In June 2007, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to The Holloways in my capacity as music editor at the Swansea Uni student rag. As the band now prepares to say its final goodbyes on 23 May at the Relentless Garage, it’s time to publish a feature that has waited long enough to see the light of day.
“Who leaves a mint Aero in the glovebox on a summer tour?!” Alfie Jackson may have the intent, but the inquisition lacks the penetration to draw any confessions from his bandmates in the back of The Holloways’ tour bus. In fact, the lament falls on deaf ears, but he has got a point – it is a pretty warm June day.
North London’s finest arrive in Swansea as part of a 2007 seaside tour. Sin City is not exactly frantic with activity in preparation, but they are setting up inside. But ‘they’ do not include Bryn Fowler (bass) and Dave Danger (drums). They’re outside in the tour bus after agreeing to chat to Front. Did I say it was warm?
Swansea comes after Bournemouth, Morecambe and Whitehaven; it’ll precede Penzance, Southend and Cleethorpes. A whistle-stop, week-long tour of seaside resorts and one that Bryn says was a conscious decision: “It was something we thought of from the very first week of being in a band!”
” You go to Manchester, Birmingham… these places over and over again, and it gets boring,” adds Dave “We get to go to towns we don’t usually go to. We went to Whitehaven yesterday (3 June), which is basically nearly Scotland. It was a fucking amazing gig.” Swansea has met an unlikely challenger from up north.
Swansea is yet to make much of an impression on The Holloways. Lateness and the need to do some shopping have prevented them from taking in the sights of the city. ” We weren’t actually sure if you had a beach,” Dave admits in the most diplomatic way possible. Even I’m not sure if it’s a beach, or a flooded mud flat.
It’s not yet been a year since the band released the debut album So This Is Great Britain? – a title that Dave points out is not a statement, but a question. ” If you listen to the album I don’t think we say it’s that bad. The whole album is a question.” The question being ‘Is the UK a ‘stinking ship that’s full of shit…?’
Bryn continues: “Is this Great Britain? Because it shouldn’t be, and if you think it is, you need to change it. If you listen to it, these are the things that people think Great Britain is. Is it these, or is it the Generator, Two Left Feet side of things – everyone’s out to have a good time. Why do we sit there and moan?”
There are certainly points in which the lyrical observations cut quite close to the bone of the British psyche, but Bryn says there is no political motivation here. In a similar vein to that of the Arctic Monkeys, it is the observations and quirks of UK life that provide inspiration for lyricists Alfie and Rob [Skipper].
“Alfie and Rob write the songs and I think that Alfie observes what’s going on around him,” reveals Dave. “Not in that he knows any better than anyone else; he’s just saying what’s happening. He questions your views on everything.”
“We all know what’s happening, but the album’s much more about everything as a whole, looking at it as an overview, and not saying it’d be better if ‘this’ was like ‘this’,” continues Bryn.
No-one is immune from a melodic lampooning. Osama Bin Laden may well still be the world’s Most Wanted Man, but that hasn’t stopped Alfie using his name as a convenient rhyme for an erection. The War on Terror has taken a humorous turn six years on. Well, it’s enough to keep this budding hack amused anyway.
” If we don’t like a line, we’ll say that one’s a bit corny,” says Dave. “We chuck in our lyrics here and there, but they write 95 per cent and we help make it into a Holloways song. And that Bin Laden/hard on rhyming – that was a joke. Alf was just singing and we were ‘let’s make it into a song.’
“That’s a pretty good one. Maybe we should play the album around Afghanistan and see if he comes out. ‘Don’t rhyme my name with hard-on!’ Grab him now!”
Even if their contribution to the battle fails to produce, the band are happy with how their debut album went down with the buying public. And it’s now about to be pushed back into the consciousness: “We’re gearing up for a re-launch of it because Generator’s getting a lot of Radio One play,” says Bryn.
” Now the radio are actually supporting the song, it means that the music’s getting out there to more people. We’ve been around for two and a half years now, and there are still kids who haven’t heard of us – you think that’s a bit weird; how can you never have heard of us? It’s finally getting through.”
Generator is to hit the shelves for a second time on 11 June, and Dave hopes there will be a bounce in support: “We’re hoping the song is a hit because that means the next release will be instantly supported. Radio One like to think if they put it on the playlist and it’s a big hit, then it’s next to our name.”
