Interview with Josh Gonzalez of HOLDING
Sydney musician Josh Gonzalez has taken a step in a new direction to that of Undercast, the punk band he plays guitar for. The thought of creating a solo project was a seed planted in his brain a few years ago, and now it has blossomed into Holding, which draws inspiration from the likes of Lydia and Turnover. Holding’s debut EP LOST SUMMER was released at the start of June, and features four tracks which look at love, loss, and growing up. AMNplify’s Dani Brown spoke to Josh about the creative process behind Holding – and the public response to it.
Hey Josh! I guess we’ll start at the start… How did the idea to start up a solo project come about?
I’ve wanted to do it for a while, I just haven’t really been happy enough with anything I’ve written until now. I was planning on doing it a few years ago and I didn’t really get much more inspiration to keep going with it, and with this batch of songs I was happy to go out on my own and try to make it a new project.
Did you have any ideas about what you wanted the project to sound like when you first started out?
Not really. I just kind of started writing songs and then as I went along I enjoyed writing the style that I’ve adapted to now.
How long have you been writing for?
Did the first song you wrote solo make it onto the EP?
No, it’s not on the EP but it’ll be coming out a bit later. Some other time!
Sounds good! So, how did you come up with the name ‘Holding’? What does that mean to you?
I don’t really know what it means, it was just on a list of names that I had and it was one of the names that wasn’t taken, so I liked that. I feel like it’s kind of one of those names where you could leave it to your own interpretation as to what it means. If people ask what it means, I ask them what they think it means. It seems to fit well with the sound I’m working towards.
You said before you’d kind of been tossing up with the idea of starting a project for a while… When did you decide, ‘Yep, I’m going to write this EP’?
It just kind of happened! I had, I think, three or four songs towards the beginning of the year. And how it really happened is I asked if I could open for my friends Whatever, Forever. They were playing a house show in Doonside, which is a suburb of Sydney, and I just kind of jumped on last-minute as the opener and it went pretty well. From that point I decided to try and record the songs, I locked in some dates but I actually completely forgot about it until just before I was supposed to be recording. So I got my shit together and eventually I was able to head into the studio kind of accidentally.
Love it! How long was that recording process?
It was probably done really over three or four weeks, including tracking and mixing and everything else that was involved – over a few weeks, spread out a little bit.
Whereabouts did you record and who did you record with?
Broken Sound Studios in Parramatta with the lovely Rohan Kumar.
And was that the main person you had in mind when you wanted to start recording?
Yeah, I know that he’s a bit crazy in terms of his musical ideas, he’s a bit of a freak – I mean that in a good way. He brought a lot to the table in terms of arrangement and general vibes, which I really enjoy. He was very, very enthusiastic so as soon as we started working together I was like, ‘yep, this feels right, this feels good’. It worked out!
Well, that’s always handy. What was the best part about the recording process for you?
I think probably just hearing the songs all come together at the end during the mixing part of it. There was a lot of listening to the exact same three seconds, like, a million times during the mixing session as well, but once we were past that point, just hearing everything all together sounds amazing. It felt really good, just knowing that I kind of just started with a really basic idea and then together we built it up into a real song.
What was the most challenging part for you?
Probably singing. I’m not a great singer. I actually used to sing in a band when I was 16 or 17 years old and we weren’t that great. It was very Fall Out Boy, All Time Low kind of stuff. And from there I didn’t really have any confidence to sing in another band after that ended, so that’s why I guess I started Undercast. So coming into my own as a singer-songwriter was pretty hard for me to have the confidence to do, but once I stepped up to the mic I felt a lot better about it and I guess I’m still trying to find my voice.
How have you been developing that? Has there been a way that you’ve been building on your vocal skills?
I’ve just been trying to practice as much as I can, continuing to write, just experimenting a little bit. Now I’m actually working on a few new tracks just at home, so I’m trying to do full band demos which I guess will involve in one aspect getting to sing a lot more and trying to experiment with different melodies, rather than writing something and just recording whatever I write, which is kind of how the first EP happened.
I was going to ask how your writing process worked…
Well, with my other band I kind of like working on the music first and maybe coming to the table with lyrics later if we need the lyrics. But with Holding, it’s really like I come up with lyrics and then I start jamming on the guitar and I write something that I can just play with a guitar and me, just vocals and guitar. And then, from there I try and build it up – well, that’s how it’s worked with the first EP.
Nice. You mentioned your band before – what was your band Undercast’s reaction when you told them that you were thinking about doing solo stuff?
I actually didn’t. It’s pretty funny. I never got around to it really. Like I said, I ended up recording really last minute. So far they’ve been so supportive. It’s been really nice. So I don’t know how that’s going to affect what we do in the future but it was really nice, Michael (Cross, lead singer of Undercast) helped out with the art and with the promo photos, and Lachie (McDonald, drummer of Undercast) is going to play drums when we do live shows.
And now that the EP’s out, how does it feel?
It feels really good. I feel like I can show people and say, ‘This is what I can do on my own’ – with some help, of course, but – ‘This is what I can write and how I can sing’. It’s more of an artistic piece that’s all me, rather than being a collaborative thing. Of course, Rohan did a lot with the arrangements, but it’s allowed me to express myself as an individual rather than as a collective, which is something I do enjoy. So it feels good!
What’s the response been like so far?
Pretty positive. People saying that they really connect with the songs, they like songs for certain reasons, maybe because they can relate to them as well. It’s a really nice feeling. So far everyone’s been really nice and really supportive. I’ve got some really good feedback and I’m keen to just keep trying to push it and take it to as many people as I can.
Did you expect it to be so emotional, the actual songs?
I knew it was going to be personal from the beginning. I went through quite a lot of stuff last year in terms of just life and emotional issues, so I did expect that there was going to be a lot of personal stuff and I guess this is one of the ways I was able to talk about it.
What was it like, putting so much of yourself into a record?
It was a little bit scary, but it was good because I was able to step back and think about what was really going on with me, and to look at things from an outside perspective, as well as get a bit of closure on a few things that have happened to me.
When people ask, ‘What’s it all about?’, is it hard to describe it?
Yeah, I guess all the songs are about a few different topics but I am working on that, just being able to talk about what I’m singing about. I’m happy to provide an explanation. But it’s difficult.
How would you describe it?
Basically, because of the name Lost Summer, it kind of evolved around the end of last year or the summer that’s just passed, in terms of a new relationship and some other emotional issues I was having in terms of a past relationship and as well as just talking more so about my depression and the way that it’s affected my relationship with others. That’s basically the theme of the EP, and it kind of goes along a mini story but you have to know everything about my life to completely understand that. I think it provides enough to paint a picture.
Cool! So what’s next for Holding?
Just going to be playing some shows, both full band and acoustic. We’ve got a lot in the works. Hopefully doing some touring towards the end of the year as soon as I’m done in the studio with Undercast, and just a lot more music. Just going to keep going with it as long as people are listening.
Do you think you’ll mainly perform locally or do you think there’s been a strong enough response to go out on a few different tours interstate, that kind of thing?
Yeah, definitely. Touring interstate will be the next thing I do after I’ve played a few shows at home just to test the waters, I suppose. But touring is definitely on the cards towards the end of this year and the beginning of next year.
When is your next show and where?
The next I’m playing is with Oaks on the 16th of July at the Valve Bar. I’m also locking in a few other things at the moment so hopefully that will be announced soon.
Beautiful. Anything else that you wanted to mention?
Thanks to anyone who’s listened to the EP and thanks for having me, I really appreciate the chance to talk about it.