Off the top of my head, I can think of just a handful of singers whose raw skill and tangible passion can make my hair stand on end. Names you may know, like Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, Manyard James Keenan, and a name you may not, Holy Grove’s Andrea Vidal.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Holy Grove is a fuzzy, trippy, heavy duty rock and roll band in the doom/psych/stoner vein pioneered by Black Sabbath. Their amazing self-titled 2016 debut was re-released on Ripple Music in 2018, and their followup, Holy Grove II, made many “best of” lists for the same year.
Backed by riffmaster Trent Jacobs, powerhouse drummer Eben Travis and the amazing Gregg Emley on bass, Holy Grove’s thundering songs cover topics of witchcraft, fantasy and myth with a writer’s realism, taking you on a journey that leaves you feeling transformed when you return.
I was lucky enough to catch Holy Grove in Oakland on their recent west coast tour and got to see the sweaty intensity of this band’s rock and roll majesty firsthand. Singer Andrea Vidal was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her singing style, the band’s songwriting process, and what’s next for Holy Grove.
M: You’ve just wrapped up a west coast tour, how did that go? What were some highlights from the tour?
AV: Touring in general is always something we look forward to. For us, it doesn’t get much better than playing shows every night. We love meeting new people and playing with bands from other cities. Highlights include seeing old friends and family along the way, playing several new cities, including Oakland, which was easily our most favorite show of the tour.
Who drives the van when you guys are on the road? Do you write on the road?
We all swap out driving, but I really enjoy driving the van and usually jump at the chance. Growing up in Massachusetts, I love being able to see other parts of the country and drive through them. We don’t write on the road per se, but we do find plenty of inspiration for the new record as we travel and experience life.
Your lyrics are so powerful. They’re more like poetry than song lyrics. What are your sources for inspiration?
I like to take inspiration from all over. Sometimes it’s personal experiences, other times I might want to pay tribute to something that inspired me throughout the course of my life. Take Valley of the Mystics for example. I was inspired by Jim Henson‘s The Dark Crystal growing up, and felt that the tone of the film fit with the tone of the song. So I was able to write passionately on a topic that I was very close to.
Tell us a little bit about how you guys go about writing a song, what’s your collective songwriting process?
It’s a collaborative process for sure. It usually starts with a riff that Gregg and Trent build on. Once there are a few parts established, we focus on how to bring those parts together into one cohesive piece. Vocals are added once the song has been demoed and I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with it and it’s get to know the parts and get a feel for what I want to bring to it vocally/melodically.
How do you bring such passion to your performance?
We do our best to connect with the audience as much as possible — we’re there to entertain, but we’re also there to share the experience of music with the audience. Each of us have a deep connection to the music and hope to convey that from the stage. Plus it’s just more enjoyable and rewarding for us to leave it all on stage, as it were.
Tell me about how you got started singing.
I’ve been singing my whole life, but never professionally or with a band. Finally in 2012, I decided to reach out to the music community in Portland and see if anyone was interested in creating new music. I had never written a song, played in a band or performed on stage like I do now. It was the best decision I ever made.
I find it crazy that you guys found each other on Craigslist, considering the chemistry you obviously have. I guess stranger things have happened. How did you all come up with the name Holy Grove?
It was one of many names that we came up with but the only one that we all agreed on. It had a classic feel to it and seemed to conjure a specific feeling.
What is that wild feedback at the end of Nix? I was fascinated to see you on the floor manipulating some pedal to get that.
It’s Trent’s guitar through an MXR Delay pedal. I tried a few other pedals, but MXR makes the best sounding one. Trent uses it at different points in different songs, so it has more than just the one purpose.
How has being on Ripple Music helped move you guys forward?
They’ve been very supportive of our music and did a hell of a job on the release of our second album. We were able to get song and album premieres with national coverage which certainly helped to get the word out. They’re also great people! We’re grateful to have the opportunity to work with them and certainly appreciate all they’ve done for us!
What’s next for Holy Grove?
We’re currently in the middle of writing a new album, which is one of our favorite parts of being in band. Seeing what direction the songs will take, and watching it start to take shape. We’re currently planning some touring for later in the year. We’re also playing The Psycho Smokeout in L.A. in April, along with a bunch of great bands, including Weedeater, The Obsessed, Acid King and Cough (among many others).
Last question – favorite place to eat in Portland?
Wedgehead because not only do they have a killer menu and strong drinks, but they have the best pinball machines in PDX. Good luck, don’t suck!
Thanks so much for your time, it was great meeting you on tour and I can’t wait to hear your new stuff!