Holiday Friends
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Holiday Friends

Astoria, Oregon, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Astoria, Oregon, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
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After a delectable diner breakfast and wrestling with a maddening internet connection, my trusty concert-going buddy Jeff from Killingsasquatchmusic.com and I checked out Ale Fort, an enormous tented venue set up in a parking lot behind The Linen Building, where we checked out Boise’s own indie rockers The Holiday Friends who had an impressively tight sound. Astoria transplants from northern Idaho town Moscow, the band filled this beer-sampling tent with an attention grabbing pop-rock sound that falls somewhere between Minus The Bear and MGMT. - BePortland.com


Thursday night saw the return of Astoria, OR band Holiday Friends. Ever since finding out about them through Treefort Fest I have been hooked on their album, Chicks. But before Holiday Friends performed Norman opened up the night with their great post-country rock and roll music. Big time blues and some 70s rock and roll is what Norman is all about. They blew everyone away with their performance even though they are not as well known as the other two bands. I really dig the songs “Hell, If I Love” and “You Were The Sky.”



Next up was Holiday Friends with their fantastic sound. They started the show off with “Plastic Planets” which has kind of a Shins sound to it. They have some really great dream pop-rock. They have so many sounds produced into one beautifully complete sound. Harmonious vocals, banjo, acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, upright and electric bass, drums, and a synthesizer are the main instruments for this five piece band. They draw on so many great influences, from Arcade Fire to The Shins to Animal Collective, yet they have a completely unique sound that makes their debut album Chicks one of the must hear albums of the year.



The last band to perform was local Portland band Ascetic Junkies. They are another band that has so many different genres going on at once that they create something totally unique. A bluesy rock post-punk, noise folk group is what I would call them. Their most recent release is called This Cage Has No Bottom that came out a couple years ago. They are working on their new album and it promises to be a good one with lyrics such as “I’ve been told that I’m gonna die, but I’m not convinced.” I’m really excited to hear more new music from them. Ascetic Junkies are on tour across the nation so make sure that you catch them live, they are really good. - KillingSasquatch.com


No matter the reason, it seems so many indie musicians are taking themselves far too seriously these days. It’s a tough life for the up-and-coming band - schlepping gear from one small club to another can be a noble, and at times futile, pursuit. Perhaps the somewhat thankless nature of the business does make for some musical martyrdom. Amid all that drama, The Holiday Friends are a nice find. The Astoria, Oregon quintet combine great harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, and winning blend of organic and electronic instruments, and, oddly enough, they seem to be having a lot of fun in the process. Their debut album, Chicks, drops this month, and they have made a solemn vow to make it available during their appearance at the Treefort Music Fest, which will be March 22nd at the Linen Building.

Zack O’Connor, bassist for the Holiday Friends, stopped by recently to answer a few questions about the band. As you can see, his sense of humor comes through loud and clear.


Video: The Holiday Friends - Plastic Planets
Q: Apparently, the band has been together since '08. How did you originally come together?

We were all students at the University of Idaho, and we were playing in a surf rock band that disbanded when our drummer moved. Holiday Friends was one of Scott and Jesse’s side projects that had not taken off yet, so it made sense to just find a new drummer, maintain all other members and re-invent the wheel.

Q: Who (or what) are some of the band's influences?

Other bands, sports, big muscles, and the artist Sting.

Q: What is the story behind your band's name?

One of the things we try to watch is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, because there’s nothing worse than that dramatic band that takes itself too seriously. So for instance, our band photo is us with our sweatshirts on backwards trying to high five each other.
The surf rock band was called Shitty Pete and the Fux, which, as fun and light hearted as that name was, we decided we wanted something that would appeal to our core demographic: Grandmas.

Q: Can you give me the lowdown on the band members...mostly, who plays what?

Jesse Wityczak-lead vocals/keys/synthesizers/science
Scott Fagerland- lead vocals/guitar/saxophone/logic
Jon Fagerland- vocals/guitar/percussion/dad
Zack O'Connor- vocals/bass/lead bass/mustache
Jacob Mraz- drums/guitar/psychology
Brian Bovenizer- drums/craft beer/pom pom stocking hats

Q: How would you describe the sound of the Holiday Friends to someone who hadn't heard your music?
Experimental/Progressive/Pop/Rock/Rock-Pop/Space Jam Soundtrack

Q: What is the songwriting process like within the band?

