MUSIC INTERVIEW: Holding Absence

With just days away from the release of their sophomore record The Greatest Mistake Of My Life, we spoke to Holding Absence frontman Lucas Woodland about their emotional new record, going back on tour and much more. 

So, you’re new album is out in a matter of days – how would you describe it to someone who’s never heard anything about Holding Absence?

It’s a very emotional album, it’s kind of emo but a bit more like extreme and intense on an emotional level. We try and basically blend a lot of different sounds so everything from My Chemical Romance to Architects to The Cure to The 1975 – there’s so much different sound on this record. We’re really proud of it – we’re just trying to be as passionate and emotional as possible on this album.

Yeah, it definitely comes across throughout the album – the artwork is absolutely stunning, from the tour poster to the actual album artwork, it’s brilliant. We were  wondering if there is a story behind the actual album artwork?

No, so to be honest the original idea for the artwork was for it to be The Greatest Mistake Of My Life font and then try and make a photo that looked like a shape in the background. We chose the window and then we chose a girl in the window, so you could kind of make out the artwork if it was blurred if that makes sense, and that was the original idea and then the photo just came back and it looked so so good! Like you said, they just look magical so we just thought why would we blur this photo so we just embraced. So there’s no real story, we do like the idea that the girl in the photo could be the voice you hear throughout the album as well and we really wanted to try and push that idea.

That’s awesome. So moving onto the singles, when you wrote Afterlife, that’s been massive for the band – you released it three months ago and it’s already got over a million streams, it’s a huge tune, we love it. When you first wrote it, did you realise how big that was going to be? Like straight away were you like this is going to be a single, this is going to be huge.

Yeah, you do feel that like you do get an idea of it I think, especially with a band like ours. We’ll write a song like wilt, which is six minutes long and would never be a single, and then we’ll write a song like Like a Shadow and you just know it’s going to be a single. So we knew Afterlife was going to probably be a single but even then, it’s just blown our expectations away, it’s been the best received song we’ve ever released so we’re really really proud and happy with that one.

Later in the album, you’ve got Die Alone (In Your Lover’s Arms) and you spoke about the woman in the album artwork – who is actually singing on that track because we couldn’t seem to find who it is.

It’s my sister.

Really? oh wow you’ve got some great genes, fair play!

Aha yeah man, my parents aren’t as good at singing as she is, but yeah basically we had an idea that we really wanted to write a duet. I thought that would be a really cool idea to try and write a duet on the album, we tried to get a guest vocalist and we had one in mind but it didn’t work out and then we were kinda stuck with this duet song – we were like ah man, I don’t want it to not be a duet because it was written like that, the lyrics were like that, it was quite obviously written for two people, but we weren’t really sure. Then I just kind of thought to myself… maybe my sister, and I think with guest vocals, you either need to be over the top as hell and be like this is featuring blah blah blah from this band, and be proper cheesy about it, or you need to be cool about it and be really like, there’s another voice on this but that’s not the point if that makes sense. So I’m not hiding that it is my sister, I’m incredibly proud of it but we’re kind of glad we didn’t have to put featuring Caitlyn Woodland on the end if that makes sense.

Yeah, is she planning on pursuing a career in music?

Not at all, she’s got a happy stable job, she’s younger than me as well. I’m still having a go at this whole rock ‘n’ roll thing and I’d like to think she’s not going to bother wasting her time!

Fair enough! On the album you’ve got more atmospheric interlude-style tracks like awake and phantoms which we think work amazingly, what’s the reasoning behind having those styles of track,s because there really weren’t any of those one-minute styles of tracks on your debut.

Thank you man, yeah you’re right, so awake was basically because Celebration Song is such an over the top intro to the album. We just wanted to be like throwing things at you with that one, but the intro on top of it would have made it like six and a half minutes long and we didn’t want to scare anyone off with that and we didn’t want to have to force people to listen to that every time they listen to the song Celebration Song. It would’ve maybe felt a bit like a chore but at the same time, I love the way awake builds, the whispers come in and it’s really like a perfect intro track so we didn’t want to cut it either, so we met in the middle and compromised and snipped it a little bit and that’s how that happened. With phantoms, basically Scott Carey, our guitarist, produced this little vibey track and we kind of knew it wouldn’t work as a Holding Absence song but with the woman speaking throughout the record, we though it was quite nice to maybe like use that song as a canvas for her to maybe speak one of the poems in full, so that’s kind of why it’s there, it’s also a nice bit of a breather before Mourning Song which is like a lot of work.

Yeah it’s a big one – awake and phantom are awesome, that little beat on phantom is so nice, Scott’s absolutely smashed that. We were going to ask who produced that because it’s like nothing you’ve ever done, but my next question is about your new single In Circles [which was previously unreleased at the time of the interview]. What should fans expect to hear from the song? 

