By Brian Tucker
At the end of October 2015 Holy Rivers took the stage at Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern debuting their new band – Holy Rivers. It was a warm, quiet Sunday afternoon for Hell-o-Weenie Fest for bands to share new, untested music. Holy Rivers, the guitar and drums duo of Jesse and Justin Hufton was a welcome addition to the day-long showcase.
They performed for years around town as The Hufton Brothers, a trio playing a concoction of folky rock and roll both blistering and down home. At the heart of those songs were fiery, rusty vocals and equally raucous energy. The trio ran its course and it would take another two years before the brothers played again.
Their set that Sunday was brief but combustible. Fun as it was, there was a wandering quality. Looking back at footage from that set there’s roots of what was to come – slightly different, but the guts are there. Justin’s arms flailed about, crushing cymbals and drums and Jesse would stand nearby when not singing. They played songs that didn’t end up on the EP and also delivered a solid cover of Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger.”
Based on recent release False Faces, they were exploring a sound that has, sort-of, come to fruition with the EP’s five scorching songs. The new music sounds like an older-brother to The Hufton Brothers album – huskier, grittier, and hard driving. The vocals are more guttural, the guitar playing is soaked with gnarly tones and groove-laden riffs. It sounds loud and close to your face. If The Hufton Brothers was in the vein of The Replacements then Holy Rivers is sonically closer to The Melvins.
Below the brothers talk about the album, the new sound, and forming a new band.
Did The Hufton Brothers just run its course?
Jesse: We only took a break from playing out live. We still met up weekly to rehearse songs. After The Hufton Brothers’ unfortunate end, we decided to take a different route. Justin picked up the drums and we started slowly building this idea and developing the sound you hear on the EP. After all this was a move we had been contemplating for a while. Getting to this point has had its strains, but has been totally worth it.
The new sound is gritty, kind of angry. Intentional or did this happen organically?
Jesse: The sound is a work in progress. It’s going to change as we write songs. We do feel it is more serious with deeper, meaningful undertones. Life and struggles, ups and downs all contribute to the sound. (Engineer) Ian Millard was a blast. He let us work out things in our own time. He also contributed helpful tricks of the trade to progress the sound and structure of the EP.
Last time I saw you was at Hell-o-weenie Fest. Was the band still exploring?
Jesse: At the time of Hell-O-Weenie Fest Justin had only been playing drums about month. It was our first official show as Holy Rivers. I guess it’s fair to say we were searching. We still feel that we are exploring our sound and songwriting.
Two-Piece Fest was good, people yelling for more. Did it validate the time it’s taken?
Justin: We can’t say we felt validated. All the bands showed up and helped to make it a great night. The audience cheered for all the bands, but it is something we have been working for and it did feel like an accomplishment.
The guitar work is fuzzed-out and blazing. Was choosing that a means to “fill in” the duo’s sound?
Justin: The sound and tone is just something that has grown with us as a band. We knew going into this project we were going to need a bigger, fuller sound to fill the absence of the bass guitar. So Jesse cranked the distortion on his Fulltone “OCD” pedal and with a touch of the “HolyGrail” reverb pedal we proceeded to “Rock N Roll.” We like the fuzz.
Can you share what “American Oddities” is about?
“American Oddities” is about being young and free and at the same time feeling like you’re being put on a glass shelf. You got to hold onto what’s tangible and take the punches, while keeping regrets minimal. Basically, our thoughts on day-to-day living.
Why didn’t you include finished versions of “In Revery” or “Hell of a Mess”?
Justin: Both “In Revery” and “Hell of a Mess” were some of the first songs we wrote as Holy Rivers. By the time we felt ready to hit the studio to record the EP other songs had just taken their place. We do have plans to release finished versions of those songs and others later this year.