Last Thursday, Brooklyn band, Hollands played a midnight show at Fontana’s. I got to sit down with the lead singer and guitarist, John-Paul Norpoth, before the show. Norpoth shared his ruminations on their first EP, Faces, now available on iTunes, and the band’s focus on the September release of their second EP, Mother.
Norpoth is the only current band member who contributed to Faces. He wrote it in ’03 and ’04 and recorded it from ’05 to ’07. It was originally a side project that he worked on while he was in the band Butane Variations. Although proud of the record, Norpoth seemed anxious to move away from it and eager to concentrate on the new direction that the band is taking with their sound. He described Faces as being “dated stylistically” in comparison to where their sound is now. Revtone Digital Music, an online distributor, was the driving force behind the release of Faces, though Norpoth was at times hesitant about the delayed release of his old material when the band is so focused on the new.
There are four core members of the band, John-Paul Norpoth on guitar and vocals, Jim Robertson on bass, Jannina Barefield on violin, and Kenny Grohowski on drums. Barefield was not in attendance at the performance, leaving it to the three boys to put on the show. Norpoth has a classical music background; he studied at the New School with all of his current bandmates. Norpoth and Barefield sometimes play smaller duo gigs minus the drum and bass. Additional jazz and string musicians frequently join the core band members, to create what Norpoth described as their desired “broad musical sound.” Norpoth explained, “In addition to our rhythm section, sometimes we play with an organist/pianist and three string players… The band can grow to be quite large. The songs work in all settings and I guess I like to fit the venue with whatever seems necessary.” For the intimate space at Fontana’s, the three-person band was just the right fit.
After performances by experimental ambient-rock band Venice is Sinking, and urban-Americana band And The Revelers Fell, the headliners of the evening, Hollands, took the stage just after midnight. They opened with an energetic drum-driven cover of Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio.” “Over and Out,” from Faces, a rollicking rock jam, kept the energy high while Norpoth reassured the crowd, “It’s late but we’re going to keep you up.” Later in the set, they slowed things down with the sonic, rock-a-billy jam “Lungs of Steele,” showcasing Norpoths’ melancholy, wistful vocals, but kicked it back into high gear when Grohowski started “Strong Arm” with a rhythmic punch, and they really hit their stride. Despite a broken string and guitar switch before the more delicate “Coughing Boy,” they picked it up in the second half when Robertson’s memorable bass line came in and led into another standout track “Goldie Hawn.” They closed the show with the psychedelic, airy, “Air Conditioned Heart,” a perfect song to enjoy on a long summer night.
Check out a couple of the songs from Faces here:
You can preview more of their upcoming stuff on their myspace page.
Hollands has a sound that is simultaneously nostalgic, current, and timeless. They span musical styles and decades with influences as varied as classical music, Wilco, the Flaming Lips, and Paul Simon. On “Air Conditioned Heart” Norpoth’s wronged, bluesy vocals are featured on a folk-rock track that sounds like the Grateful Dead and Arcade Fire joined forces. Hollands is a band to watch. We are looking forward to the September release of Mother, and, having heard just the trio, I’m anxious to check them out when they have a fuller band.
They are touring in upstate New York for the rest of the month before they return to perform at Pete’s Candy Store on August 21st.