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Holding Absence’s Lucas Woodland: “This Album Is About Life In Spite Of Death”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 21 October 2020 at 10.06

'The Greatest Mistake Of My Life' era is here. 

Holding Absence
have just kicked off their brand new era in style with the release of 'Beyond Belief'. 

A beautifully considered track that shows off a completely new side to the band, whilst still mantaining the deep set melancholy and quivering emotion that they are known for, it's set to appear on their brand new album 'The Greatest Mistake Of My Life'.

That's set for release on April 16 2021 via SharpTone Records. 

We jumped on the phone with vocalist Lucas Woodland to talk about how the new album started taking shape, what made 'Beyond Belief' the perfect place to begin things and how it feels to now be existing in glorious colour....

So where did work on this record really begin?
“It was quite a weird one actually. I hate always having to bring it up but it’s quite a big part of this album’s inception. The whole America Visa thing [the band were set to tour the US with Being As An Ocean and De’Wayne but were denied their work visas] really closed out our Album One cycle without us having a say. So when we started work on this record it was very much a case of just seeing what we could come up with. What happened was that we wrote ‘Drugs And Love’, ‘Afterlife’, ‘Gravity’ and ‘Birdcage’ in the same week, which was probably a month after [Debut album] ‘Holding Absence’ came out, which is really interesting. Two of those songs that we wrote in the first week of writing actually made the album and two of them didn’t. Yet when the America thing happened we just knew we had to get ‘Gravity’ and ‘Birdcage’ out. We just needed to get something out there.

“So at the beginning of this album, things were quite touch and go. It was all quite uncertain. Then the rest of the record was made in about two months at the end of last year. For three days a week Scott [Carey, guitarist] and me would do our day jobs, then meet at the office and write music. Scott was working at a coffee shop and I was working in HMV and at Fuel. It became a very winter album, which sounds really stupid, but I remember it being cold and dark as we were putting these songs together.”

That’s interesting, because how much input did Scott actually have on any of the writing on the debut album? It was still very transitional then wasn’t it?
“That’s a super important point to make. Scott and me have been writing music since we were 16, so nine years, when we were in Falling With Style together. He had input on one song on the debut album, and that was ‘Wilt’. So his track record was prolific at that point. Comes into the band, writes the best song on the album and then we started on Album Two. A big part of what has made this album is having the two of us working together again after four years apart.”

So where did the concept that tied all of these pieces together come in? What is it about ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ that holds them together?
“Ironically I would say that the debut album has more of an actual story to it, but it’s so on the nose. Comparatively, ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ is a collection of different stories that round up together in a very subtle and nuanced way. I think that’s a key difference between the two. Yet you can still feel that the songs on this new album are still tangibly connected, but less clichéd.

“So, this is the story of this album. It was very early days and we had just worked on a couple of songs. In my Nan’s living room we used to have a record player. As a kid I always thought it was cool that she had that there and she would sometimes play vinyl on there. So when we did the first album, the first thing I wanted to do was give that vinyl to my Nan. That felt like a really full circle thing for me to do. I gave it to her and she said, ‘Thanks love. This is now the second vinyl in our family’. I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and she said that my great uncle went into Cardiff one day and recorded himself singing. It was like the equivalent of a photo booth where they press it on a small 7’ record and it would have been cheap as hell. She said that it was a song called ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’. So I quizzed her a bit more and all she could remember was the lyric, ‘The greatest mistake of my life was saying goodbye to you’. I do this thing when life gives me poetry, I’ll just put it in my phone. I’ll keep this log of deep sounding words and phrases and see if I’ll ever be able to use them.

“So I went home and typed that lyric into Google and a Gracie Fields song from 1939 came up. It was so old. It had like 100 views on the one video there was of it, and I remember thinking that through my great uncle that I’ve never even met I’ve stumbled upon something really special. Something about it just resonated. With the debut we had an issue with actually coming up with a title, so we wanted to come up with the title for this one as early as possible. So one night I told Scott all of this when we were on our way to a show and how this song had somehow found its way into my life. ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ just sounded like Album Two. So we really didn’t have many songs written at all, but it felt right. Then we worked from there. The album then became ‘The Greatest Mistake Of My Life’ because we were working to that title.”

So what does it mean to you in terms of your own experiences?
“I think for me, Holding Absence has such a way for saying things and expressing emotion. I have always loved the ambiguity of poetry and how something could mean so much to someone and nothing, or so much more, to someone else. For me, ‘The greatest mistake of my life was saying goodbye to you’ is such a pensive, hindsight driven thing. It’s the sort of thing you think about on your deathbed after having lived a life. On top of that, connecting that emotion of someone else and that deep regret, that this person whoever they are could have lived their whole life in regret because of this one person they said goodbye to too soon. I just feel like in itself it feels like a Holding Absence lyric. I genuinely could have written that lyric. So just taking the inspiration from just that one lyric, I feel like I’ve been able to paint a whole universe. I’ve been saying that this album is about life in spite of death.”

So what made you want to lead this era with ‘Beyond Belief’?
“Sometimes you just hear music, like when you have a specific demo come through, it just feels magic. I don’t know why but when this song came through it just felt right. It just felt like the best version of Holding Absence I’d ever heard before. We’ve always wanted to change a little bit and move ourselves in a direction but also maintain what’s so special about Holding Absence, you know the melancholy and the emotion and that intensity and the atmosphere. I feel like ‘Beyond Belief’ does all that in a way that we’ve never done before. It sounds like if The Cure were a ‘00’s scene band. It manages to bottle this timeless melancholy in a new package. It’s also the furthest Holding Absence have ever gone and I love that. That just excites me for Album Three already. It just shows our fans that this is where we can go, and I can’t wait to go there. I’m just so proud that we’re able to do things like that.”

You’re also in colour now, after using monochrome for so long within both your own imagery but also everything the band did. How does it feel for you to be stepping out of that in such a way?
“I just feel so liberated and free now that I don’t have to be some stoic black and white figure on a screen. We always said that we wanted Holding Absence to be timeless and the black and white was also a good way of making the band look like it could fit in any generation or decade. I feel like I’m actually looking back at old photos now, and I wanted people to see what we see now. In the same way that colour was such a big change within the western world, where black and white was seen as old and colour was seen as spectral and exciting, that’s just the biggest metaphor for us possible. The concept of colour is such a deep metaphor for what I want our band to become off the back of this album. Sometimes you need to freeze to appreciate the warmth. I want people to be confused when they see these colour photos because they’ve had three or four years of not seeing us in colour.”

So what journey do you feel like the band has been on throughout the process of piecing this record together? What has resonated the most?
“When we finished this record, I had such a sense of feeling like we had finally done it right. We hadn’t had to worry about line up changes or having to record in two halves or record drums with two different people. This album was the first time that Holding Absence could sit and concentrate on the music and nothing else. Having that unbelievable experience of waking up everyday and going into the studio and Scott tracking guitars or Ash [Green] doing weird drum bits or synth parts or I would do vocals or James [Joseph] would do bass. That whole month was like a conquest to make this album the purest version of this band, with no trip ups or hurdles. For me, that’s why this album is so special. My family hugely influenced this album and there’s such an emotional depth, but I feel like I finally got the chance to be a singer on an album with nothing but a mission statement.

“This album was inspired by a woman singing a song 90 years that I was able to resonate with now. I’m not expecting people to be listening to us in 90 years, but this album was created around this timeless expression of emotion. Ironically, that’s what we try and achieve every time we write a song and that’s very symbolic of what this album has been and what it hopefully can be.”

You can pre-order 'The Greatest Mistake Of My Life' from right HERE

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