Interview Music

Interview: Holy Moly and the Crackers

By Alex Payne

If you’d like to introduce yourself

I’m Conrad, I’m one of the singers in the band, and I play trumpet and acoustic guitar, and I was in the band from the beginning, with Ruth and Rosie, about seven years ago.

How’s the tour going?

Really well, we’re three shows in and the tickets have sold way more than I thought they were going to. Kind of mind-blowing. It’s nice though because we’ve worked really hard this year, like we’ve had two weekends off this year, two weekends in January.

What with festivals and European tours. It can be pretty tough, but when you do a tour like this, and you know, people come down to shows and keep coming again and again, and it’s like oh shit all this work is paying off. And it is paying off.

What city are you most excited to go back to? What city has the best crowds?

London was really good because we have some old university friends who have been with the band from the beginning. There’s only fifteen of them but in a room of three hundred, they make a whole load of noise. So London’s really good, Newcastle is great because that’s where we live, so that’s always wild. Yorkshire’s great because it’s full of loud Yorkshire men getting drunk.

You’re from Yorkshire right?

Yeah, yeah, from Yorkshire. So that’s always a good turnout. I think my favourite city to play actually is Hull!  We’re not doing it on this tour, but for some reason, that’s always mental.

This is probably a really stupid question, but I haven’t seen it in any other interview. Where did the band’s name come from?

So, the name came from when we um when I was at university I had a mate, who would always go Holy Moly she or he’s a cracker when a good looking person walked past. And then I was like AH Holy Moly and the crackers, and he had a girlfriend, and we got drunk one night, and we were jamming, and she was like I’m making a band, and I was like I piped up and was like what about HMATC and she said that a shit name, and I would never call my band that. So when I made my band, I named it. So yeah, it’s an interesting name as it has kind of tied us down a little bit, I’m not sure if this makes sense, but as a festival band? You know what I mean? Like a boomtown, late night festival band, which is fine, and that’s what a lot of our shows are, but, um, we’re also trying to walk a different line at the moment.

Like your last album

But yeah exactly, the last album is a little bit darker, poppier, more rock influenced. Less kind of like folk band. It’s kind of feels like a clash between what the name suggests what the band is and what we’re trying to do. But it’s fine, we’ll work through it.

Yeah. Do you feel like your music is gonna keep going in that direction? Or will you go back to more folk orientated album?

We’ve just recorded a new album, that’s coming out next march, and that’s quite rocky, indie, you know, kind of a follow on from Salem, but it does kind of reference the folk blues thing as well. Because for me, any good rock music is rooted in blues music.

Yeah, it’s where rock comes from fundamentally isn’t it.

Yeah exactly, I love Jack White. He blows my tits off. What I love about him is it’s proper guitar rock. He samples a lot of different genres, a lot of hip-hop, but he has such a like deep understanding of folk tradition, and that really comes through, and that’s what I’d like to achieve.

It’s authentic isn’t it. He’s playing on cheap plastic guitars, it’s just out there.

It’s in his blood. It’s taking tradition and making it contemporary and relevant now, in terms of lyrics, in terms of sound. It’s just working to that thing of sticking to tradition, like we came from real folk, blues background, playing open mike night, American gospel songs, how do we turn that into something more. We don’t want to be stuck, we want to be playing rock music, indie music, pop music to an extent, just infused with folk.

That self-awareness is really interesting. Do you think there’s a glass ceiling for folk music?

Big time. I mean you’ve got me onto a subject I could bang on about big time. I feel like when we started playing together, which was around 2011, I think between 2009 and 2013, because of Mumford and Sons, folk music was quite popular, and you could kind of edge around the mainstream, but now it’s a different landscape.

They’ve changed their sound now haven’t they?

They’ve changed their sound massively, but don’t get me started on them. I didn’t really like them to begin with but they did a really good thing for folk music, but what has happened now, after, there’s all those bands that copied Mumford and Sons, and they’re like, fuck what do we do. How do we adapt to that? I know friends of mine in bands like that, and I follow bands like that, and it’s really interesting to see how they adapt. I think the important thing is you have to change and work out how to do that and still feel authentic to you. I see bands who were folk bands and are now really lame, shite, bland indie music. It’s so easy to do.

A couple more questions. So, you’ve been championed by Radio X, BBC Introducing, played at massive festivals like Glasto and Boomtown, and now, the Ocean’s Eight soundtrack. So, what has been your greatest achievement so far, and what aims do you have for the band coming up?

Greatest achievement? The fact we’re still going and people are turning up to our shows is the greatest achievement for me. Playing Glasto was a massive boyhood dream ticked off for me, we’ve played a massive show in Czech festival over the summer, and that was the biggest crowd we have ever played too, about 7000, and that was a big deal. I’ve been watching festival footage from twelve years old, and to see all those people like that is a big deal. Obviously getting on the soundtrack and going to the premier was unexpected, I still don’t quite know how to take that; it’s cool, but you wouldn’t expect to be on a film like that. It’s not what we aimed to do. Just a really happy accident. It also means that financially we can make another album, which means another two years of touring, and keeps us going until something else comes up. Which is really good. I think the aim is to be able to tour and fill 500-1000 capacity venues. Like at the moment we play to between 100-300 people average, which is great and I fucking love it, but I dream of a bit more.

