Introducing: Gospel Music

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  • Sunday, 28 November 2010
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  • euan mackay
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  • Artist: Gospel Music
    From: Jacksonville, Fl
    Label: Kill Rock Stars / Fierce Panda
    Info: Myspace / Official Site


    Until now, Owen Holmes is perhaps better known for his bass-work with Black Kids. However whilst awaiting the completion of the notoriously difficult second album, he decided to set out on his own under the moniker of Gospel Music.


    Next week, (29th November in UK, 30th in US) he releases his debut EP 'Duettes' through Fierce Panda and Kill Rock Stars in the US. We caught up with Owen to find out a little bit more on his new project.




    As the title perhaps suggests, the EP comprises a series of five duets each of which features a separate high profile guest, including notably Traceyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura on lead single 'Automobile'. Watch the video for the track here...




    The five tracks on the EP are all relatively short and snappy as well as being extremely catchy. It blends a healthy hint of Magnetic Fields, Jonathan Richman and Moldy Peaches. Needless to say from that, it's a really infectious mix.


    When asked how the record came about a self-deprecating Holmes explained "Over the past couple years my songs have stopped being awful, and in maybe February I noticed I had a couple duet-like tunes in the can. I thought it'd be clever to spell the word "duettes," which to me suggests that the songs are short and simple, so I wrote a few more duets, and ta-da."


    When prompted on how he decided upon each of his collaborators on the record, (there's additional contributions from SoKo, Shirley Simms of Magnetic Fields, Darren Haymen of Hefner and Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls) Holmes suggested that he was fairly clear on who he wanted involved from the off and that only one of his original targets had declined his advances. Being the affable chap he is, he refused to name and shame. Holmes recorded his vocals and instrumentals from the EP out of his apartment kitchen in Jacksonville with his collaborators dialling in from afar.


    Perhaps one of the most endearing qualities of 'Duettes' comes in the shape of Holmes' lyrics. Describing his songwriting process Holmes said: "Stephin Merritt has said songwriting is all about "the nouns, the beautiful nouns," and I'm inclined to agree. My songs usually start with a kernel of truth — something I'm experiencing, say — that's then embellished or twisted to be more interesting."


    Opening the EP with the immortal line 'Baby, I miss the shit out of you' the lyrics span cooking gumbo and home brewing in 'Gamaphobia', learning the works of Tchaikovsky to impress a someone special (yes, he name drops Tchaikovsky in song)  and donating to NPR and baking pasta dough in 'Are Your Parents Still Together' the lyrics are perfectly entertaining, diverse and intelligently bittersweet in equal measures.


    So what's next for Gospel Music? Well it seems it could get quite lively. There are whispers of a full-length record likely to hit stores early in 2011. This is expected sooner rather than later, or at least once he can motivate himself to write the second half of the album. One of the downsides of having gone solo is that "there's no one else there saying, hey, we've gotta write songs, or practice, or whatever". If that weren't enough there's also the possibility of that elusive second Black Kids album surfacing too.


    If that weren't enough Holmes also has plans afoot to to take the Gospel Music on the road. Excitingly shows are being lined up both sides of the pond on either side of the new year. Intriguingly one of his collaborators will be joining him for the shows singing on all the songs. Sadly though his lips again remained sealed for whom the mystery guest would be. Stay tuned for more info a little closer to the time.


    Gospel Music release Duettes on 29th November in the UK, 30th November in the US. Pick up a limited edition numbered 10" copy of the record through Record Drop (Where you get MP3s with your vinyl) or Kill Rock Stars.


    Check out the full interview here:


    Would you care to introduce yourself?


    Owen Holmes — long-distance runner, Democrat, mediocre-but-improving cook, naturalist (in the philosophical sense).


    Congratulations on the new EP, it sounds great, How did it come about?


    Thank you, Euan. Over the past couple years my songs have stopped being awful, and in maybe February I noticed I had a couple duet-like tunes in the can. I thought it'd be clever to spell the word "duettes," which to me suggests that the songs are short and simple, so I wrote a few more duets, and ta-da.


