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The Light and Dark Inside: Holding Absence Talk Fusing Pop and Hardcore on Their Self-Titled Debut

Thursday, 07 March 2019 Written by Matt Mills

It’s taken Holding Absence a little over two years to go from freshly-formed newcomers in the Cardiff underground to one of the hottest acts in all of British hardcore. The youngsters have been cultivating their fanbase at a rapid pace, drawing new faces in with their infusion of heavy music’s shotgun-blast rhythms into what are otherwise emotional, melodic pop songs.

“When we first started, we just wanted to be a cathartic live band,” bassist and founder James Joseph says. “That’s all we really knew. Basically, a lot of other bands were coming to an end in our local scene and we were the guys who wanted to give it one more shot.”

The band’s core trio—James, drummer Ashley Green and lead singer Lucas Woodland—first came together in the summer of 2016. Fresh out of university and sharing a love of bands like Thrice and Underoath, their only goal was to perform music one last time before getting “real adult jobs”. However, when the band first started to write together, it became clear that their soundscape could expand beyond the boundaries of conventional hardcore music.

“As a musician, a lot of the time, what you write reflects what you’ve been listening to,” James explains. “Myself and Lucas are massive fans of hardcore in general, but I also have a more melodic background. I love bands like More Than Life and Have Heart. Feisal [El-Khazragi], our ex-guitarist who wrote some of our early stuff, liked Deafheaven and atmospheric post-rock bands. I think it was just taking those different influences and merging them together. That’s how we’re able to sound different to everyone else.”

With idols in the ambient, hardcore and melodic rock spheres, Holding Absence’s now-signature style of heaviness began to take shape. The band released the stand-alone singles Permanent and Dream of Me in late 2016, introducing a methodology of juxtaposing Lucas’s angelic vocals with distorted guitars, Ashley’s pummelling drums and James’s chopping basslines.

Within weeks, the two tracks had attracted the ears of international metalcore label SharpTone Records. “They got a DIY vibe from those music videos and our social media,” James recalls. “They said that there was nothing fake about us. And, they just really liked the music.”

SharpTone re-released Dream of Me and Permanent as a double A-side the following February, giving the fresh-faced Welshmen a foot in the door of the global hardcore scene. Hype followed at a remarkable pace. The band responded by spending the rest of 2017 gradually drip-feeding with yet more singles, unveiling videos for Penance, Heaven Knows, Saint Cecilia and Everything.

James remembers: “I came up with the idea of just doing loads of singles; SharpTone were really supportive of that. At first, we were like, ‘Yeah, this is cool! Demand is going to be so high by the time an album comes around.’ But we hit a glass ceiling. It got to the point where we realised that an album is the ticket to doing more than what we’d already done. Waiting that long was so tough mentally, because you don’t feel like a real band until you have an album.”

In late 2018, Holding Absence released yet another song, Like a Shadow. Originally, it appeared that the track would continue their established thread of individual singles. However, it was announced shortly afterwards that it was in fact the world’s first taste of Holding Absence’s long-awaited, self-titled debut album.

“Like a Shadow is one of the poppiest songs on the record,” James acknowledges, citing its emphasis on cataclysmic choruses and accessible lyrics about love and break-ups. “But you can tell that it’s hardcore kids playing pop music. The heavy way we play guitar and that Ash hits drums really does give our band its identity. The one thing we wanted is for the album to have some sort of weight to it. We didn’t want it to feel like nobody was really trying.”

As a whole, ‘Holding Absence’ is the grand climax to the band’s slow drip policy. Its diverse emotional tones vary from the catchy pop of its lead single to the piano-driven melancholy of Marigold and the heavy metal bang of Perish. It’s plain to see from its range and sophistication that this has been a project meticulously handled for a long time.

“We’re in a very tricky position where we’ve given it our best and are waiting to see what people think,” James summarises. “I don’t think any one of us knows where we’d like to go after the album. I think, between albums one and two, a band needs to mature a lot and find out what makes them tick.”

With Holding Absence already set to support their debut with a headlining UK tour later this month, it’s a maturation that many fans will be excited to follow.

‘Holding Absence’ is out on March 8 via SharpTone.

Holding Absence Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu March 21 2019 - SOUTHAMPTON Joiners
Fri March 22 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Flapper
Sat March 23 2019 - LEEDS Key Club
Sun March 24 2019 - HULL ORileys
Mon March 25 2019 - GLASGOW Garage
Wed March 27 2019 - MANCHESTER Rebellion
Thu March 28 2019 - CARDIFF Globe
Fri March 29 2019 - LONDON Underworld Camden

Click here to compare & buy Holding Absence Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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