Austin rock band Holy Wave releases dreamy new album on cool Seattle label
An incredible Austin band has a new record out on one of the coolest labels: The band is Holy Wave, a quartet who make beautiful dreamy pop music with all sorts of textures, and layers, and harmonies, and minor chords.
The record is called Five of Cups, released on August 4, and it's their sixth full-length release — but it's their first on Suicide Squeeze Records, a Seattle label that's home to stellar garage and rock bands such as L.A. Witch and Death Valley Girls.
Holy Wave's music has an innocence that could represent the untapped potential of a listener's young life. Or if you're older, it could summon throwbacks to the California Dreamin'-era of the mid 1960s and '90s English shoegaze band Ride, with bits of Texas and garage rock mixed in.
It evokes all kinds of things: A flash of a song you once heard at a party but never got the name of. Reminders of lofty goals you had before life got in the way. Nostalgia for a time in the past that you may never have actually lived in yourself.
Whatever it is, Five of Cups makes life seem better, more epic when it's playing, a soundtrack for lying in the sun or driving late at night, or when you meet someone for the first time. If Five of Cups is playing when you meet someone for the first time, there is a distinct possibility that you and that person may fall in love.
Whoever wrote this passage about the band on the label's website nailed it: "Holy Wave’s lysergic textural palette is immediately apparent in the [title track's] woozy synth lead and anti-gravity guitar jangle, but the atypical chord progressions and vocal melody steers the music away from anodyne escapism into a pensive grappling between self-determination and defeatism."
About the songs
Recorded by their longtime engineer/producer/collaborator Charles Godfrey, and mastered by recording whiz Erik Wofford, Five of Cups has guest appearances including Estrella del Sol of shoegaze band Mint Field. She sings on "Happier," a song that changes midstream; It begins with an upbeat tempo that makes the heart race a little to keep up, before switching to a fabulously goopy ethereal haze with the ribbons of del Sol's lilting voice.
"The Darkest Timeline" features Lorena Quintanilla and Alberto Gonzalez from psych duo Lorelle Meets the Obsolete. Starting with outer spacey sounds, followed by Quintanilla's breathy vocals and some crazy chord progressions, the song is anchored by a comfortingly steady bass beat. It sounds familiar at first, before turning completely unpredictable.
"Nothing in the Dark" offsets its steady percussion, reminiscent of hands clapping, with wistful, moaning notes and the thickest vocal harmonies. It fades out with a chunk of feedback that makes it feel like you're listening to the radio and just drove through a bad patch.
Holy Wave excels at juxtaposing dissimilar elements that a listener wouldn't expect to mesh — and yet they do.
Words from the band
Holy Wave — Ryan Fuson (vocals/guitar), Kyle Hager (synthesizer, guitar), Joseph Cook (bass), Julian Ruiz (drums) — is originally from El Paso, and they've been around for a while, since 2008. They're part of a Texas tradition of psychedelic bands, but not really.
"There's been a resurgence of psych music and coming up as a band, we've played in that realm and appreciate the community," Ryan says. "But over the years we’ve grown in ways that are outside of that spectrum, and we don’t consider ourselves a psych band."
One amazing thing is their approach to lyrics, where what they say isn't always as important as how they say it.
"Phonetics are sometimes more important than the meaning of a word," says Kyle.
"We view ourselves almost an instrumental band that uses vocals an an instrument — but also appreciate the opportunity to say things," Ryan says.
They have other jobs besides playing in the band, such as graphic arts and construction. Prior to making Five of Cups, during the depths of the pandemic and a plummeting music industry, they had a moment where they wondered if they wanted to go on.
"It takes a lot to barely scrape by," Ryan says. "I was working at a restaurant and a coworker who is really into tarot cards did a reading. In tarot cards, the Five of Cups signifies loss and grief. I felt like it was saying, 'You're not focusing on the positive.''"
Suicide Squeeze Records was founded in 1996 in Seattle by owner David Dickenson, and boasts an impressive catalog of releases by popular names such as Modest Mouse as well as Texas-born acts such as This Will Destroy You.
"David messaged our band account on Instagram," Ryan says. "He asked if we were interested in doing a digital single. We got super excited because we were transitioning away from our previous label. We made it out to Seattle on tour later in the year, and he took us out to lunch and met for the first time. We're good friends with LA Witch and they would talk about how beautiful a person David was."
"Signing with Suicide Squeeze ended up being a breath of fresh air — it invigorated us a little bit," he says.
2023 tour dates
The band will launch a regional tour during August, beginning in Denton, dates as follows:
Aug 8 – Andy’s – Denton, TX
Aug 9 – Opolis – Norman, OK
Aug 11 – Back Alley Ballyhoo – Indianapolis, IN
Aug 12 – JJs Bohemia – Chattanooga, TN
Aug 13 – Upstairs at Avondale – Birmingham, AL
Aug 15 – Alabama Music Box – Mobile, AL
Aug 16 – Continental Club – Houston, TX
Aug 17 – Paper Tiger – San Antonio, TX