Usually Zack will write a song and it's not very good so we work up one of Scott or Jesse’s songs instead and then it's pretty good.

Q: What precipitated the move from Moscow, ID to Astoria, OR?

Precipitation. Also we blame the economy.

Q: How, if at all, does your home base influence your music?

We try really hard to not let all the flannel here go to our heads. We like to think and talk about living off the land a lot but we don’t actually do it, that probably comes through in our music. We like the idea of orchards and gardens, but we also like buying frozen vegetables and using space heaters. Brian’s from Chicago so he brings a lot of sports and jazz enthusiasm to the table.

Q: Since you are all in the nascent stage of your musical career(s), what other jobs do you all have to make ends meet?

Jesse and Jacob are in pharmacy school and a psychology grad school program so they deal pills and brains. Brian is the head marketer for the Fort George Brewery/Public House and Zack is the GM of the Astoria Rogue Ales Public House so they deal beer. Scott is an intern architect/carpenter/3d design consultant and Jon is an arborist for a company of tree care specialists, so they aren't really dealers they're just nice young men.

The nice young men of the Holiday Friends will be playing the Treefort Music Fest. They’re slated for March 22nd, 9:00 pm, at the Linen Building. Treefort tickets are available here. - The Examiner


With a hipsteresque album-cover and synthesizer-filled melodies, the Holiday Friends recently released their debut album.

The Moscow-based indie band titled their 10-track album “Chicks,” and released it during a concert with “Blind Pilot” on March 10 at the Bell Tower. The album features some of the best tracks I have ever heard come out of this region.

Throughout my time at WSU, I have heard many bands attempt to create the same musical style, yet the Holiday Friends are one of few who can do it right. “Chicks” is hands down the best album I have heard in the Moscow-Pullman area.

The broadness of the album is what makes it great. Their style ranges with songs sounding like Animal Collective, Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire. The best part — Holiday Friends is good at all of it. The variety of song styles throughout the album shows the band is influenced by many different genres.

“Astral Observations” was the first single released and is the most powerful song on the album. The electrical instrument combination creates a mood that perfectly fits the title.

“Trippin’” is also one of my favorite tracks. The track includes an audio sample from a viral news interview with a surfer at Huntington Beach — this is just one example that shows how much fun this band is having. With song titles like "We's All Bats" and "LolJk" you may think this band is a joke at first guess, but after a full listen you will know that they are passionate about their music.

The only non-experimental sounding track on the album is “Plastic Planets,” which has indie-folk sounding vocals. This song is still just as great as the other tracks heard on the album.

The mastering of the album also stands out. Each track sounds so clean and, at first listen, you would not think it was a local band. The transitioning of the songs could not have been any better. Every song loops into the next with the intro of the next track ending the song preceding it.

For a debut album, “Chicks” definitely exceeds expectations. It is noticeable they put the time in to create a masterpiece that shows off how musically experienced they are. The talents of this group are outstanding for a local band and they deserve recognition. I hope they stick around so I can hear more from them in the future.

“Chicks” is available to download for $10 at holidayfriends.bandcamp.com.

Grade: A - The Daily Evergreen


Following Buffalo Death Beam is my new favorite band, and one that I think is going to be a festival favorite, Holiday Friends. Native Idahoans turned Oregonians, they pulled out an upright bass, bass guitar, electric guitar, synth, and vocals that blew my mind. Upbeat songs, with great energy, and shades of Band of Horses and Coldplay made for an unsigned band who is radio ready. The band

Jesse Wityczak- lead vocals/keys/synthesizers/science
Scott Fagerland- lead vocals/guitar/saxophone/logic
Jon Fagerlan-guitar/vocals/percussion/dad
Zack O’Connor- bass/vocals/lead bass/mustache
Jacob Mraz- drums/guitar/psychology

each plays their part perfectly, creating vocal harmonies, and synergy through instrumentation. It was like watching Coldplay before they got famous. They were having a blast on stage, the crowd loved them, there was no way you couldn’t dance, and at one point, though it isn’t listed on the list of instruments played, I swear I heard a Moog. That’s just rad! Listen to them, love them, and buy their debut album Chicks. - DarlingDork.com


...The Holiday Friends jumped onstage after the Ascetic Junkies.

