Holy Fuck On ‘Embracing The Foolish Side Of Technology’

19 February 2024 | 10:38 am | Bryget Chrisfield

Holy Fuck talk technology, not sounding like anyone else, working with Aussie stars and more ahead of their MONA FOMA appearances and Australian headline tour dates.

Holy Fuck

Holy Fuck (Credit: Nick Walker)

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We FaceTime Brian Borcherdt in Auckland, where Holy Fuck kicked off their Antipodean tour, to discuss the band’s original ethos (“to not sound like anyone else”), recent collabs with ace Aussie artists and eagerness to mic’-up MONA’s poop machine. 

Reuniting in NZ and “taking the piss out of” AI  

Brian Borcherdt (keys/effects): “As a band, we don’t tend to go home to one city where we all live and be around each other. So today is kind of a reunion; we’re all hanging out for the first time, and, as we do when we catch up, we’re always filling each other in on what we’re doing. And, of course, there’s been a lot of AI stuff that we’re all reading about, and just now Graham [Walsh, keys] was having fun with it and kind of like taking the piss out of it – I’m not saying that’s part of our band, yet…”

“I’ve really restricted my own equipment”

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“Part of the joy, for me, has been refining my set-up and paring it down. But it is very limited, so it leaves me in want of different kinds of sounds that I can’t achieve. So mentally, I can imagine something, and I’m unable to get there because I’ve really restricted my own equipment.

“It’s still too heavy – you know, I still have to fly around the world with a giant case – and I’m asking myself, ‘When am I gonna finally reach the point where I start just bringing an iPad or something?’”

“We wanted to not sound like anyone else”

“I think at the time that this band started, the inspiration became not only to make our own music but to make music that is very much our own in how it sounds; like, I wanna make something very idiosyncratic to what I have going on in my mind right now, and I don’t want it to sound like anyone else, and I know that’s not always an easy thing to achieve. So we set some restrictions and kind of turned things inside out to make it even harder for us to play at all; the actual challenge was how to make something musical. So a big part of the inspiration to start our journey was to sort of hotwire our own brains to create a new way to make music and hopefully – in that process – make something really unique, whether it’s good or not. Like, I don’t think we cared if it was good or if people would like it, but we wanted to not sound like anyone else.”

“Incorporating pawn shop items”

“Our peers who first started using backing tracks or samplers and things on stage said they felt kinda locked in – as in; they can’t really veer off the script or make it about the live performance – which didn’t sound very exciting to us. And then also mistakes can be really exposed; it kind of puts you in a vulnerable position because [backing tracks/samplers] don’t ever really allow for mistakes. 

“So, luckily, the way we made our music was maybe embracing the foolish side of technology a bit more – and also incorporating pawn shop items and things like that – and it allowed itself to be a bit more freeform so that we could make mistakes and we could kinda go off on a tangent. And, for us, that’s where a lot of the fun is  – in something happening – and it’s very much a happy accident. And then maybe trying to remember what it was and recreating the same accident the next night, you know? Making it part of the song… We like to think our music is kinda made for a live environment.”

When Holy Fuck met Pond 

“[Nicholas Allbrook] came through management: he was somebody that they suggested. Pond had a concert in Toronto, and I went and met the band backstage and, you know, had some laughs and a good time. So that’s sort of the first test, just making sure you get along with people. And we were hoping to do something the next day when he was in Toronto – it didn’t quite happen that way, but that at least got us in touch; we were on each other’s radar and got to meet in person first. So, it made it easier to send Nick a song we had finished and ask him if he would want to contribute some vocal ideas to it. So that's what you hear there [on 2019’s Free Gloss] with Nick.”    

Switching up the live dynamic 

Lucia Tacchetti, who sang on the song [2021’s Lost Cool], was another management connection. We hadn’t met her at the time [before creating the track], but, you know, we were emailing back and forth and stuff, and she seemed cool. And we had the good fortune of bringing her out on tour as the opener, so that was fun. Every night on that tour, we got to do the song together. It was a real highlight of the set, I think, just to switch up the dynamic and bring out a guest. We were fortunate that we could do that. She’s wonderful. 

“Then, of course, without her, Graham sings it [Lost Cool] and kinda changes it and makes it his own unique thing.” 

Back for more Angus 

“I guess you could say Angus [Andrew] from Liars is a dream collaboration because Liars were one of those bands that we played with often on the festival circuit. We adored them and kinda had a suspicion [a collab] would work out well, and it did! So we’re kind of wondering, ‘Should we keep some of those collaborations alive?’ 

