Music Features

Pool Holograph (Interview)

It was the end of an evening, and Pool Holograph had played a sweaty, solid show. The Chicago-based four-piece had been trying out new material for what would become their third album, Love Touched Time and Began to Sweat, but the drive home went in a different direction, as they were involved in a vicious hit and run and the aggressor ran away. “It helps position you, because, for a minute, you saw the world swirling around you,” lead singer/songwriter Wyatt Grant told No Ripcord. “You could tell hard ground versus something fleeting.”

Over interlocked guitar work and mechanical drumming, the car accident is fleshed out in the elliptical, tense lyricism of Italics, the opener to the group’s new album. “No rock and roll, no more black and white daydreams...You’re sideways now,” sings Grant. It’s the ideal opener for an album that came out of trauma, a song that recollects what happened and starts to move forward. It’s easy to quantify Love Touched Time and Began to Sweat as a transitional album, but it’s a moniker that fits. “There was a different feeling with this album that I think really informed Wyatt’s lyrics, and made them more immediate and personal and laid some things bare. We had a lot of hard things we were talking about outside of the album,” shares Paul Stolz, the band’s lead guitarist.

The change of pace made itself known in the album’s recording process, which took place at Chicago’s Jamdeck Recording Studio with local legend Dave Vettranio behind the boards. “We kind of started out in a very humble stage of the band, and then from there, [Dave] taught us basically everything we know about the recording process since. I don’t want to sound trite, but it’s really kind of just a Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid situation,” explains Grant. The result is Pool Holograph’s most consistent and honest full-length yet, one of the year’s best post-punk albums in a year full of great post-punk albums

This was the third time the band took the studio with Vettranio, following seasons from 2015’s Immortals and 2017’s Transparent World, but this was the most rewarding one yet. “We had journeyed a little further creatively, to the point where it allowed us to be vulnerable,” starts Grant before trailing off. He takes a second, but then adds to his thought: “It’s not just like freedom, but [...] a pure relationship in that there’s [an] imbalance. It’s not about achieving harmony, [but] it’s about allowing for a kind of embarrassing, real art to happen in a session. I always dream that the perfect session would be like, everything just went smoothly [and] we got done five days ahead of schedule, when it’s actually like, you cry multiple times and you forget what time it is and it can be cathartic.” 

The vulnerability in the studio translated onto the album, to the point where it feels like it's pushing beyond the band’s wounds. While Love Touched Time opens by recollecting a near-death experience, by the second half of the album, the warmth of songs like August Outline or Asleep in Spain take over. Still, anxieties run throughout even on the happiest parts of the album. You can find Grant discussing his childhood on Life by the Power Plant, where he notes the harm of nostalgia. “Would you remember much? Could you remember much?,” he wails on the chorus, but in our interview, Grant cautioned against self-mythologizing. “In college...I had no VHS tapes of what I looked like as a kid, and the very little footage I could find, I ended up obsessing over it because I had issues with remembering and misremembering my past, he noted. "Honestly, as I was saying about music being a vehicle, it can also backwards."

Directly following Life by the Power Plant, a three-minute ambient track titled In a Mist bridges side A and B of the album. The interlude comes from how Power Plant evolved in live performances. “The way we write is very much influenced by trying it out live," started Grant. "Even if we don’t have a clue where a song is going, we very much enjoy the performance element of it Having a departure that’s formless from a very formed song, where it has a rigidity and intensity to it, it kind of alleviates it. Not so everybody feels good about it, but we wanted it to be this kind of core to the album that felt ethereal, where there was an emptiness but also you can hear buzzes and conflicts within.”

Part of what has been so healing for the group has been structure. At the end of our interview, we got caught up in an entertaining conversation about how important the construction of an album or a live show is for them. “Album orders are really critical to my love of music and appreciation for bands, explains Wyatt. "There’s a sort of implied architecture when someone opens up with a certain song, and there’s an unfolding that happens. It’s very much designed [to have a specific atmosphere] despite it taking a lot of twists and turns, but there are songs where we definitely knew that “this song does this, and some of them were like, this song is meant to heal what happened on the last one, or this song needs to provide some support for the song that follows."

More than any other Pool Holograph release yet, Love Touched Time and Began to Sweat is a product of formalism. There’s an intended resolve when Wyatt sings “Forgive you” over and over again on the album’s closer. It’s honest but it’s neither clean nor easy. That’s why it works so well on an album about organizing how you feel as a healing mechanism. When wrapping up our conversation, Grant added, “There’s such a delicate nature to placing yourself creatively and gathering your past and bringing it into [your] music, even though albums are just stupid little disks in someways."