    The new EP is comprised entirely of duets with different special guests featuring on each... How did you choose your collaborators?


    It was clear to me early on whom I'd like to have for each one, and lo and behold, all but one singer (not sayin' who) agreed to contribute. It had mostly to do with the nature of each song, as you'd expect. The little stops at the beginning of the verses in "Automobile," for example, reminded me of Camera Obscura's "French Navy," so I went for Tracyanne for that one. I've been a fan since "Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi," which I discovered while "studying abroad" at the University of Edinburgh years ago, so I was happy to see it work out.


    How did the recording process work? Did you get everyone in the studio or was it all done in parts in situ? Any tales to tell?


    No great stories to tell, though I could say that wiring money to the Glasgow studio where Tracyanne recorded her vocals might have been the most convoluted, Kafkaesque experience of my life. Don't tell her.


    My favourite track on the EP is the lead single 'Automobile'. I just can't get it out of my head, it's simple and extremely catchy and your vocal with Traceyanne Campbell's work great together.

    What is your favourite track, and why?



    Beauty and the beast, right? "Are Your Parents Still Together?" has stood out to me lately. It's like, I don't know what kind of music that is.


    Are there any plans to take Gospel Music on the road, if so, where and when? If not, Why not!?


    There'll be a handful of shows for this record. No hard dates yet but I'm looking at either side of the new year, both in the US and UK. One of the contributors will be with me, singing on all the songs.


    You've got a couple of cracking record labels behind you in Kill Rock Stars and Fierce Panda for this release, so what's in the pipeline for Gospel Music? Any plans for future releases?


    I know, right? There'll be a full-length next year, sooner than later — I've got about half of it written at the moment. That album will just be "normal" songs, with maybe the occasional guest.


    The lyrics on the new EP are amazing, think that 'Gamophobia' is the only track I know of where I have seen Jesus and Tchaikovsky name checked in the same verse... Have you got any favourite lyrics on here? Can you talk a little bit about your song writing process?


    Ah yes, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" is a hymn I sang growing up at church — not sure if it's well-known in your parts. I'm still new at this, but I suppose my favorite lyrics are the most specific ones — about JFK, gumbo, National Public Radio (another American conceit), etc. Stephin Merritt has said songwriting is all about "the nouns, the beautiful nouns," and I'm inclined to agree. My songs usually start with a kernel of truth — something I'm experiencing, say — that's then embellished or twisted to be more interesting. An example from the record would be "I Miss The Shit Out Of You" — the first verse is about my feelings for my girlfriend at the time, but instead of keeping it a straightforward love song, I fictionalized the second verse, wherein my lover says she doesn't miss me quite enough to move to my backwards town to be with me.


    Staying with the lyrics for a little longer, they remind me quite a lot of Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields with perhaps also a hint of Jonathan Richman and Adam Green thrown in for good measure...
    Have you got any particular songwriters that you admire or who have influenced you and your lyrics?



    You nailed it with the first two, or at least I'd like to think so. I'm less familiar with Adam Green's work. I started preferring logical lyrics a few years ago — who knew how much harder it is to write a song that makes sense. To that effect, other favorite lyricists include Dwight Yoakam, Lee Hazlewood, Darren Hayman and Cass McCombs.


    How does it feel to be out there on your own outwith the Black Kids banner?


    That's the catch with a solo project, I'm finding out: you have all the control, and you have all the responsibility. There's no one else there saying, hey, we've gotta write songs, or practice, or whatever. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done, and no one will ever care. At least at first.


    What's happening with Black Kids? Last I heard you were recording a second album...?


    Yep, still writing #2 back home in Florida. Stay tuned.


    Finally, We'd like you to make a mix tape, can you pick five tracks to kick it off?



    Here's what I'm digging at the moment:

    "A Picture Of Our Torn-Up Praise" by Phosphorescent
    "I Can't Talk About It" by El Perro Del Mar
    "Just Like A Movie Star" by The 6ths
    "Rebel Jew" by Silver Jews
    "Jet Plane" by Papercuts

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