“I think there’s a tendency to wanna switch it up – like, see how many different people you can collaborate with – but it’s also kinda fun when you have your crew! We still think of Angus, and we actually sent him an email just before flying out here because we’re like, ‘Let’s work together!’ He writes back that he’s in Kalamazoo, Michigan. So yeah! [laughs] He’s been in Australia for the last ten years, and now we’re finally here, like, ‘Let’s do a song together’. So maybe we’ll have to wait ‘til we’re in Kalamazoo.”

Creating Ninety-Five remotely 

“This one [2022’s Ninety-Five] is unique because it really started in our own spaces and got sent back and forth. It was an experiment for us because we’ve typically – throughout our career – always worked together; that’s sorta where the fun, the magic, is when we’re working together as a band. And, you know, there’s always a little bit of homework to do, as there is in making any record in modern times; we have our home studios. 

Matt [Schulz], our drummer, sent some drum files to us to hear, and that was one that I kind of spearheaded; grabbing his drum files, mangling ‘em up and building a song – creating a structure. Then our bass player [Matt PunchyMcQuaid] actually played guitar on it, as well as bass, and then Graham added some cool effects – vocal things and some hooks – so, yeah! 

“I made it noisy by putting it through my mixer, which is just a very cheap and simple thing, but I’ve gotten really into hotwiring it to make it feed back and sound distorted and kind of outlandish. So I did that with his drums – built the structure of the song around it – and then we did more file sharing.

“It’s a song we’ve never physically played together as a band [laughs], so I’m glad you’re bringin’ it up. We were literally just having a conversation – ‘cause we’re gonna have a rehearsal – like, ‘Can we do it? Should we try it tonight?’”

Um, yes, please! 

“Hahaha, well, great! I hope we can.”  

Any new Holy Fuck incoming? 

“Yeah, there’s a lotta new stuff, actually. The newest thing we’re doing is a reflection of us being back in a creative space together. We’re just finishing a record, and so part of the discussion has been like, ‘Okay, what brand new songs are we gonna do [at these Antipodean shows]?’ So we probably will do a few brand-new ones. 

“And yet, at the same time – because of circumstances around the release of our record in 2020 [Deleter]; we didn’t really get to tour it, as one might expect  – we still haven’t played any of that record for our fans here in Australia and New Zealand. So it kinda takes the pressure off, you know? We don’t have to bust out all the new stuff ‘cause it’s all gonna be new. But even just for ourselves, if we find ourselves bored, we have a whole brand new album’s worth of material...” 

Road testing material at secret shows  

“We’re always recording live, but sometimes it’s improvised. We tend to write together in a studio environment, where we can capture ideas and turn them into songs, and then we get to play them live. So sometimes, we feel like we have it backwards. 

“I mean, two albums ago [2016’s Congrats], our inspiration was to sort of get around that, and so what we did was we took every song and brought everything to the stage first. So we booked some secret shows and played all new material just to sort of make real songs, something you can play from beginning to end in front of an audience as a live band… I think it reflected in the final material; it brought a certain energy to it.” 

Composing on the fly

“Now we all have our own personal dictaphones in our pockets – with our phones – so the process for us, in the last few years, has a lot to do with being able to pull up a soundcheck or something where hopefully somebody had the foresight to pull out their phone and grab snippets of it. But then, in live concerts, we still do some improvising and don’t always have that opportunity – you know, you don’t wanna interrupt the show halfway through so you can fumble with your phone. 

Maybe ask, ‘Is anyone in the crowd recording this?’  

“Hey, that’s a good idea! ‘Please, whoever records this, post it for our own sake’ [laughs]...”

Mic’ing-up MONA’s poop machine 

“We had a club show in Hobart, but we went to MONA – because that’s what you do when you’re there – and we loved it! So we were told of the cool event, the festival [Mona Foma], they do, and of course, we wanted to be part of it. So we’re honoured to be doing something in that capacity, having previously gone as patrons to enjoy the museum.

“They [MONA] have a poop machine. And the girl who was assigned to that room, to sort of be the – whatever you call it – had to put up with [the stench]. I remember feeling sorry for her, and also, yeah! I can’t imagine having to stand by it all day. I mean, to get to see it and leave the room, that’s pretty cool, but to have to check in for your shift every day and guard the poop machine… 

“Maybe we’ll be able to get it out on stage with us or something? Mic it up [laughs].”

Holy Fuck will appear at MONA FOMA 2024 and headline two dates in Melbourne and Sydney. You can find tickets here.



Saturday 24 February – MONA FOMA – Hobart/nipaluna

Sunday 25 February – MONA FOMA – Hobart/nipaluna

Tuesday 27 February – The Curtin – Melbourne/Naarm

Wednesday 28 February – Oxford Arts Factory – Sydney/Eora