The band struck chords to their first song and got crowd members dancing in the concert hall. It featured zany synthesizer sounds that saturated the air and reverberated off the walls in arena-rock fashion. New instruments were pulled out as the show progressed; one song featured a stand-up bass played with a bow, another had a banjo and a third had tribal percussion.

One of the band’s non-musical influences was explained before the ninth song they played, a tune called “Earth Days.”

“I wrote this song after I watched the movie Avatar,” O’Conner said. “I was going to sleep in bed with blue Christmas lights around my room and I felt like I was in a cryogenic tank going to space. The concept of the song is about sleeping in cryogenic tubes and to reduce our ecological footprint.”

During the concert an announcement came over the loudspeakers hinting that a band scheduled to perform at Sasquatch 2012 will play alongside Blind Pilot on March 10... - The Daily Evergreen


One of the nice surprise at this Blind Pilot’s show at the Henry Fonda on Saturday, was the opening band, Holiday Friends, a joyous group who got a lot of high-fives and ‘you were awesome’ when some of the members split the crowd after their set.

Much like Blind Pilot, the interesting bunch focused on nice multi-voice harmonies and used a lot of instruments, even switching from one to another during a song, as they were surrounded on stage by many guitars, an old fashioned upright bass, several keyboards/synths, and had included in their engaging tunes an extra use of banjo and a light drumming by a guy who was wearing some bright fluo-green shorts combined with a sort of Luke-Wilson-in-the-Royal-Tenebaums look.

Their songs were as much fun as diverse, with Fleet-Foxes-on-dopamine harmonies assured by most of them, Jesse Wityczak, Scott Fagerland, Jon Fagerland and Zack O'Connor, a touch of Vampire Weekend here and there without the heavy African music influence (if this makes sense), even some Brian Wilson-esque weirdness with more adventures in the mix, and I am sure someone else would name a few other bands.

It was a good choice for a band which was opening for Blind Pilot, and the young crowd reacted with enthusiasm to their upbeat and catchy rhythms, even clapping along a few times,… what is the deal with all that clapping anyway?

‘First time in LA’ said one of them mid-set, but probably not the last time I thought while looking how they were received, The band from Idaho turned Oregonian had a few more bouncy, explosive, multi-influenced tunes, and that was it, way too soon!

They have self-released an album ‘Chicks’, available on their bandcamp page, and if you listen to the first track ‘Plastic Planets’ you could think the song goes through a Shins-Arcade-Fire-Fleet-Foxes-Vampire-Weekend metamorphosis during the first minutes (or may be it is just my wild imagination) without having being possibly created by any of these bands. Now, it becomes more and more difficult for new bands to have a sound without being compared to tons of others, but this happy group seems to be onto something. - Rock NYC Live and Recorded


Astoria pop-rock band releases new album, embarks on West Coast tour.

When I was a little more up with the music scene than I am today, I would sometimes find myself joining the ranks of other fans who’d choose one particular album to be their de facto soundtrack for the summer. In 2008, my summer album was Vampire Weekend’s eponymous and insanely catchy debut. In 2009, it was Phoenix’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” with its upbeat tempos and irresistible hooks. For me, a summer album had to be bright and infectious, and most of all, undeniably fun.

Had it come out a few months earlier, the new release from local band Holiday Friends would’ve been a strong contender for my summer album of 2014. “Major Magic” is a well-crafted collection of glossy riffs and pop-inspired beats, and frankly — even though I lean far more toward shoe-gazing than shimmying — it makes me want to dance. According to Holiday Friends member Scott Fagerland, who describes the band’s music as “dancey pop rock,” that’s exactly as it should be.

A singer, songwriter and guitarist in the group, Fagerland says that bands like Phoenix, Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and MGMT are contemporary inspirations for him. He also cites the influence of ’80s pop and the legendary Beach Boys, both of which are evident in Holiday Friends’ sound.

Still, Fagerland says that all five members of the group have wide-ranging musical tastes that together give the quintet a vibe all its own. “(It) was difficult at first,” he says. “Are we a folk band, or a rock band, or a pop band? On this album we leaned heavily on pop, and electric and synth pop.”

This wasn’t always the sound of Holiday Friends, which started as a cover band in Moscow, Idaho, while its members were in college. After graduating in everything from pharmacy to virtual design, four of the original band members have now moved to Astoria, just across the river from the Long Beach home where Fagerland and his brother and bandmate, Jon, grew up. The fifth and newest member of the group — drummer Joey Ficken, who also plays with indie band Sea Wolf — lives in Portland.

