Saturday, April 9, 2016

An Interview with Holy Grove

With their massive riffs and choruses that burrow into your skull, Holy Grove are one of the best new bands from the metal hot bed that is Portland, Oregon. Their self-titled debut, newly released through Heavy Psych Sounds Records, will quickly make a fan of anyone who likes their music heavy and hook-laden. I reached out to the band for the lowdown; bassist Gregg Emley took the time to  answer my questions, with an assist by vocalist Andrea Vidal and guitarist Trent Jacobs.

photo by FotoPhortress

Dreams of Consciousness: Who is Holy Grove and how would you describe yourselves?

Gregg: Holy Grove is Trent Jacobs – Guitar, Adam Jelsing – Drums, Gregg Emley – Bass and Andrea Vidal – Vocals. I would describe our band as our version of Man’s Ruin-era Stoner Rock meets Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Big riffs, swinging grooves and powerful vocals.

DoC: Please give a brief history of your band for those who aren't familiar with you - how did Holy Grove come about? What did you set out to accomplish, and how close are you now?

Gregg: The band formed in early 2012. We spent about 6 months getting songs together for a set, recorded a 4 song demo, and started playing out locally here in Portland. We were lucky enough to get a good response, and were able to start playing bigger and better shows. At the beginning all we really set out to do was be in a good band. We’ve all been playing music for a long time, and had no expectations other than to write songs that we were happy with and play out live….maybe record if we got the chance. So in that sense, we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do. Now that we have the opportunity to do more, we have a whole set of new things to accomplish!

DoC: Tell me about your self-titled debut - how long had you been working on the songs before you recorded them?

Gregg: The songs on the record are the first set of songs we wrote together. We wrote, refined and played them live for about a year and a half before we went in the studio. After playing them live for a while, there would be little things we would change or tweak a little bit here and there. We just wanted to get those little refinements out of the way before going into the studio.

DoC: The album as a whole is notable for how strong it is, but my favourite song by far is "The Hanged Man". What is the song about? Was it inspired by anything in particular?

Andrea: The song has this great hanging guitar, and such a natural sway and I wanted to write about something that could match that energy. "The Hanged Man" is a song about the ultimate martyr, the archetype to meditate on to help break old patterns of behavior and bad habits that restrict you. To me, the song represents showing strength and courage despite the struggles ahead, and being comfortable breaking away from the pack.

DoC: You recorded the album with Billy Anderson, and the sound (particularly the guitar tone) is amazing. What was it like working with Anderson, and what were your expectations (considering the other bands/albums he's recorded)?

Gregg: It was awesome! Billy lives here in Portland now, and we met him at a show we played with Witch Mountain. He’s worked with them for a few albums now, and they introduced us to him. We hit it off right away. Billy is a sweet, funny guy and we all felt comfortable with him immediately. Obviously you don’t have to worry about how the album is going to sound, because he’s Billy Anderson…you know it’s going to sound epic. Watching him work, particularly watching and listening to him mix, was amazing. The guy was involved in a couple of albums I would say literally changed my life, so it was pretty great to be able to work with him. We plan to continue working with him for future recordings.

A photo posted by Holy Grove (@holy_grove) on

DoC: Speaking of the guitar tone, what is your set up (if you don't mind me asking)?

Trent: The core of my tone is a Gibson SG through 1973 Marshall Super Bass. I run it on the edge of breakup, and then push it with an Earthquaker Devices Tone Reaper, which is their version of a Tone Bender Fuzz. On the album I used the Marshall in combination with an Ampeg V4, but lately I've been running an Orange Rockerverb in place of the Ampeg. Cabinets are Orange and Marshall.

DoC: Your album is released by the European doom/stoner rock label Heavy Psych Sounds. How did you get involved with them?

Gregg: When we finished the record, we started sending it to labels that we thought may dig it. HPS was interested and we were fans of the other bands on the label. Gabriele was a great guy to work with, and offered to press the record on vinyl which was something we really wanted to do. The fact that he is in a band (Black Rainbows) really informs how he runs the label…he treats bands like he would want his band to be treated. The label also has a booking arm, so the fact that he could assist us in booking a European tour was also appealing to us.

DoC: Your band is based in Portland OR, which has one of the biggest/best scenes for metal right now. What is the scene like? Who do you consider your peers? Any bands from the area that people should know about that they may not?

Gregg: There is definitely a great community of bands, promotors and fans here. There aren’t a lot of egos and people just generally want to help each other out. For example, we connected with Witch Mountain very early on, and they have been instrumental in getting us shows that have helped expose us to a wider audience. Even people who don’t necessarily play in bands are very involved in the scene. Nial from Hovercraft Amplifiers, is another good example. He has helped organize the “Hoverfest” the last two years, bringing together some of the bands to play an all day, kick-ass outdoor fest.

There are the bands that most everyone knows, like Witch Mountain, Yob and Danava…but we also have Disenchanter, Lord Dying, Sons of Huns, Pushy, and my personal current favorite new band, Zirakzigil. They are a 3 piece that play crazy labyrinthine 15 minute prog jams inspired by Lord of the Rings, and I’m pretty sure they’re barely old enough to get into bars. Billy Anderson also recorded their newest record and it crushes.

DoC: Holy Grove seems pretty busy on the live front. How important is the live experience for you? How often do you get to play live, and what are your touring plans?

Gregg: The live experience is very important to us. We try to give it 100% when we play live, and really do our best to bring the songs to life. Playing a good show, and getting a positive reaction from the crowd is what it’s all about. As far as playing locally, we really try to limit our local shows. We don’t want local audiences to burn out on us, so we try to keep it to once every 2-3 months here in town.

DoC: What's the next step for Holy Grove?

Gregg: The next major thing we have planned is a record release show here in Portland. It’s happening on Friday, April 15th and we were lucky enough to also get Demon Eye (from North Carolina) and Disenchanter on the bill. We’re excited about that. After that we’ll be playing at Psycho Las Vegas in August, along with a ton of great bands. We’re incredibly excited to be a part of that, along with a bunch of other Portland bands. It’s really cool that we get to go to Vegas and see a bunch of great bands, but also support and party with our friends from home! We have a European tour in the planning stages, tentatively scheduled for late October through mid-November. Stay tuned! Cheers!

Holy Grove on Facebook

Holy Grove on Bandcamp

Holy Grove on Instagram 

Holy Grove through Heavy Psych Sounds Records