American roots, blues, and overall bad-asses, Holy Moly & The Crackers, have got one hell of a reputation as a firecracker of a live act. Damian Robinson caught up with frontman, Conrad Bird, to find out more about their new single ‘Gravel Rag’ and drinking rum.
Your new single, ‘Gravel Rag’, sounds like an explosion of noise. Where did the idea for the track come from? And what exactly is a gravel rag?
Last year we were in the studio with our producer Matt Terry. One day myself and Matt stayed up late drinking rum and sharing music. I had recently discovered Jack White’s solo album ‘Blunderbuss’ and the song, ‘I’m Shaking’. A few weeks later, Ruth and Matt had come up with the first demo based on this one chunky blues hook and riff provisionally called ‘Gravel Trap’. Not long before, our accordion player, Rosie, had shown me an early rag-time piano piece called ‘Gravel Rag’ and I thought the name fitted much better. We wanted to tip our hat to our influences and inspirations – American roots and blues. But, at the same time, we worked hard to make sure that it is still contemporary, alive and kicking. For us, ‘Gravel Rag’ is a term for dirty dancing and hard partying.
‘Gravel Rag’ is focused around a heavy electric-guitar sound, perhaps even more so than any other Holy Moly track. What was the decision for the sound of the track? And is this a new direction for the band?
I think with our last album, ‘Salem’, we were starting to explore the ‘rock genre’, but there was a lot of fumbling in the dark and what we ended up with something that felt a little overproduced/polished. We wanted to make something dirtier so bring on the electric guitar. When all is said and done, we are a folk band – but look at the early pioneers of folk music, especially in the American tradition: they were hard-ass punks. So why not turn it up?
There’s some pretty intense jiving happening in the video for ‘Gravel Rag’. Where did the concept from the video come from?
That’ll be Elise and Lerato. Elise used to run Swung-Eight at World HQ and it was the best swing dancing nightclub in the North East for a while. Lerato is an amazing contemporary dancer and teacher and we’ve come across her quite a few times on the festival circuit. Again inspired by Jack White, and the video he made for ‘I’m Shakin”, we wanted to illustrate the relationship between tradition and contemporary through dance.
You’re heading back out on tour with shows in Newcastle and Stockton this month. Your live shows are always a blast but look like hard work for the band. Do you look forward to playing live?
Absolutely as it’s where the band truly expresses itself. Everything we do – rehearsing, recording, planning, scheming, dressing up, dressing down – it all leads to the same thing: the hot stage and a raucous crowd. The shows are a work-out that’s for sure, and they’re only getting more intense. If we’ve still got the energy to go out after a show, then we haven’t put enough in.
What can we expect from the new tour?
In November we head out on our biggest UK Tour to date. The Riverside show (30th Nov), will be the biggest headline show we’ve ever played, so we’ve got to step up to the mark. We’ve already started writing for our new album and there’s some very juicy music being brought to the table.
Holy Moly & The Crackers play dates in both Newcastle and Stockton in May. For tour dates, tickets, and to purchase new single ‘Gravel Rag’ head to holymolyandthecrackers.com.