Formed in 2008 around a group of friends from San Jose—Mike Garmany (lead vocals/guitar), Danny Flores (percussion), Kyle Christensen (bass) and Clev Stiles (DJ)—the Holdup quickly developed an ardent fan base throughout the Bay Area and forged a unique sound that bears traces of hip-hop, reggae and pop influences. Their first album, Stay Gold (2009), released by Dub Rock Records, debuted at No. 34 on the iTunes Reggae Charts. They have followed up with three more albums—Confidence (2010), Still Gold (2011), and, most recently, the dynamic Consequence (2012)—and enjoy a growing popularity throughout Northern California that threatens to spread nationally. The Holdup will play the Catalyst’s Halloween Costume Ball with Collie Buddz & New Kingston and Los Rakas this Saturday, Oct. 27. It took a while, but eventually we tracked down band members Garmany and Stiles in the bowels of Silicon Valley.
SCW: How has growing up in San Jose influenced your music?
GARMANY: To be honest, I don’t think it has.
Are you saying Silicon Valley is a cultural vacuum?
GARMANY [laughter]: I’ll be the one to say it if no one has—the San Jose music scene has been dead since before I was even playing an instrument. We love our city. Always will. But I think that of all the things that influenced us is the fact that we didn’t draw from the local culture. We drew from anything we heard, from anywhere else. That’s why our sound is so eclectic.
We love the new album ‘Consequence’! How long did it take to make? Were there some songs that didn’t make the cut?
GARMANY: Thank you! I can’t really put an amount of time on the creation of it. We never stop writing and recording, so you could technically say since the day after we wrapped up Still Gold. There were some songs that didn’t make the cut because either they weren’t finished in time for the release date or they weren’t fitting the direction of the album. Some might spill over onto our next record.
What is the writing process for you? Do lyrics or music come first? Does one person come to the band and say ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea,’ and then everyone contributes to it? Does one of you write the majority of the music?
GARMANY: It’s always different. A lot of times I come up with a concept. Like a song title that’s related to something I’m going through, and then I’ll take it from there. Sometimes I’ll be producing music in the studio and I’ll sing nonsense words in a melody on the mic and cool lines will come out. Then I’ll finish the song based on the few words that made sense. A lot of the songs start of as freestyle singing, but it’s always different and ever changing.
Your first album, ‘Stay Gold,’ was more reggae-based. I’ve noticed that with each album the music becomes more diverse. How is ‘Consequence’ different musically from your past three albums?
GARMANY: Well, I was 16 when I started the writing for Stay Gold. I’m 22 now.
GARMANY: Yeah [chuckles]. So that should explain a little about the transition. We were all really into reggae back then. I love music too much to be content with one genre though. I still love reggae because of how different it is from all other pop genres. I listen to a variety of music though, and that’s the inspiration for a lot of my writing. Naturally it’s going to come out different all the time. I think Consequence just steps up the level of an eclectic sound, like every album has along the way. There’s a lot less reggae. That’s not to say we’re dropping that sound. Who knows, the next album could be heavily reggae influenced, too. I get bored with genres pretty quickly so I try to change it up a lot.
How do you decide when and where to tour?
STILES: Touring has always been a touchy subject. We have a unique plan that goes against the standard “Tour Anywhere and Everywhere” approach. Our goal and priority has always been recording and releasing music to keep the fans happy. We focus on building audiences in cities before we book them—like Santa Cruz this week.
What do you hope to achieve with ‘Consequence’?
GARMANY: With Consequence, I really don’t hope to achieve anything other than the fans approval and some iTunes checks.
Big checks, huh?
GARMANY: [laughter] It was kind of the wrap-up to a four-album-long, very personal documentation of my life. But I’m really ready to move onto a more lighthearted side of myself. I hear fans say that Consequence was too dark and depressing. They’re probably right. Some of it was.
We can get into “dark and depressing.”
GARMANY: We all go through these emotions, what can I say?
What advice do you have for independent bands and musicians trying to make it in the industry?
STILES: Being successful is not solely about being talented and believing in yourself, you need perseverance and personality as well. You need to be willing to give up everything and work even harder than you think you are already working. Focus on your material, build a team you can trust and know what your end goal is. I know the steps we are taking six months in advance, and insure we are assigning and meeting goals to stay on track. Get experienced with all aspects of the music game, and network as much as you possibly can. Find your musical niche and always continue innovating not only in your music, but in your music business. Here are my four key points every inspiring artist should follow: keep practicing, keep innovating, keep learning, and keep changing. Itís a long dark windy road, be prepared.
The Holdup play the Catalyst Oct. 27.