Hailing from Estonia, Holy Motors is a five-piece twang and reverb band featuring three guitarists. They are cowboys at heart who come off as shoegazers by their presence and dreamcatchers in their music. Their equal parts somnambulant and sultry Sleeprydr 7” from earlier in 2017 was aptly described as “psychedelic rock that hits like a dream despite undoubtedly seeking to soundtrack nightmares” by the media.
Slow Sundown, Holy Motors’ debut full length release, finds the Estonian dreamcatchers utilizing a consistent sonic palette ranging from dark psychedelic pop to shoegaze-inflected western music. But while Sleeprydr, much like 2015’s Heavenly Creatures 7”, provided only a fleeting glimpse into the dreamscape that their music evokes, Slow Sundown’s eight tracks offer a more immersive experience for those brave enough to take the ride.
While the guitar lines from lonely cowboy ballads like “Honeymooning” could easily serve as the central themes for unwritten Morriccone scores, or a
Mazzy Star b-side, dystopian anthems like the the rhythmically propelled “Signs” break new ground for the band and demonstrate that Holy Motors are not bound by their influences.
Thematically, Slow Sundown is comprised primarily of sad love songs centered around the idea of motion – the motion of a satellite orbiting a planet, the motion of a passenger riding shotgun in a car – as it relates to stellar-scale and existential isolation.
Produced by Merchandise’s Carson Cox and recorded at Brooklyn’s Kutch1 Studios when the band was visiting the U.S., Slow Sundown is a beautiful alien artifact and hopefully the first of many.
Bizzarre: Where are you right now, and what are you doing?
Eliann: Right now I’m at home petting my cat Moosu, collecting thoughts on these questions and drinking a nice cup of herbal tea and it’s really calming.
Lauri: I´m sick at home, but packing to go to the countryside.
B: What is the most important thing you learned last year?
Eliann: one thing that’s really important is to spend time and share your mind with loved ones. It’s a hard one for me but I’m trying to work on it.
L: It´s okay to ask for help. Everybody needs a rest. It helps you handle yourself and let you do things you will be doing. It´s hard to be that person.
B: Something that you can´t tolerate?
L: Some of the things people do. The things some people do... I feel there is a slippery slope in questions like this that lead to politics and economics really fast, but now that´s not where I want to be going with this. It´s a moderate list of things.
B: Your music is amazing, and Slow Sundown is a great, beautiful album (congratulations). Holy Motors are defined as "cowboys at heart, who come off as shoegazers by their presence and dreamcatchers in their music", touching the melancholy with elegance. Where and when did you hook up and adopt your sound? –
L: Thanks for that. We´re much obliged. I´m going to try and tell you exactly how it happened, which is not an easy task to do. After all this story has been so close under our nose the whole time making it harder to see.
So if you bear this with us, then that would be something. I don´t remember much from first meeting Hendrik, but I didn´t make a good impression during his farewell party as the stranger who I then was. Hendrik was moving to live in London indefinitely.
""I´m moving to London soon,“ he said.
I didn´t like London. A week later we happened to share a taxi early in the morning. Sitting in the back, there was Duran Duran playing infront.
The driverman said it was re-recorded from vinyl to tape and that his brother hates the band. We joked we love it, so we talked about that and his piracy techniques. He got out first and I didn´t see Hendrik for the indefinite time he was in London, which now was about a year around 2011-2012. But we had started to talk online about guitars so that made us virtually acquaintances. I also started playing in my first proper band in the meanwhile, where I was alrealdy sometimes tenderly disciplined about the wet mixes of my reverb effects. Somehow later when Hendrik came back to Estonia we were already friends, wanting to write music so that´s what we did. Hendrik introduced me to Kevin Shields' music and I was bringin alternative country to rehearsals for listening. The country and western was first something we played on the PA just to get remotely away from the adoration of the acts we actually aspired towards back then, but we became what we surrounded ourselves with. And I know there´s a particle of that Duran Duran somewhere in there sunk in reverb too. Some days it feels that everything just happens.
B: Your new album has very mixed feelings, peace, loneliness, love, sadness, like an urge to scream uncontrollably in the middle of the desert, but at the same time you feel comfortable with it. What do you want people to feel, when they listen to it?
