There’s a local band in Los Angeles called The Long Holidays, whose genre(s) fall under the categories of “Indie-pop, Americana, Surf, and Ukulele.” Their lead guitarist, songwriter, and ukulele-player is Jim Holmquist, and he also happens to be a good friend of mine.
So today, I sit down with Jim and talk a little about the sci-fi thrill of the band’s most recent album, The Adventure Through Liquid Space and all the real-life sciences that go into their songs.
Rhapsodist: So what’s the thought process that goes into the name and concept of your album The Adventure Through Liquid Space?
Jim: I originally got the idea for The Adventure Through Liquid Space when I was at Disneyland and I looked some pictures of the old Tomorrowland including the original submarine ride. The Submarine Voyage was often referred to as “a journey through liquid space.” I had recently bought a Jacques Cousteau documentary box set. Jacques Cousteau said, “We know more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the sea,” and I wanted to write a few songs about that. So that combo birthed “30ft beneath the waves” (which I cowrote with my brother) and the title track of the album.
Some key collaborators really fleshed out the album. I played most of the instruments, but I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without Kevin Engelking’s piano and drums, as well as his help arranging and editing alot of the material. I also really got a boost from my musician friend and occasional collaborator Rob Farley, who jumped in on the “December Pacific” recording session to play the iconic harmonica solo. He also arranged the entire instrumental reprise for “30ft beneath the waves” in what he describes as a fit of insomnia. Even J.J. Conway, the album artist, really added a lot to the overall presentation, by basing the cover off of the old men’s adventure magazine covers. It really tied these themes of retro-adventure, spontaneity, and retro-fiction together.
Rhapsodist: I understand you’ve got an extensive background in science. How would you say it’s affected your songwriting?
Jim: My experiences with science give me two really cool advantages. First it provides me with pretty rich repository of stories, parables and metaphors that I use to get points across and advance a narrative. For instance in some new songs I make references to the water and carbon cycles, the formation of oil beds, fire following plant species in California chaparral communities, the hydrology and history of Los Angeles, etc. If people don’t get them at first, they usually ask me and learn something. People who do get the connections get a little treat.
Also, since I’m constantly being criticized in my scientific writing and defending conclusions, I think it’s made me a lot more objective and unemotional when it comes to the actual craft of songwriting. I still use my emotions and experience in coming up with material, but putting your feelings into a song doesn’t necessarily make it good. I think people appreciate songs that are written with patience, attention to detail, and clever connections. In short, my expierience in science helps me organize different levels of information in songs and edit things a bit better.
Rhapsodist: I’ve seen some of your live shows. How would you describe–for the benefit of our readers–the way you present yourselves in front of a live audience?
Jim: Live shows are a treat. I love performing and my band (Andy and Gabe) are very responsive and funny guys. We get pretty high energy, we talk to people in the crowd, and we make jokes with each other. We try not to be to serious. Essentially, we try to make the shows about the audience and their enjoyment rather than fixing our hair hair, apologizing for forgotten lyrics or arguing with sound-guys.
I’ve been compared to Jonathan Richman on stage by some other musicians and friends, which I think is very complimentary. He’s my favorite singer-songwriter ever.
All I can say to you readers is come check it out for yourself.
Rhapsodist: What would you like your audience to come away with after hearing your music, or do you have any special messages for them?
Jim: We don’t really do the whole moment of silence, pass around the plate, moral of the story thing. I guess what I want to give people is a sense that friendship, music and community are important. We should all live in the moment and not get to bogged down by what’s expected of us, but always work hard to achieve our goals and support each other. Life’s an adventure.
A clip of The Long Holidays performing their song “The Only Street in L.A. Where It’s Fall” can be found here on YouTube.
Thanks so much to Jim for taking the time to talk about the band and its influences. I encourage everyone to take a listen to their music and go see them if you’re in the LA area when they’ve got a show on. You’ll be entertained and maybe a little more educated by the end of the night, rest assured.