Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, post-rock band Holy Fawn have been busy of late, a burst of activity that culminated in a show-stealing show at this year’s ArcTanGent festival. The Midlands rocks managed to collar vocalist/guitarist Ryan Osterman and guitarist Evan Phelps as they walked off stage and cornered them for an exclusive chat.
You’re fresh off stage. How was it?
Ryan: It’s surreal. I think we’ve all wanted to come to ArcTanGent for so many years, we’ve seen so many videos, and so many of our favourite artists have played this festival, it’s incredible that we should be part of it and getting bumped up to the main stage was a surprise, and it was surreal. It’s going to take me a while to process all the emotions, we are very grateful.
What are your impressions of ArcTanGent?
Ryan: As we were waiting for the shuttle bus to bring us to the arena, I thought that it had the perfect vibe. It perfectly caters to the type of music we play.
You just had a run of dates in the UK with The Callous Daoboys. How did that go, and how did you feel you complimented their musical style?
Evan: I wish we had more time to spend with them, we only did two shows together, and we even saw them a little bit after our set today, we got to reunite for a little bit. We’ve met a few of them back in the States, and we’ve talked to them online, but live shows with them, oh boy! They are just pure chaos and energy, but they are such sweet humans, so to play shows with people like that, it is really an honour, and I wished we could have had more shows together, but the two we had were really, really remarkable.
Ryan: Hopefully, we’ll have some more dates too. We love doing shows where, I wouldn’t say it is mixed genres because I’d say there where similarities here and there, but The Daoboys are like this absolute force, when you see them live Carson is commanding the crowd, he is such a fantastic frontman, everyone in the band is doing everything perfectly, and then having us as a change of pace, I think it’s fun to have shows like that.
Are there any boundaries you wouldn’t step over? Would you play with a death metal band, for instance?
Ryan: We’d play with anybody, I think that’s something nest with us; there’s a lot of different influences and elements within our music that doesn’t quite fit, it is almost like we’re kind of a dark horse.
Evan: Individually we draw influences from all different sources, our regular drummer listens to neo-soul, R&B and pop, Ryan and I have totally different tastes so we take what we can from that. We’ve played with death metal bands, we’re open to everything; music’s music.
Since 2022 you’ve been hitting the UK pretty had. What keeps you coming back?
Ryan: It’s great to be here, I don’t know if there’s a way to pinpoint it. Every time we’ve been here everybody has been super kind and the shows have been so much fun.
Evan: The first time we came out here, we didn’t know what it’d be like, they were like our first international show. I’d always wanted to come here personally, but as a band it’s a dream to play here, we’ve been warmly welcomed, everyone’s so nice that we wanted to come back. This is our third time playing in the UK in the past 12 months which is really weird, but totally amazing.
Ryan: When you see it on paper it’s pretty bizarre, but we’re are so grateful, every time we come back, things seem to get ramped up a little bit, it’s awesome. When we first started I was the one mailing out all the merch and CDs, and I noticed that a lot of the stuff was going out to Europe, people sent us messages years ago, so it’s nice to finally meet face to face.
Holy Fawn have a very atmospheric and layered sound. How do you replicate it in the live environment?
Evan: Guitar pedals are a big part of our sound. Delay effects and heavy reverbs to replicate the ambience we try to capture in the recordings. In the studio we probably use less pedals than we do live, because you can manipulate things a bit more, but live when we do headline shows we add space between songs and use effects to build a setting before the song starts. I think the ambience is something we were heavily into at the start of this band and it’s something we’ll never give up.
Ryan: I agree. With guitar pedals, we are all kind of geeks with that stuff, when we’re recording, we make use of layers, even the same guitar part, we’ll do it three times to make it as big as possible. Doing that live using reverb is paramount in making it sound massive.
The key word is “massive”. I find your sound all-encompassing and emotive. What is it like inhabiting those songs every night, and do you find it hard to leave them on stage?
Ryan: The songs are all very special to us, I know when we are on stage, we are all deeply in the moment. Today we ended the set with a song called ‘Seer’, it is one of our favourites to play, it is emotional for me, when we came off the stage at the end, I was fighting back tears and stuff, happy tears, it was incredible. Sometimes you can finish a song, and it is done, but sometimes you need time to process everything. It’s kind of nice, in a weird way.
Evan: Absolutely, every show we play, we really get into it and it is hard not to take those feelings off the stage. You get in the zone because you are throwing your all into it, I think we do every night; that’s the kind of music we want to make. Even when we are not playing shows I still thinking about past performances or the songs in general, singing the parts and thinking about the musical aspects of it. The thing is we like the songs, so we definitely live with them off stage as well as on. The main thing is making them feel emotive to the listener, and giving them all we have every time.
Your latest album Dimensional Bleed has been out in the world awhile. How do you feel about it now? Anything you’d like to go back and change?
Ryan: It was such an interesting record for us to work on, it was in the middle of the pandemic, we went in not knowing how long the plague was going to last, we might never get to play these songs, we might write a new album before the pandemic was over. We went all in.
Evan: It captured the vibe of the times we were living in, we had to work on everything separately in our home studios, sending music back and forth, it was a completely different way of working, and Ryan’s right; we never knew if we’d ever play these songs live. If I was able to change anything, it would be to go back and write and rehearse those songs together, but I love that album for what it is and it represents that time in our lives.
Although we had an EP to fill the gap, four years is a long time between albums, so why the long gestation, and do you think it is a good or bad thing to have such a long gap?
Ryan: It is absolutely a double-edged sword, especially in this day and age where we are being constantly force-fed media. It’s almost like being incentivised into constantly putting stuff out to make sure you’re not forgotten, or something like that. It can be a little detrimental, but with this band I think our listeners know that we would never put out a song that we don’t overtly believe in or are a 100 per cent invested in. It might take some time, but I’d rather do that and run the risk of someone forgetting about us rather than releasing something in the hope of staying relevant.
Would you worry that your fans might move on?
Ryan: That’s a valid worry and concern, but we value our fans so much because they are not those type of people. They are patient, and we are in a unique position to have a fanbase who are understanding that if we tour almost constantly for two years, they don’t expect a full-length album. They’re understanding and patient, and we are very grateful for that.