Maybe Holodrum were destined to start at this point. This might be the first time they’ve all officially worked together, but between Emily Garner (vocals), Matthew Benn (synth/bass/production), Jonathan Nash (drums), Jonathan Wilkinson (guitar), Sam Shjipstone (guitar/vocals), Christopher Duffin (sax/synth) and Steve Nuttall (percussion) they've shared bands, mixed each other's records, promoted live shows and made music videos together in and around Leeds. As Holodrum, this is the seven-piece's debut album, but the interlocking grooves and hot headiness of their repeato-rock-via-CBGBs dopamine hits have in one way or other been fermenting for years.
"When it comes to doing music most bands fall between two extremes of doing it for some goal or as an end to itself” says Shjipstone. “I think Holodrum is about the joyand complexity of living, and I just hope to god everyone gets to have a good time doing it."
Ultimately the core of the group comes from Shjipstone and his former Hookworms bandmates Benn, Nash and Wilkinson. After their abrupt dissolution in late 2018, the four of them spent six months apart; Benn still had Xam Duo, his ongoing project with Virginia Wing and some-time James Holden & The Animal Spirits live member Duffin, Nash remains vocalist and guitarist of long-running DIY rockers Cowtown and helms his solo project Game_Program; and Shjipstone plays guitar with Yard Act. However, the four of them missed the sixth sense synergy they’d built-up playing together over a decade and soon enough demos were being swapped and new ideas were discussed.
The vision of a large live electronic ensemble formed quickly. Friends were added: Duffin and Nuttall – who was keen to resurrect the double percussion interplay that he and Nash had been exploring as part of motorik trio Nope – joined first. Then animator and VIDE0 singer Garner crystallised the line-up by joining on vocals.
"Apart from Emily, all of us had actually played together before in a covers band at a New Year’s Eve party at the Brudenell Social Club a couple of years ago, so we knew we could have fun together” says Benn. “So we set up to be a live party band early on. We wanted lots of people on stage having fun, playing for people that also wanted to have fun. It makes sense we take inspiration from bands like Tom Tom Club and Liquid Liquid; they were trying to help people to party at a point when New York was quite a scary and dangerous place – we’re doing the same, albeit in the face of a decaying world and a global pandemic."
The group work out of a shared rehearsal space and studio in Bradford with friends Virginia Wing, with Nash and Benn also separately producing records by the likes of VIDE0 and local post-punks Nape Neck there. It’s a space that encapsulates the sense of community that runs through Holodrum’s music; tunes that are made for moving but also act as a language of communication between the band themselves.The song writing is shared and members come and go in the music just as they do in the studio, putting ego aside in pursuit of the fulfilling whole.
"The process is really democratic" agrees Nash. "Everyone is free to add, take away, re-record, remix and openly discuss anything they want until we come to a conclusion. We work to the grid, which means disciplined rhythms with a wealth of textured, arpeggiated synths and intricate percussion woven into the foundations. It’s man and machine working in harmony."
Harmony, collaboration and community. They’re the three things that perhaps bond Holodrum together most tightly; this is a group of players who’ve experienced enough in music to come full circle and understand the simple joy of just playing with friends, jamming it out and putting something out into the ether that they can collectively be proud of. Like it always should be.