You may not know exactly who they are, or what they actually look like, but by now you might recognize the costumes of Ashley Gold and Garrett Neal, who comprise the Minneapolis-based synth-pop duo Holidae. Coming off the recent high of winning the Star Tribune’s 2016 Are You Local? Contest in February and the coinciding trip to SXSW in March, Holidae now turns their attention toward their album release for full-length debut Tantrum, this weekend at Icehouse.
We met in the early evening, hazy late light streaming through the windows of the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis. The two had just finished performing at a happy hour for the Domestic Abuse Project, a nonprofit which serves the Twin Cities’ community with innovative and successful programming to end the inter-generational cycle of domestic violence. Overlooking the city from the 50th floor, we discussed everything from how the two first met, to where their costumes fit in, and what it finally means to be in this moment.
“I don’t even know this guy.”
Before Cause was Cause, it was Sauce. Of course, Cause – the singular music venue in Uptown Minneapolis for many years – is no longer. But once upon a time, a band called Dream Crusher was playing at Sauce. After they ended their set, Garrett Neal stayed up to play more piano. Ashley Gold was at the bar, and explains: “I just heard this piano being played, and it was beautiful, and I was just like… I’m gonna get up and sing.” Although she knew, “I don’t even know this guy, I didn’t even really think about who he was, I was just so entranced by what he was playing… it was this really beautiful moment that just kinda blossomed while we were on stage.”
Afterwards, Neal approached her, and announced, “We should play music together!” So for a while, Neal played with Gold and her solo projects. But on May 13, 2013, Neal and Gold began making original material. Just one year later, “Darkest Shade,” their first co-written song, was finished in the summer of 2014, and Holidae was born. Fast forward through a six month holiday Neal took across the Western Hemisphere while Gold recorded vocals, the pair reached May 2015, and recently mixed tracks were ready for listening.
“It’s just a popularity contest.”
They didn’t really plan to do it, as Neal saw the Are You Local? Contest as “just a popularity contest.” But Gold saw more potential, and as they made it from the initial 97 bands selected to the semifinal 16 bands, it was obvious a momentum was building. Asking everyone they knew – including your grandma – to vote for their track, Holidae suddenly found themselves on stage with the final five, and then winning the 2016 contest on the night of February 20, 2016.
After a repeatedly delayed album release during 2015, this unexpected rush of support and growing fan base has made the release finally happening this weekend even sweeter. Neal admits they questioned, “Are we gonna do this?” and jokes, “It’s like being 11 months pregnant.”
Yet, “no musician should ever feel bad,” Gold told me, about delaying the release of an album, “because it’s so common.”
“No, you go first!”
When I asked about each of them individually, they both protested: “No, you go first!”
This duo finds themselves paired with true equals, just with different talents. While Neal is heavily synth-driven, and “can get super nerdy on these things,” Gold explains that acoustic instruments are “where most of my heart lives.” Combined, they are an unstoppable ball of energy, laughter, and musical innovation.
“Any collaboration, you put two minds together and you get something that wouldn’t normally happen with either one of those minds separately.” Neal also points out that, “This music, what is does, is we can blend the pop and then the synth… it’s like going for the gold. We’re not going to let you forget these songs.”
It’s danceable, accessible, and “sticky,” as Neal describes it. I mean, just try getting “Darkest Shade” out of your head once you’ve heard it. It sticks. So be it.
Neal is not short on words to praise his band-mate, emphasizing that Gold is “a staple, she’s been voted best voice [acoustic artist] by CityPages 2014… I had known about her voice even before I met her.”
Gold herself is a self-described “singer-songwriter-healer,” with a soft spot for music that needs no amplification. With just a guitar and one’s voice, “You’re sharing these intimate experiences and you’re hoping that somebody’s like ‘Yes, I feel that’ or ‘I’m not alone in this.'”
Yet her versatility and curiosity has led to success in a heavily electronically-managed genre. “We love where the music takes us, we love where it goes,” she says. “With this music, I get to do that, but I get to trick the audience in a way that’s like, they’re dancing or having a good time. And it’s still, I’m trying to tell you a vulnerable part of myself that probably lives in you, and let’s heal each other while we shake our asses.”
The costumes? Those happened right away.
Neal explains that an influential feature on NPR about artist Adam Harvey and his project called “CV Dazzle” are what shape the pieces Holidae wear. As quoted on the artist’s website, “CV Dazzle explores how fashion can be used as camouflage from face-detection technology, the first step in automated face recognition.” The outfits that Neal and Gold don are loosely based on these developed techniques used to disrupt facial recognition technology (algorithms). Combining this idea with their own style, Holidae has set themselves apart visually, making something unique and distinctive to not only listen to, but look at, in the Twin Cities music scene.
This futuristic style is custom designed locally by Raquel Redmond of Enna Le’ Uqar.
All for incorporating different types of art into their work, Holidae sometimes includes live dance into their performances, or live projections. Neal emphasizes that, “It is a performance, every show should be a performance. You’re not getting up there just trying to sell PBRs, you’re getting up there trying to create an experience for people. That’s what we try to do.”
In the wake of the likes of Purity Ring, Sylvan Esso, and Phantogram, it’s easy to wonder if the eletro-pop duo is just a fad. So why has Holidae taken up this type of project? Simple: “It works!” they chorus together.
The final track “Work,” in contrast to their usual style, was written originally by Gold on piano, and developed by Neal. Getting deeper than the lyrics themselves, Gold told me the song is about “getting to a place, how many more things do I have to do, to get ‘there’… What is ‘there’? …How do I get ‘there’ already? Because I’m tired of all this work that I have to keep doing, when does it stop, and I don’t think it ever stops.”
Yet it’s one that Neal himself has come back to time and again to get him through down times. “I can still find times in my life where I listen back to these songs, even though we’ve heard them sixteen million, two hundred twenty seven thousand times, that relate to moments in my life at that given time.”
And although they didn’t over-think the songs, didn’t over-edit or analyze, I suppose the concept of “everything takes work” will never quite go out of style.
At SXSW, the crowds were singing their choruses back to them by the end of each song. And if that’s any indicator as to where Holidae is headed, they may very well reach their next goals.
“We wanna play on Jimmy Fallon,” Neal threw out unabashedly. Also on that list: travel the world. But first, they’ve got several block parties in Minneapolis lined up for this summer.
And this Friday, you can see them debut Tantrum, live at Icehouse. They’ve got some stellar merchandise lined up, a fantastic light show, and of course, they’ll be in full regalia. Stay out late, have a drink, and capture the moment. Just don’t expect your smartphone to know who to tag.
Holidae Tantrum Release Show
April 22, 2016 at Icehouse
Hosted by Sophia Eris and Manchita of grrrrl prty
$10 adv / $12 door
Pre-sale : http://m.bpt.me/event/2532802