Both Generator and Two Left Feet are going to have had two releases as singles, but there are plans for another, different release from the album after the latter. And there is plenty of variety that will capture The Holloways’ style. Dave admits that Re-invent Myself is a label favourite, but Bryn reveals other ideas.
” We’re thinking of a different one, something like Malcontented One or Most Lonely Face [no mention of Diamonds and Pearls makes for a sad hack] – a slower one, break it down on a ballad. But we’ve got to go to Japan over the summer. The album was out there in March and going really well.”
Meanwhile, any thoughts of a second album are on the back burner at present. The US is beckoning, in more ways than one. Dave says: ” After September, the album’s coming out in the States so we have to give that some time.
“We signed a six-album deal. Per album, it has to be renegotiated. It’s the most boring shit and it goes to their lawyers. Because we signed to an American label [TVT], they deal in US law and we deal in UK law, so it takes a long time. We’ll probably do a second album – we’re thinking start of 2008, coming out March.”
With that to look forward to, we hope, The Holloways look as if they will spend some time before that becoming more acquainted with their fanbase. “I joined Facebook today, because I’m getting some emails from India,” exclaims Dave. The social media revolution has touched base with these guys…
Bryn is less upbeat about it all: “I got made to be a member in January by a girl because she didn’t like MySpace. I went through a time of doing all the things for the band. I did Facebook because people needed a contact for the band on that. Bebo’s another one as well.”
Without wanting to name check the Arctic Monkeys again, social media sites are becoming a useful tool in helping bands spread the word. The Holloways are no different: “It’s such a useful tool for bands though, MySpace, to let the kids know about last-minute gigs and new songs,” says Dave.
Bryn goes on to explain how reaching out with Myspace (and keeping the design simple) has enabled the band to reel in fans from all over the world. “Bolivia!” is apparently one of the outposts of Holloways fandom. I can’t vouch for that, I’ve never been. So for now, we’ll take their word for it.
As the band wins the battle for hearts and minds across the world, the roots of The Holloways are – as the name suggests – entrenched on the Holloway Road in North London. Mecca for The Holloways is Nambucca, a pub and the location where it all began in October 2004.
Dave takes up the story: ” Me and our manager Jay ran a promotions company. We found a pub in North London – the Nambucca, a big empty pub. We built it into the indie mecca that it is today. Bryn did a couple of shifts there.”
The tale doesn’t come without some correction from Bryn, at pains to point out: ” I did the donkey work for them for six months whilst they flounced about. I stage managed every night.”
Not exactly a can of worms, but this appears to be a contentious recollection on both sides. Dave replies: ” I don’t know where he’s getting all this! Bryn did the sound. But basically we run this pub.”
And with that, Bryn seems to be in agreement. There are no more objections, as Dave continues with the tale: ” We used to do a night called Sensible Sundays which was an open-mic thing. This girl who worked at the bar was going out with Alfie. Alfie met Bryn, Bryn came along to the pub.
“Rob would come down with a friend because he’d heard about the night. It came from us all drinking in the same pub, watching each other play on the stage. We realised we could form a band together. It was a very easy thing.”
The development of the band from that point has been an organic one, by Dave’s own admission. There were no specific influences, as Bryn says: ” We didn’t even know if we liked the same music. We assumed we did because we all drank in the pub that played the same sort of music.”
From there, it has snowballed into the success that The Holloways are currently enjoying. ” It wasn’t until record labels were coming to the stage that we thought this could be quite serious. We got an agent, got a press company, and this was real,” recalls Dave. Now, this summer, they’re playing Glastonbury.
Using Swansea to warm-up for one of the world’s most iconic festivals is not an entirely tried-and-tested approach, but the guys are here and enthusiastic. That bodes well for tonight’s gig… and the preparations appear to be complete inside. They must be, because Rob is striding towards us playing the guitar.
“Shut up,” is the welcome from Dave. “We’re doing an interview.” Bryn is just as grateful for the musical interlude. There is a cheeky innocence about Rob – “Oh right.” Hmm, perhaps not. But he does get the honour of the last question, one that brings Front’s time with The Holloways to a close. For now.
“How you doing, Rob?”
“Alright,” he smiles. Bemused. But he’s alright. And we can all leave the tour bus.