This one is slightly more specific but is there a story to the woman from Spain?

No, there isn’t. We wrote it a few years ago. A lot of the songs I write, I haven’t wrote many on the new album, a lot of the songs I write, I really come from a folk tradition, I did creative writing at university, poetry and literature, so a lot of songs I write aren’t actually from experiences, it’s from my imagination, which is cool, but for the new album we’ve tried to be a bit more personal, as Ruth was saying at the beginning of the writing process, she does most the singing, and that she needs to feel what she’s singing, so it needs to come from somewhere real even if its been exaggerated. So yeah the woman from Spain is just a…

It’s my fav song on the album so I thought I’d ask. It’s a nice segway though onto the writing process, as you’re a larger band. How does that work?

It kinda changes for each song. Um in the past it’s mainly been me or ruth and sometimes Rosie writing a whole song, and then we just put the band around it, which was due to time constraints, like we’ve always written in a rush previously, like fuck we need to do something and

Put something out?

Someone’s like oh I’ve written this song, and we’re like cool, let’s do it. The album that we’re going to release has had a different process, because at the beginning of the year we decided to take our time over this. This was much more like oh I’ve got a lyric or melody idea, someone else, Nick whos on electric, it’s his first album he’s done with us, he’s a riff writer, so he comes up with the riffs. It’s more collaborative. Across the board. But then ruth has, for the new stuff has been writing, the band would write a piece without vocals or lyrics, so there would be no main melody, would finish the whole song and be like okay, this is a verse, this is a chorus. Then we’ll give it to Ruth who has a really good ear for a topline melody, and she’ll put it together and make it something that in my eyes is perfect. So i think it’s been more collaborative and ruth has stepped up, and i think it makes sense as she sings most of the songs, so it’s gotta come from her, and everyone writes differently for themselves. I feel like we’ve been more intelligent about how we write.

If you’re singing it every week, I suppose it makes sense to have it exactly how you want it, especially now that you have the means to.

You recorded the last album in the Midlands right? A 12th-century mansion right?

Yeah, it belonged to this mad bastard called Matt Towey, who we met just through a contact, our old guitar player, who had worked with him before, because this guy is a big indie records in the 2000s, like the NME and stuff like that, and he got kinda big through a couple of records, and he’d upsided his studio, and he’s basically brought himself an estate, which had this family twelfth century chapel and he had converted it into the most amazing studio, and I mean, if you wanna make a grunge or punk album, you don’t go there, because it is super nice, you have got lovely accommodation, but, it’s a very like, you live there for a month, and you live in the album.

Did you go back there for the new album?

Yep, the new album, we made it there, so yeah, and naturally the new process was great because on Salem it was the first time we worked with Matt and we were just feeling each other out, working processes, our tastes as well; taste is really important in the relationship between the producer and the band, and because we did that album, I feel like when we got to this album, we knew how Matt worked

More natural

Much more natural, everything was was calm and purposeful; there was no panic in the studio, it was quite an easy environment/process, because we knew what we were doing at every turn, and even when it kind of, when a question or decision came up in the studio, we were all on the same wavelength. So someone would go oh I think we should do this and we’d all go off course that makes sense! So I’m banging on about the new album a lot, it’s the first time we’ve made music from…

Just one or two, I’m aware that Ruth suffers from EDS and arthritis and just generally how has that affected the band? I know that you’ve touched on it before but I think it’s an important topic.

I think it is. How has it affected the band? It, it is really difficult, she finds it really difficult, um and she’s a complete warrior, EDS and Arthritis, a lot of chronic pain, a lot of fatigue – the only good way to stay on top of it is good diet and good sleep schedule, that’s the two things you don’t get on tour. So I think she has to be very strong mentally, and she is, to kind of learn how to deal with that, you know, the band are really good about it, they’re really good support network and team, and she talks to a lot of people with chronic illness, and the one thing they sometimes don’t get is that good support team around them, just friends who are there to help and know exactly what to do, and what the illness is and what she needs, because every illness is individual to the person, and being in the band, everyone knows it inside out

It’s like an extended family I suppose

Yeah, and me and Ruth have been dating for ten years now, and before the band started, so I’ve, we’ve grown up with the illness together and worked through it together, and I mean, to be honest, actually I should have kept Ruth here, because she’s really good at talking about it. From her point of view I think she was saying the other day, she spends all her time in a chair, lower than everyone else, and actually, for her to be in a band who whose job is to bring entertainment and a party to a big group of people, and to lead that party, really affirming. And for her really important for other people with chronic illness that they can see that it is possible, and just because you’re disabled you can’t do this or you can’t do that. It doesn’t have to hold you back, and I think she finally comes to terms with it, with that she’s starting to talk about it. She didn’t want to be identified by it. She wanted to be a singer, and be more than the disease. And now she’s got to a point where she feels like she’s not disabled, and she’s a singer, and the illness is absolutely a part of her, but she’s more than it

Just one more question, what can people expect from a HMATC gig?

Just loud noise, a lot of dancing, nothing too serious!