did it because those songs carried us through the first bit of the pandemic big time really, and ironically when we play ‘Gravity’ later today it’ll be the first time that we’ve played it to a live crowd before and it’s been out for over a year.
DP!: You also kind of used those two singles as a transition for you guys to move from the totally grayscale aesthetic you’d been using for a few years into implementing full colour. To some people who aren’t in a band or in the industry it might not seem like a big deal, but a change of aesthetic and marketing really can be. Was there any anxiety within the band to make that move?
L: There was. There always was about making that change, but honestly there’s anxious feelings about everything and we just knew that it was something that we couldn’t half arse. Like you said earlier about ‘Gravity’ and ‘Birdcage’ being the bridge, look at the artwork – it’s got colour on it, and we liked the idea of having colour on black and white as if to say change is coming. I’m really proud of how we executed that to be honest.
DP!: Moving onto your new album, ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’. With your first record, there were obviously quite a few line-up changes leading up to and during the recording of your debut. It must’ve been much more relieving, fluid, and less stressful going into this second one without those stresses along with obviously having that experience of writing and recording an album together already?
L: Of course, man. The hard work was done really before we went into the studio this time around. Obviously James [Joseph, bassist] left recently and a lot of the time with this band, because we’re all so passionate about it, ironically everybody is very passionate about everything they do, and when your passions kind of go in different directions it’s important to pursue those things. The line-up change conversation is always one that I’m a bit — it does suck, but I’m proud of James, I’m proud of Fez, I’m proud of everybody who has ever been in this band for doing what they believed is right and, as it stands right now, our line-up is the strongest that it has ever been in my opinion. Once tours start rolling again I think people are really going to be able to tell that this is the best version of us.
DP!: I can imagine recording the album during lockdown was beneficial in a way as well as without your say so all distractions had more or less been removed as there’s little to nothing to do away from the studio?
L: To be honest I did switch off a lot on purpose during the pandemic because there was so much nothingness. The bigger the space the louder the echo, and that one thought of negativity or things going wrong – that’s going to chime for weeks. There were periods of it where I honestly stepped back from Holding Absence because I knew that I couldn’t help it, and I knew that it could actually make me feel worse mentally if I spent too long thinking about it.
DP!: There have been a number of bands who have written and recorded a new album months prior to releasing it because they can’t tour it, with some bands still waiting a little longer before putting anything out there. Was that something that you discussed? Did you sit on ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ longer than you’d intended because of the pandemic?
L: Yeah, we sat on it six months longer than we’d intended, and in all honesty I think it might’ve been better if we sat on it for another six months. Not to disregard everything that’s happened as a result and I’m so glad our fans have been able to hear and enjoy it. I’m happy with everything that has happened, but I still feel like weirdly like it hasn’t really come out yet because we haven’t been able to play it to people, but it’s just a horrible position to be in either way. Do you try and get in the train, or do stay where you are for fear of it closing on you? It was one of those moments, and mainly I just feel for bands like Boston Manor, Enter Shikari, Creeper; all bands that released spectacular records yet I feel were sadly caught on one side without a choice. You’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
DP!: Listening to ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’, it feels very much like an album that was written for ‘the album experience’. There’s a channel going through it. Was that a conscious attribute you wanted it to have when you were creating it?
L: Very much so, yeah. We were very conscious that we wanted it to be that way. To be honest it’s something that we’ll always do because, at the end of the day, art needs to be brave and it needs to be obnoxious and arrogant. You can listen to any song from that album that you want to in any order, but the true experience is listening to it from track to track because of the way we have literally forced the songs to overlap. For me I absolutely love that, because it says to the listener “Yeah, you can listen to this song on its own, by all means, but from where we’re stood we want you to listen it all and in this way.” There’s an order because that’s the journey. It’s a thoughtful thing, and it’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time working on. A painting might look great upside down, but that’s not how the artist made it to be.
DP!: Not only that, but you’re also playing the album in full from front-to-back for the new livestream event that you’ve just announced. How are you feeling about that? Has it already been recorded?
L: We’re so excited. Yeah, we did the whole thing from front-to-back and it just felt like — it was just something else, man. It felt like outer body kind of vibes, and we had a couple of people join us for it as well. We had our friend Arwell playing piano for us, we had Toby from Casey playing guitar who’s also joining us tonight, and my sister also sang harmonies on all of the songs so it really elevated that performance. It’s in a beautiful venue as well, so it just felt like the coolest thing that we could’ve possibly done and I’m super happy with how it all went.
DP!: Do you think in a post-COVID world that livestreams will still have a place?
L: I do, but I think interestingly that a lot of musicians have learnt that they aren’t as good as I think people hope. I actually watched the Twenty One Pilots one and it was spectacular. It was incredible, but it was not cheap and they aren’t small. It’s something that I think on a big scale is fine, but, you know. I think the point that I’m getting at is that a guy with an acoustic guitar and an iPhone, that’s fine, and a band like Twenty One Pilots with a million pounds and a million fans, that’s also fine, but bands like us who are a little bit in the middle and where it’s like we don’t want to put it too much money ’cause you might not be able to get too much traffic from it, that’s a risk.
Holding Absence‘s sophomore album, ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’, is out now via SharpTone Records.