Eliann: It’s already nice to hear which feelings you’ve found on this album and yes, they are represented. I hope that people find a relation between their own feelings and the songs so they’ll come back to them.
L: The comfort of happiness, like what you said.
B: Which feelings dominate “Slow Sundown”? –
L: The conventional sad spectrum. Alienation and losing. That alone in the crowd feeling. Sleeplessness.
B: “Slow Sundown” is clearly a title with an opinion and speaks for itself - was it hard for all of you to reach the same mood to arrive to the perfect final result that we can hear on the album? –
L: It´s okay to feel differently about things and be together. We we´re still trying out things in the studio and gasping at New York and that creative alertness was there and that city was there for all of us. So that help us understand in a better unison what we´re doing and eventually what it should be called.
B: What inspired you the most to write the lyrics for "Slow Sundown"?
Eliann: The lyrics of slow sundown take you to these short days and long nights that are characteristic to where we’re from. long nights turn into longing, to lonesomeness. the moon shows up pretty early when the sun’s descended before 3pm. but we’re used to it. it’s all based on these emotions that come during the dark hours. what really saves me is the surrounding nature where you do feel comfortable being alone because you’re not, really. there’s so much in the nature.
B: What music did you listen to, while creating the album?
Eliann: From Rowland S. Howard to CouCou Chloe.
L: Early on I got the habit not to set myself on a bar with the songs I had the hots for. Nevertheless we did listen to a lot of music when writing and arranging the songs, but it wasn´t intentionally tuned to aid the writing of that album. I listened to Family Band and Morphine soon after that, when writing
"I Will Try“, but the true inspiration for the song came from playing a hazel toned 1972 Gibson SG200, and just later when rearranging the song got laced with reflections on Morricone western scores.
The Tamaryn – Rex Shelverton tandem had more sonic influence over a period, when we were working on the demo of "Signs“ and "Heavenly Creatures“ from the first seven-inch. There´s been a lot of listening to Markko Haavisto, Nick Cave and Chris Isaak over the times and after the release of "Front Row Seat to Earth“, also Weyes Blood and beautiful music like that.
Wharf Cat Records
B: What can you tell us about the Estonian music scene, what do you think is different and unique over there, and what you would like to do for it? –
L: You can´t fit a big music scene in a small social scene. Even the big guns of radio mainstream have barely enough audience to go around, but at least they do. It gets ridiculously hard if you are an outsider or just make another kind of music, because your audience can easily be just the 55 people who are into that. A third of them don´t live in your area if you are in Tallinn. Two thirds or more are too far from you to see your gig if you live anywhere else. Unless you´re a solo artist, deduct some of them, because they´ll join your band. From a kind of solidarity that runs in the subcultures, you get support from your friends and other vaguely similar artists, who sometimes come to your shows. Then you usually reciprocate the attention and support, because you have somehow become less strangers with eachother. It´s safe to say the music scene that we´re in here, runs on enthusiasm and other sort of fumes that don´t provide any substance that accords well with the material life. „But what do you really do?“. I hate that question. Yet because of the people involved in the music scene presumably sincerely care about the music here, then here and there bands have the possibility to book something stellar.
B: Your sound is very cinematic, taking us far away so that we can visualise a palette of great, crazy images and scenarios. If you have the chance to put 3 songs of Slow Sundown in 3 movies, which songs and movies you would choose and why?
Eliann: I Will Try in Twin Peaks. because it has a similar dark mood to it and I feel that it would compliment the overall aesthetics of Lynch’s imagery. Also, he’s work has inspired us creating our soundscapes.
Lauri: Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders for Valley. Robby Müller´s breathtaking cinematography accompanied with an underlying theme of los and redemption. The vastness and the open road loneliness of the Texas landscape is something that speaks to us in volumes and would make a great pairing.
Misery by Rob Reiner for Ghost of Heart. The twist of Annie Wilkes models the meaning behind the words to Ghost of Heart well in a thrilling manner. You could say it strips off the pristine coating and ruins the beauty of the words. But it´s fascinating. In the end I feel the song has sympathy for both Annie and Paul.