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Holy Fuck: What's In a Name?

 story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: March 5, 2008

Holy Fuck
w/ A Place to Bury Strangers, Flowers Forever
Sunday, March 9, 9 p.m.
The Waiting Room
6212 Maple St.

The band's name came about just as you'd expect, confirmed Graham Walsh.

He and the other half of Holy Fuck, Brian Borcherdt, threw out the obscenity as a lark before making their first show poster.

"That's pretty much what happened," Walsh said from a Los Angeles airport hotel on a tour that brings them to The Waiting Room this coming Sunday. "We get a lot of interview questions about the name, of course. People think we're trying to be bold, but we just wanted to see what it would look like on a flyer. We thought it would be hilarious."




Born three years ago out from the womb of the thriving Toronto music scene, Holy Fuck was the holy union of Borcherdt, who played in By Devine Right (a band whose former members included Broken Social Scene's Leslie Feist and Brendan Canning), and Walsh, who was a member of the band Flux.

"We met through mutual friends," Walsh said. "Brian's a singer songwriter, and I started playing with him on guitar. Then we started doing this weirdo experimental thing. Our first show was Pop Montreal, a festival. Brian's solo band got booked there, so we also booked a Holy Fuck set on a random stage. We didn't know what we were doing, and then lo and behold, a popular MC named Beans was at the show."

Beans, a founding member of New York alt hip-hop group Antipop Consortium and the self-proclaimed "Ornette Coleman of this rap shit" was blown away by Holy Fuck's unconventional approach toward electronic dance music. He asked the duo to be his touring backing band. Their first gig with Beans was at Coachella three years ago (on a tour that also brought them to Sokol Underground July 21, 2005). The momentum has been building ever since.

The act often is described as a low-fi improvisational electronic dance band. But their just-released full length, LP, on Beggars Banquet, sounds honed and calculated, anything but ad-libbed. Tracks like the bombastic dance splurge "Royal Gregory" and tripped-out bass-rolling "Milkshake" are strobe-light club fodder that LCD Soundsystem or fellow Canadians Junior Boys would be proud to call their own.

But if there's a difference between Holy Fuck and your typical pre-programmed headphone-wearing DJ dance factory, it's in the staging, which is where the improv comes in. You're never going to find the duo sharing the stage with a glowing Macbook. Walsh knows just how disappointing computerized electronic music can be for an audience.

"I remember one particular show at this 750-capacity venue," Walsh said. "It was a guy on stage with a laptop and a bar stool holding a cigarette. All 750 people were staring forward at him while he sat there. He could have been checking his e-mail."

So forget the laptops. Instead, Holy Fuck bassist Matt McQuaid and new drummer Matt Schulz back Walsh and Borcherdt while they play instruments both conventional and unconventional -- including a 35 mm film sequencer and toy keyboards -- creating a style of music usually achieved only with computers.

"The live show is more impactful and more engaging for the audience," Walsh said. "We don't replicate the album, hence the whole improvisation thing. We're like any typical rock band. The music has that organic feeling and tone. We have as little canned music as possible, which gives us room and space to play. I don't want to be bound by a backing track that would force us to play the same music with the same effects every night."

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Published in The Omaha Reader March 6, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.










"It was a guy on stage with a laptop and a bar stool holding a cigarette. All 750 people were staring forward at him while he sat there. He could have been checking his e-mail."