Yeah, well In Circles is a very subtle commentary on the mundane day-to-day life we all live, like you wake up, you make a bowl of cereal, you go to work, you come home, you watch the same television, you go to bed in the same bed. It’s basically a commentary on how easy it is to become complacent, and not try and dream and not have any ambition in life, so yeah the kind of idea of that song is I didn’t want it to be like – you and you’re life are so boring, you need to get out of that rut, it was more like we as people are boring, we as people need to wake up from this and understand how much there is to life and how much there is to achieve. The main thing though is that it is a subtle song, it’s not as on the nose as some of our other tracks.

It’s a great concept to write a song about, but after you’ve finished listening to this album, is there any specific messages you want fans to take away from the record?

I want people to value life, I want people to value their happiness and to just, like I said, the whole album looks at the fact that death is such a looming presence and how we’re lucky to be alive – the opening lyric is “I’m alive” – I wanted people to feel like they were lucky to be alive, and I don’t want to speak for you or for anyone reading, but I’ve had friends die in my life, and it breaks my heart that they aren’t going to be able to see all the special things going on. I did just want this to be a reminder and at the end of Mourning Song, the whispers come back and that I’m alive message is quite constant.

Congratulations on your headline tour you have coming up, as well as your tour with Creeper which will be pretty awesome!

Yeah for sure man, especially after last year aha.

Yeah, we bet you can’t wait to get out there – which song are you looking forward to playing live most/which song do you think fans will enjoy the most? We know it’s always a tough question.

Yeah it is, and to be honest, I feel like we will play every song on this album. I don’t think there’s any songs we won’t play, I got to be honest I love Curse Me With Your Kiss, I think that’s one of my favourite songs on the record. I love the chorus, I love the verses, I love the outro, I think its got a real good vibe, but I also think songs like Celebration Song and Afterlife will be really cool on a crowd participation level. I love playing Wilt and I love playing Penance live and they’re like our current big emotional songs, so I feel like Mourning Song will be the biggest emotional one from the new record, so I’m excited for that one as well.

Do you reckon you’d play the title-track live too?

To be honest, nah I don’t think so, it’d just be a lot of hassle to get a piano out for if that makes sense – maybe someday.

We’re gonna be controversial but that’s our favourite track from the album – we think it’s absolutely stunning so if you could get the piano out that would be great!

Aha! Is it? Nice, I’ll think of you when it comes up in the conversation.

Sounds great – bit of a random question but if you could tour with any band ever, who would it be?

I think it’d be My Chemical Romance.

Could that be on the cards maybe?

Yeah well maybe one day aha, I just love everything they stand for and I grew up with that band as well. It’s tough because I think Radiohead are my favourite ever band, but I don’t think we’d ever tour with them but yeah, I’m gonna say My Chem. I’m gonna try and manifest it!

You’ve collaborated with bands like Loathe in the past – if you could collab with any bands in the future, is there any you have in mind?

I would say Dayseeker, Stand Atlantic, Alpha Wolf, I guess you know, those are all bands in our scene. Dustin Kensrue from Thrice is one of my favourite vocalists of all time, so the thought of having him on a song would be fucking wicked!

We can’t wait to see them [Thrice] at 2000trees this year.

Yeah dude, if it happens I’m fucking there, Vheissu is one of my favourite albums of all time, going to keep my fingers crossed.

Back in January, we had some bad news with James Joseph leaving the band – have you managed to find a replacement for him in the band?

Yeah, the thing is James left on his own will and it was a very amicable and happy situation, because he wanted to pursue his own music, and we would never begrudge him of that. So basically Scott and I used to be in a band back in 2010 and then we split up in 2015, so we were in a band for five years anyways and the bassist of that band is going to be now joining us in Holding Absence, so its all sorted really. It’s cool because the chemistry is still there because Ben is like my best friend on earth so I’m really excited for the future.

Nice, so our final question is going to be about your festival plans this summer, because you’re a band we’ve personally seen a lot on the UK festival circuit. You have a UK tour coming up, but do you have any festival plans this summer?

Honestly, back when it all stopped, we were supposed to be playing Download and Reading Festival and Download is the only one that isn’t happening this year. I don’t know if we got asked back for Reading, so it’s a bit of an awkward one at the moment, but I’d love to play at every festival, so we’re pushing for festivals and maybe a poster with our name will come out with it on soon but as far as I’m aware, I don’t think so.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed! Thanks for taking the time to chat to us today and best of luck with the album release! 

Interview by: Joe Loughran 

Holding Absence‘s new album The Greatest Mistake Of My Life is due for release on 16th April 2021 via SharpTone Records, available to pre-order HERE