The Holy Gasp was featured in our March edition of Bands Spotted. Their dynamic and versatile tracks from their album The Last Generation of Love showcases the band’s range, amazing instrumental skills and eccentric vocals. If you’re searching for an eclectic sound for your ears, then The Holy Gasp definitely won’t disappoint. Support local talent and celebrate the band’s new album by attending their album release party on Saturday, March 21st at the Silver Dollar Room.
Benjamin, the founder of The Holy Gasp, answered some of my questions for Novella and revealed just how amazingly talented they really are.
Tell me about the formation of the band and each member’s musical background.
I started the band with just me and my congas as a one man beatnik-revival percussion act, and played a bunch of shows around Toronto by myself. After a while I put together a self-titled album in the home studio of Craig Saltz (Midday Swim), with Benjamin Reinhartz (Dilly Dally) laying down backing vocals and auxiliary percussion. My good friend and fellow percussionist Daveyoso joined me to fill in Reinhartz’s parts for the live arrangement, but after a handful of shows, I started feeling like I’d done everything I cared to do with such a minimalist arrangement, and wanted to expand. Sebastian Shinwell (Midday Swim) had been helping me score a different project, and he and I hit it off really well. I asked him if he’d be down to join, and he said yes. Next came Christopher Weatherstone (Lemon Bucket Orechestra), whom both Daveyoso and I play with in Rambunctious. He was the obvious choice for sax, and soon after we brought on James McEleney (The Unseen Strangers, The Andrew Collins Trio), whom I’d worked with at an old job. And the Lord filled the darkness and the void and saw that it was good. And thus became The Holy Gasp.
You’ve described your music as Afro-Cuban psychedelic surf punk. What inspires you to create such a diverse sound? Did you grow up listening to a similar genre?
I’m interested in intersectionality, in cubism, in the interplay between the imaginal and the real, and the ways in which multi-dimensionality is fused together and blurred. Growing up, I was always interested in hearing a traditional folk song covered by different artists, or to see one story portrayed through musical theatre, through ballet, through poetry, through animation. I love perspectives, and seeing how one entity gets interpreted by different people.
What was the process behind creating your debut album The Last Generation of Love?
I composed the songs for the most part on percussion, built melodic structures with Sebastian, arranged percussion with Daveyoso, and let Christopher and James hammer out the harmonies. Though I write the songs myself, we’re very collaborative in our arrangements, and everybody contributes great ideas on every song. This would be a very different album had I worked with other musicians. But I’d hate to entertain that. I work with the best players in the city. And I love ‘em all to pieces.
From “The Man Ain’t Groovy” to “A Boy And His Pony”, you really tackle into versatile tracks with this album. Was that the goal behind the LP?
The goal was just to make a great album that I’d myself want to listen to. I suppose I had a unified vision in my head, but the album demonstrates that vision better than I could ever articulate in prose.
Who have been your musical inspirations over the years?
When I was a child, my father exposed me to a lot of depression and golden era musical theatre and cinema. I was most fascinated by strange voices, by actors who really shouldn’t have been singers, but for reasons of the times, sang, and sang oddly. Folks like Groucho Marx, Jimmy Durante, Al Jolson… They all have very peculiar voices and singing styles. I always look for a lot of character in a voice. In my teenage years, when punk rock spoke to me, Dead Kennedys and The Cramps were my heart throbs. Later, I became obsessed with Tom Waits and Nick Cave. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. What artist can really list all their influences? I’m leaving out so many artists in American protest folk, Tropicalia, first wave ska, big band swing, modern jazz… The list never ends…
What would be the band’s theme song?
Daveyoso’s part of some weirdo club for folks who wanna record and share audio samples of their farts. We’ve been listening to his fart archives a lot on tour. I know everyone would like to believe that their above that, but I kid you not, it’s a quality few minutes of high comedy.
Fill in the blank: I can’t live without____.
I can’t live without drumming. I don’t go a day without drumming on something, if only my lap or the kitchen table. Rhythm is everywhere, and I love being a part of it.
What’s next for The Holy Gasp?
Writing. Lots and lots of writing. There are tons of new songs in the works. I look forward to sharing them with everyone.
Follow the band on Facebook and Twitter: @theholygasp.