The Scottish indie-rock band Holy Esque fulfills many of today’s hipster band clichés. The band has a trendy name and symbol, and the singer sounds like he’s searching for the latest cool way to sing. What is he saying? Is he an old man? Has he lost his breath? Does he smoke too much? Who knows if he’s old or smokes until his lungs burn. There are no band photos up on the group’s Facebook page and Holy Esque does not even have its own website. It’s as if they’re trying to preserve some kind of elusive, mysterious reputation.
The reality is, the fans don’t care, and the band doesn’t care what anyone thinks, either.
“Holy Esque is something we believe in. Don’t misinterpret that for some kind of romanticized religion or ideal. The symbol and the name are yours and ours so you can decide to put faith in that or leave it behind,” says the band’s vocalist and guitarist, Pat Hynes.
Holy Esque formed in early 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland. The band is led by 19-year-old Hynes and also includes Keir Reid on keyboards, Hugo McGinley on guitar, and Ralph McClure on drums. The group’s debut release presents a stylish mix of sounds, all coming from band members just reaching their 20s. Holy Esque’s self-titled EP is out April 23, and it will undoubtedly do very well.
Only six months after the band started rehearsing together, the guys booked several successful shows across the United Kingdom. Their online demos drew attention for their “sonic morass of distortion and atmospheric soundscapes”–a buzz that immensely grew after the band released its first single, “Rose.” The single is a moving and growing, energetic, dancey track, featuring classic indie-rock riffs and a galloping drum beat. It earned Holy Esque volumes of blog hype and attention from bigger acts like WU LYF, who handpicked the band as a support act for their world tour.
The band recorded the four-track EP in one week’s time at a DIY studio in a Southside Glasgow apartment with close friend Kevin Burleigh, who produced and recorded the record. The EP maintains the energy of “Rose,” with two other upbeat and forward-moving songs and one pent-up, slow-bending emotional track. It makes sense that Holy Esque would open for WU YLF audiences; the band’s sound is big enough to adequately fill large venues. Even during the song “Loneliest Loneliness,” a spaced-out dreamy trance, Holy Esque still fills gaps with pounding background ambiance and grinding strumming, until the song builds in a buzz before fading out.
If listeners aren’t convinced with the first three tracks on the EP, the forth track, “Prophet of Privilege” will perhaps be the determining factor. The four-minute epic song is a type of beachy summer anthem, with bright guitar picking and catchy drumming. It picks up and cools down as Hynes belts lyrics with natural intensity. The one serious and slightly funny downside of Hynes’ vocals is that because they are so rushed and messy, listeners can’t really tell what he is singing, prompting the question of whether his “cool” style of singing is undermined by this issue.
Although the band hasn’t announced any major summer gigs yet, Holy Esque is hoping to ride its buzz and play some festivals this summer. For now, the musicians will be doing a seven-show U.K. tour promoting their EP in late April/May.
As for Hynes’ vocals, the singer contends, “I’ve always sung this way, it’s my natural way of expressing myself. I can’t explain the technique or style but maybe that’s a good thing.”