Interview by Matt Dwyer
Interview Portrait by Kelly Rose
Video by Rafiki Tree Productions
Performance Portrait by Jan-Willem Dikkers
“We had a full record and an EP
that we had never played live before.
—Keith WaggonerWe really did it backwards.” — Keith Waggoner
Holy Folk is a collaboration between Los Angeles songwriters Keith Waggoner, Josh Caldwell, Ryan George and Jonathan Hylander. The group formed in 2009 with Caldwell and Waggoner as a studio venture, and in 2012 George and Hylander joined the effort. Their first full length album, Motioning, was released in June, 2013. Check them out and listen to Motioning here.
Matt Dwyer is a comedian, actor and writer who has become a staple within the alternative comedy scenes of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. He hosts a weekly podcast, “Conversations with Matt Dwyer” where he sits down and converses with people from all walks of life. Listen to his podcast here.
My name is Matt Dwyer. Let me say it is an honor to have been asked to interview one of my favorite bands Holy Folk for Issue Magazine. I host a weekly podcast on Feral Audio entitled, “Conversations With Matt Dwyer.” The show is a very free formed conversation and I wanted to take that approach during the interview I conducted with Josh Caldwell and Keith Waggoner of Holy Folk. We met on a cool evening in Mr. Waggoner’s backyard studio. This is how the conversation flopped out of our mouths.
Matt Dwyer: Let’s start with why you guys aren’t touring.
Josh Caldwell: Our lives are too busy between family and career.
Keith Waggoner: It’s a hard thing to organize between the four of us and any additional people who would have to be brought on.
JC: The reality of our situation is we can’t. It’s not that we don’t want to. Holy Folk started off as a recording project and turned into a band organically.
MD: Did you ever have any intentions of playing live?
“Holy Folk started because we were both
really bored and unemployed so we
started recording to get into licensing
and building our catalog.
Then Holy Folk took on a life of its own.”
— Keith Waggoner
KW: Not at first. Josh actually said he wouldn’t. It literally was a silly little project we did outside of Les Blanks, which we were very involved in at that point. Holy Folk started because we were both really bored and unemployed so we started recording to get into licensing and building our catalog. Then Holy Folk took on a life of its own.
MD: Is there a chance of any one off shows or festivals?
KW: There is a chance for everything, it’s just a matter of if the situation works for us.
MD: How many people are in the band?
KW: There are four core members and a bunch of friends who help out.
JC: Seven when we are on stage.
KW: Road shows would have to be paired down.
JC: If it made sense we’d be open for anything.
KW: Just being a touring band, we’ve all been there and you’re not making a lot of money the first time out. If you can’t continue to tour there is no reason to establish it. It’s difficult because I have a wife, a son and responsibilities.
MD: Have you thought about making your wife and son a roadie?
KW: We’ve tried to work him into a few things, but it didn’t work out.
JC: I’m going to make a video with him for the new album. He’s a natural star.
MD: Speaking of videos because you aren’t touring to support the albums, are you looking to videos and internet to help promote?
JC: I directed the first video.
MD: Then there was another one, right?
JC: Yeah, that was at my house. Just a performance video.
MD: It’s great.
KW: We’ll be doing another live performance video soon.
JC: For this. (Issue Magazine.)
KW: Videos are a nice way to keep things rolling even though we are limited with how we can travel.
The Village Voice
The Village Voice is a free weekly newspaper and website based in New York City. It features articles on current affairs and culture, arts and music coverage, and events listings for New York City.
MD: Holy Folk took on a different life than you expected, right? You got a lot of positive press with the Village Voice…
LA Record is an independent music magazine which began in 2005 by Chris Ziegler, Charlie Rose, Dan Monick and Sean Carlson as a one page weekly broadsheet dedicated to all genres of music in Los Angeles. In 2008 L.A. Record began publishing as a free monthly magazine publication with a poster inside. Today the magazine is still a totally independent print and web operation run and staffed by writers and artists from across the city.
JC: L.A. Record was good.
KW: USA Today…
MD: Did that throw you off and change your perspective?
KW: A little bit. Totally.
JC: (jokingly) Both a little bit and totally at the same time.
MD: It’s a bit unheard of these days for someone to get that much attention on a first album.
“It’s a bit unheard of these days for someone
to get that much attention on a first album.”
— Matt Dwyer
JC: We put a team together to help us to do that work, but the scope was a lot larger than any of us realized. Then we had a write up this year from the LA Weekly that boosted us again.
KW: When we were doing Motioning, we hadn’t had any rehearsals. We had our distribution in line from Silver Side. We even had a publicist. We had everything kind of ready for release and then we started rehearsing for the shows. We had a full record and an EP that we had never played live before. We really did it backwards.
MD: How many contributing songwriters are there?
MD: So, when you started the album did you have a concept of like, let’s sound like A, B, and C or was it, let’s see what we got and go from there?
JC: The songs came as they came.
KW: We had the first EP which was me and Josh. Then we brought in Ryan and got Jonathan involved. Before we knew it we had a record.
MD: Did you have too many songs?
KW: No. Everything just worked and felt right. We have a voting floor to see what we want to move forward with as we go along.
