Into the (weird) Groove

Holy Fuck’s Raw Music Is As Provocative As Their Name

"It's easy to be fearless when you don't expect to play anything beyond local experimental shows Sunday nights upstairs from Mexican restaurants," says Brian Borcherdt of his Toronto lo-fi electronic supergroup Holy Fuck.

Which goes far to explain the name. "We're like, 'I can't believe no one else has this already,'" he says of the fact that holyfuck.com belongs to them and not a nun-porn fetishist. "It's like getting the domain rights to 'email.com' or 'internet.com.'"

These days, HF's fearlessness has graduated them from experimental shows to being the band that could save electronic music from itself by reminding us that before rock bands using beats and bleeps were dope, funky and house-y, they rocked free from pigeonholes—but most important, they rocked, as much Sabbath as Seefeel.

Holy fuck! Watch out for the primordial synth-goo! Photo by James Mejia.
Holy fuck! Watch out for the primordial synth-goo! Photo by James Mejia.

Besides the catch-phrase equity (if the music thing doesn't work, they can make a fortune in merch), Borcherdt and his "music nerds"—Graham Walsh, Mike Bigelow, Loel Campbell, Kevin Lynn, Glenn Milchem, Robbie Kuster and Matt Schulz—make the most satisfyingly organic synth-driven freak-outs this side of electronic music's current irony curtain. Which means, you won't hear any "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" agit-dance sarcasm. The 'Fucksters sound like Daft Punk, if that French duo had never left the house—or basement.

Like Tortoise and Tom Tom Club, HF is a side project that threatens to eclipse its members' other bands: After just an LP and an EP, they have an album dropping Oct. 23 on the Young Turks label. Borcherdt muses, "One reason a lot of side projects end up catching on so quick is that there is less ego controlling the material."

And the fact that most groups aspire to micro-genres and sub-groupings; HF go back to the same raw wires and primordial synth-goo that inspire everybody else, only they stick with the goo. They have contemporaries, sure: "Chad VanGaalen, Wolf Parade and their spinoffs such as Megasoid, bands on the Dependent label," lists Borcherdt. But none fuck as holy as Holy Fuck do.

"I'd like to call myself 'Krautrock Rubin,' or 'Grunge Ra.' I don't know . . ." Borcherdt begins. "We also love [Damo] Suzuki-era Can. I mean, who doesn't? We met one of the guys from the Klaxons—one of those classic examples of a 'MySpace Indie Dance Kid' bands. But he was deejaying Can, Neu! and Silver Apples. The difference with us is, growing up in small Canadian towns, we weren't exposed to the 'ravey Brit-pop.' We don't go to clubs, per se. . . . We're more like Neil Young going Trans—except in the year 2007 and with Crazy Horse as his backing band.

"We decided to pick up toys and instruments that were so limited that we'd have less control. [Otherwise we'd] have to be stuck with the shitty preset beats. No one can pressure us to try to make something more current-sounding, to make our beats the 'dopest.'"

Irony being, Holy Fuck's had the pretty dope luck of being drafted by ex-Anti-Pop Consortium rapper Beans to be his backing band at Coachella last year, fulfilling, as it turns out, Borcherdt's destiny. "In my elementary school yearbook, we had to quote our 'thrill of a lifetime.' Mine was to make the best rap tape. In a small Nova Scotian town, most people thought I was aspiring to make a really great adhesive. I had to laugh when, finally, we ended up touring as Beans' backing band."

And now these Great White North music nerds are reintroducing indie kids to the pleasures of electronic music that isn't just a backdrop for drugs and dancing. "I remember hearing Kid 606. I [found] it encouraging to know there was a world out there that wasn't only interested in making kids dance," he explains. "Seeing Kid 606 live, I was disappointed. Watching someone stare into a laptop is like looking over someone's shoulder while they do their taxes."

Watching Holy Fuck, however, is like watching music evolve, turning Sigur Rós' post-coital sonic cooing into more of a point-of-conception id-interior monologue. Borcherdt offers a less hyperbolic assessment:

"I don't think our music is necessarily any more 'electronic' than it would've been in any experimental rock band. We're Canadian, but we don't sound a lot like certain popular Canadian bands. We play instruments that require batteries and power cables, but that doesn't necessarily make us an electronic band. We have 'Fuck' in the title of our band, but we didn't really mean anything by it."

"Fuck" no? Fuck yeah! Shut up and don't dance.


HOLY FUCK PERFORM WITH WOLF PARADE AT THE GLASS HOUSE, 200 W. SECOND ST., POMONA, (909) 865-3802; WWW.THEGLASSHOUSE.US. SAT., 7 P.M. $20. ALL AGES; AND AT THE PROSPECTOR, 2400 E. SEVENTH ST., LONG BEACH, (562) 438-3839. SUN, 10 P.M. CALL FOR COVER. 

 
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