Few things are more exciting than watching a group of artists develop over time. The Holds are one such Montreal based rock band that began by playing covers in clubs and have worked their way show by show to form their own identity and sound. They are on the verge of releasing their first eponymous EP next week and have just put out a video of their first single. I talked to the band’s heart and soul, singer Ryan Setton about how The Holds went from bar band to unique rock and roll outfit.
Like many bands, The Holds took a few years to put together its lineup. “Well, a few years ago, I was a writing and recording music with some friends and we needed a drummer, so through a mutual friend, I met Justin Weiley and we’ve been together since we met four years ago,” explains Setton. “A few months into it, we found Eric Hein, a guitarist.” Other members, keyboardist Alex Lebel and bassist Andre Galamba came later.
“For the first three years, we were playing covers of Motown, funk, R&B, and we played all the clubs in Montreal – Brutopia, Grumpys, Hurleys, and McKibbins,” Setton says. Those first years were not easy. “It was frustrating,” Setton says. “We were calling places and they were hanging up the phone on us and closing door on us. A lot of them have bands already on rotation. So, we started by replacing people who couldn’t make it. Pretty much, for about two years, we’d be the replacement band.” They took the gigs they could and “had the time of our lives” whether it was an empty house or packed with bodies. “That’s really special,” explains Setton, “If you can have a good time, no matter what you’re doing there’s something to be said about that.”
You can’t keep a good band on the replacement roster, though. “Finally, after they realized people were dancing and drinking and going crazy when we played, they started calling us,” Setton says. “Towards the end of it, we didn’t have to pick up the phone anymore.”
In the last year, though they decided to “hang up the gloves on that project and focus primarily on songwriting and releasing material,” says Setton. Their sound is a combination of rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and funk, resulting in an upbeat, fun, and authentic sound.
The Holds approach songwriting as a group. “We get together and jam it out and that’s how it starts. Then we’ll record it and listen to it and bring it back in and everyone will all give their input into what could be better about it,” Setton says. The process often goes through several rounds. Other times Setton comes in with an ideas, but “it’ll still go through the process of everyone having their input. It’s important to that. When we’re performing, all members of the band have their name on it.”
The EP was recorded at two different studios and mixed by Daniel Moscovich. “He really brought the record that we record to life,” says Setton. “It’s hard to capture what you sound like live on the recording. It sounds raw. He was able to go in and make it sound true to how we sound live.”
The band wanted to capture their live sound on the recording as a way of staying connected with the audience. “If it’s produced too much in the mixing stage, then when you go and see the band, you’ll wonder why it sounds so different from the record. We wanted something that sounded true to form, something that we can get behind. We wanted to mix in a way that represents us with honesty and not pretention,” he says.
Along with the EP, the band also released a new video that was recorded in an old warehouse basement in Montreal East. The band is also hoping to tour sometime in late spring or early summer. Their goals right now are to “Keep on promoting the record and working on the next one,” says Setton. “We already have some brand new material.”
The band’s favorite thing is playing live. “Other than getting a good take in the studio, it’s about connecting with the audience,” Setton says. “Playing live — it’s the best.”
“All I can say is that everything is going well, for us,” Setton says. “I truly feel it’s just the beginning and we have no plans of slowing down.
With Joshua Carey of Po Lazarus opening, The Holds EP release is January 29 at O Patro Vys (356 Mt Royal E). 8 p.m. $9 includes copy of album.