“Major Magic” is officially the band’s second full-length album, but it represents such a new and productive direction that band members sometimes refer to it as their debut. “This is our first real attempt at having a product that represents Holiday Friends,” Fagerland says. “We’ve reached a point where our songwriting is honed in and our musicianship has honed to a point that’s true to us.”

The band was so intent on getting this album just right that they ditched a completely recorded album along the way. “We just knew that it didn’t work,” Fagerland says. “We literally started over.” While the original version had been made with the idea of recording songs live to tape and getting an “organic band sound,” he describes the new version as more “hi-fi” and “polished.” (“Well, as polished as we could get with our indie budget,” he adds.)

In the end, the band members got the sound where they wanted it to be and secured national distribution, plus a West Coast album tour. At a sold-out release party in Portland Sept. 12, their energy inspired some lively movement in the often dance-resistant Stumptown crowd. Next came a “super fun” hometown show in Astoria Sept. 19, followed by an enviable gig opening for long-time indie group Blitzen Trapper in Eugene, where Fagerland says the band felt right at home among a college-heavy crowd. “People at that show,” he says, “they were letting loose.”

Holiday Friends is now looking forward to tour dates in Idaho and California, where the band will reconnect with its Moscow roots and bring its live music to new audiences.

I readily admit that I’m no music expert, but I can definitely say this: These guys are talented, and their music is fun. And while it’s too late for “Major Magic” to be my summer album for 2014, I’ve decided that maybe I’ll make it my fall album instead. As the heavy skies and gray rain head our way, a counterpoint dose of “dancey pop rock” from Holiday Friends may feel just about perfect. Give them a listen. - Coast Weekend


As far as debut albums go, you either want to nail it or go down in a fireball of hated glory (hey, at least you got a reaction, right?). That the Astoria-based quintet, Holiday Friends, have managed to do the former is surprising only in that, if you didn’t know better, you’d think this was the third or fourth entry in a long-running discography. That is to say, Holiday Friends already possess the poise, self-assurance, and chops of a veteran ensemble.

Major Magic, set for release in early-September, is an amalgamation of influences, genres and sounds gelled into a coherent and uplifting package. Marked by passages of bounding percussion and soaring melodies, the record unfolds with the kind of energy and momentum that we’ve come to expect from the PNW music scene.

Each of the ten tracks has a distinctly different feel, and it’s hard to tell if that was a conscious decision or simply a result of the group’s clearly wide-ranging sensibilities. “All Last Autumn,” the opening track, kicks off with a strummed acoustic pattern before quickly launching into a synth-heavy hook complimented by plenty of reverb and stellar vocal crescendos. The next track, “Astral Observations,” is a Passion Pit-style romp that tumbles around a twinkling synth line and booming, kick-drum heavy percussion. The title track is a subdued, echo-y occasion that builds from a simple vocal/reverb intro into a roiling, guitar-driven experience. The contrast is evident and refreshing.

At each turn, the guitar lines are timely, the synth is emphatic, and the bass lines impeccable. The vocals and percussion work nicely off each other both in concert and counterpoint. From beginning to end, Major Magic offers enough variation and surprise to be consistently engaging. Don’t be fooled – these new dogs clearly know old tricks. » - Eleven PDX


Discography

Major Magic (2014)

Photos

Bio

Although Astoria, Oregon is best known to multiple generations of pop-culture observers as the cinematic setting of the ‘80s cult classic The Goonies, the rugged riverfront city now has another distinction: as the home of the fab new pop-rock combo known as Holiday Friends. On its consistently uplifting debut album Major Magic, the spirited quintet—singer-guitarist Scott Fagerland and singer-keyboardist Jesse Wityczak, who share most of the band’s songwriting duties, plus Scott’s brother Jon Fagerland on guitar, keys and vocals, bassist Zack O’Connor and drummer Joey Ficken—deliver ten joyous new tunes that strike a decisive blow for the enduring values of infectious melodic hooks and emotional engaging lyrics. The band’s catchy, playful songs are refreshingly free of hipster cynicism, and has been described as what the Beach Boys might sound like if they’d been raised in the Pacific Northwest on a steady diet of John Hughes film soundtracks, or what The Cars might be doing if they lived at Big Pink.

Band Members