MD: Is there any tension with that?
KW: Oh totally.
JC: Yeah! (Everyone laughs.) But it gets resolved quickly.
MD: There’s an element of trust between you?
KW: We’ve been working together for a long time. We’ve been doing Holy Folk for five years and Les Blanks before that. We’ve gotten used to one another and we’ve had to hash it out a number of times and sometimes its more intense than others. The benefits of working together outweigh anything.
MD: You’ve said, things felt right when you were putting the first album together; did you have a gut feeling of, oh shit we are on to something?
KW: Kind of. I remember when we were going through the final mixing phase, Josh took the record home, and he’s highly critical of everything and he called me and said, I just listened to the album and it’s really good. Which is high praise from that guy.
JC: I do remember the album clicking for me. It all made sense. There were songs I didn’t get in the beginning, but we just kept switching things out until they worked. I know if I tried doing stuff and it didn’t work then Jonathan would come in and he’d nail it. Then it was done. It’s what I love about this project.
“I know if I tried doing stuff and it didn’t
work then Jonathan would come in
and he’d nail it. Then it was done. It’s what
I love about this project.”
— Josh Caldwell
MD: Does having four collaborators instead of two feel like a relief?
JC: I love that about this band. I know Jonathan feels the same way. It makes it more fun. All of us have been in the position where we were the one writing all the material. This is the first time the weight is so much lighter. You know, if the song is good but you don’t fully see it, it will get there.
KW: We’d pass around mixes in the middle of production for other people to come in on. We are doing more of that with the new material. It works really well. If someone is having a little writers block on lyrics someone else has an idea, which is often the case with four of us, it comes back in a few days. It’s better if it’s collaborating and opening that up to someone else’s idea of what something may sound like.
MD: Are you approaching the new album differently?
KW: From a production stand point we’ve learned a lot. Jonathan is going to be doing some of production at his studio this time around so it will to be different.
JC: But the same approach in that it’s truly democratic and if there is an idea that is in the majority it will go. There is really no one head to this group and that is a great thing.
KW: We’ll be a bit more choosy though. We’re in a writing frenzy right now. It’s shaping up to be pretty awesome and different.
JC: I think some of the songs are a bit more stretched out… like ten minute solos. I’m kidding. We’re just giving ourselves more room to breath.
KW: We’re pulling from a different place. We just don’t want to make the same record again.
MD: Are you experimenting with different instruments?
JC: If it presents itself. If we think the song needs (makes sound with his mouth) a merp-merp we’ll figure that out and worry how to play that live later. It’s freeing to make it just about the recording.
MD: When putting together a new album do you listen to more or less music?
KW: Less because I may forget something.
MD: When are you expected to have the new album out?
JC: Probably early next year. Ya know, you have the holidays and that throws everything off.
MD: Why don’t you make it a Christmas album?
JC: We have that coming too. We’re going to sing like the chipmunks.
At the end of the interview we did a “Speed Round” of questions that the editors of Issue Magazine wanted to be asked.
MD: What are your favorite albums?
Hunky Dory, released by RCA Records in 1971, is David Bowie’s fourth studio album. This was his first release with RCA Records whom he would keep as his label for the next decade.
JC: Hunky Dory.
All Things Must Pass
All Things Must Pass, released in November 1970 is a triple album by English Musician George Harrison. It is his third studio album and reflects his musical influence outside of The Beatles while introducing his signature sound, the slide guitar and spiritual themes present throughout his solo work.
KW: All Things Must Pass.
MD: Do you consider yourself the George Harrison of the band?
JC: Damnit I wanted George. Who am I? Oh, let’s not do this.
MD: You’re Ringo!
MD: How would you explain your sound and music?
JC: Indy Folky Hot Dog!
KW: Sci-Fi Romance…
JC: …with a mustache.
MD: Where are you from?
JC: Earth. Take me to your hot dog stand.
MD: Who did you listen to growing up?
JC: Shit. I liked, Prince but I also liked Van Halen.
KW: The Eurythmics were the first I remember.
Eurythmics is a British musical duo formed by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart in 1980. The band achieved global success selling 75 million records worldwide and winning numerous awards including a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo in 1987.
JC: I hated them.
MD: What is the story behind the band and the name?
JC: I wanted to call us Folk Devils but it was taken so we changed it. It’s not a folk reference at all.
MD: What are you listening to now?
Hospitality is an American Indie Pop trio based in Brooklyn, New York. The band formed in 2007 with current members Amber Papini, Brian Betancourt and Nathan Michel. The band released their first full-length album on January 31, 2014 with Merge Records.
Broadcast is an Indie electronic band from Birmingham, England. The original members consisted of Trish Keenan, Roj Stevens, Tim Felton and James Cargill. The band released four full length albums with Warp Records from 2000 – 2013 as well as multiple EP’s and Singles. After the 2011 death of Trish Keenan, Cargill remains the only current member.
Then we just sort of spiraled into a lot of jokes and nonsense that you probably don’t want to read about, but you should listen to Holy Folk’s album Motioning and hear what the buzz is about. Follow me on twitter Matt_Dwyer@twitter.com