With the May 5th release of his jaw-droppingly stellar album, Wild Empty Promises, Holden Laurence joins an elite group of artists on my CD wall, including Dave Grohl, Chris Mars, Wendy & Lisa, and Richard Hawley. Each of these artists were “in the band” when I first discovered them, but then stepped into the front person spotlight with solo material that was on-par with the best of their day job catalog. These were no “side projects”, they were true emergence records.
Laurence’s musical day job is guitarist for The Modern Electric, one of my favorite bands and records (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) of late 2014 and all of 2015. The Cleveland quartet that also features Garrett Komyati (lead vocals/piano/guitar), Matthew Childers (bass/drums), and Michael O’Brien (drums), launched the most ambitious campaign I’ve ever seen for an indie record, producing their own film festival of cinematic videos for every song on the album.
Of the above video, Laurence tells Popdose “The summer that I spent in Austin with The Modern Electric recording Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is very special to me. The shit had hit the fan in my personal life and being able to hang around the guys and get lost in the process of trying to make a great record kept me sane, (relatively) safe, and focused at a time when it would’ve been easy for me to go off the rails. It was also during that time that I started to write the songs that would eventually become Wild Empty Promises. It was my ‘summer of Lou Reed’ that Garrett references in the song.”
See more of our interview below…
While Soundtrack was a hit with critics and dramatically expanded their fanbase, the global domination and starry night festival slots they’re destined for remains a work in progress as their momentum continues to build. Until their third album comes along, Laurence more than scratches the itch for elegant, new wave, shimmering indie rock with his boffo solo debut.
Every song on this record is a single, kicking off with a killer one/two punch of the dreamy ‘A Whisper and She Takes Me’ and a synthy Americana emotional gut punch called ‘Ready to Leave’. Throughout Promises, Laurence mines the best of the Just Say Sire (Records) playbook; echoes of Echo & The Bunnymen, The Ocean Blue and the Smiths, shimmer throughout the set, as does an undercurrent of classic rock slow churned with Ryan Adams-style Americana. If there is a Rock God, Seymour Stein will find this post and hear this record; considering all of the legends he’s discovered and signed, Holden Laurence could be the next great act on his roster… well, if the good folks at Barsuk, ANTI, Omnivore, Cherry Red or Sub Pop don’t get to him first.
But first, to kick off this parade in style, Popdose is beyond honored to premiere ‘Cover Me In Roses’, the album’s first single:
I was so excited about this record, I couldn’t even formulate a cohesive question when I finally caught up with Laurence to discuss Wild Empty Promises …
Listening to your album makes me want to scream, throw things and break stuff. It’s so freaking good it should be on a major label. I bet Europe discovers you first — they are much more open to elegant and sophisticated pop on this level. While references to The Killers, The Church and The Chameleons are easy, there’s a classic rock undercurrent in the guitar lines — the melodies are huge and the musicianship is world class.
You definitely nailed the classic rock influence as an undercurrent, I grew up on that stuff! For Christmas when I was ten, my parents bought me my first three albums: Dark Side of The Moon and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, and Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. As much as my tastes grow, develop, and diverge into tangents like New Wave, Post-punk, Power Pop, Glam, Alternative, Americana, etc… I always reference those three albums. There’s just something about the craftsmanship and brilliant songwriting of Paul Simon, and the musicianship and patience to develop the ideas of Pink Floyd.
How did this album come together?
When I set out to make the record I made a pact with myself to treat it like it was the last record I’ll ever make, because honestly, who freaking knows?! With that in mind, I developed a very strong vision of what the album could and should be, and I didn’t want to compromise or succumb to any critical influences, externally or internally. I wrote, arranged, produced, and performed everything on the album except drums and percussion, which were played by Michael O’Brien, also from The Modern Electric. We tracked half of the album with Dr. Michael Bell at Fe True Productions in Cleveland and I finished the album with Shane Olivo at Bobby Peru Recording in Milwaukee.
Is your role with The Modern Electric limited to guitar hero, or did you also write songs and sing on their albums?
I pretty much just play guitar in The Modern Electric, although I do noodle a little on bass during live shows. The creative process for The Modern Electric is much different than with my solo project. Even though Garrett Komyati is the sole songwriter for The Modern Electric, the arrangements are fleshed out in a pretty collaborative manner, with each member of the band adding their parts and contributing their two cents. With my solo stuff, pretty much all of the writing and arranging is self-contained.
Are you going to take this album on the road to promote it?
Mike and I, along with our friend Mitchell Kiminas on bass, have been performing as a trio for the past two years. We’ve developed a solid following in Cleveland and are getting some buzz for our CD release show on May 5th at The Beachland Tavern with Bad Hounds (Akron) and John’s Little Sister (Cleveland). We’re adding Mark Porostosky, multi-instrumentalist from Cleveland-based Lighthouse and the Whaler, to cover the synth and acoustic parts for our live shows. We plan to branch out regionally this summer to support the release.
Can you make any wild, not so empty promises, about what’s next for you and The Modern Electric?
Garrett is currently writing material for a new Modern Electric album and we’re still playing shows in the meantime. For my solo stuff, I’m planning on following up Wild Empty Promises with an EP later this year. I’m sitting on another batch of 10+ songs that I’m really excited about. They’re fully demoed and fleshed out and I’m gonna go back into the studio in late May to start tracking 4 or so of the strongest ones. I want to capitalize on the momentum from this release and make sure I have follow up material ready to show labels if and when they express interest.
Pick up the single, ‘Cover Me In Roses’ on April 24, 2017 via iTunes, Bandcamp and Amazon.