HOLLY & THE WOODS
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HOLLY & THE WOODS

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Alternative Rock

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Still working on that hot first release.

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Ferocious songs with killer hooks and lyrics that swiftly snag you in all the right places is the defining feature of the debut album from South African five-piece Holly and The Woods, when it was released on 08-08-08.

Titled ‘So I Rage’ the album was anticipated for some time by the group’s growing fanbase who’d been tracking the group’s trajectory up the homegrown rock scene over the past few years. It also marked the entrance into the South African record scene of a polished, powerful hard rock group whose songs and execution could sit happily alongside the best global releases in its genre.

“We’ve worked long and hard for this moment, and wanted our first album to really be something that we are proud of,” vocalist and co-songwriter, Melissa Conradie revealed. Working towards that had entailed some serious time in rehearsal, a single-minded approach to the craft of songwriting, as much live work as they can get - and Matthew Fink.

Fink – a member of Indie Rockers “The Black Hotels” – is rapidly evolving into one of the country’s most forward-thinking rock producers with a deep and varied knowledge of the genre to draw on when it comes to fine-tuning a band’s sound.

“The instant I heard what Matt had done on The Sick Leaves album I knew that he would be the right producer for our band,” Conradie says. Initially the band recorded ‘Falling’ at B Sharp Studios in Gauteng some 5 years ago, but swiftly realised that they were not yet equipped to sit in the producer’s seat.

“That time may come,” Conradie says (giving a hint at the big – and longterm plans – she and the band have for Holly and The Woods), “but we are really chuffed with what Matt has done with our sound. He’s done an amazing job.”

That job has entailed allowing the propulsive forces that shape Holly and The Woods’ sonic terrain to stand alone, without (and this is important) taking over the songs. A great example of this is ‘Lay Me Down’ which thrusts John Meaker’s lead guitar centre-stage in a way that spotlights his clear talent while at the same time giving space to the rhythm guitar played by Holly and The Wood’s co-founding member, Craig Henning.

Indeed it was Conradie’s advert as a vocalist looking for a band on a local music website the saw the formation of Holly and The Woods (whose play-on-words band name is indicative of the jaundiced view Conradie and Henning have of contrived and manufactured entertainers). That was back in 2006, when Gary Ashford also joined the band on Bass Guitar, but it was to be just over 4 years ago (May 2007 to be specific) that the final line-up of the band was settled on. “At one stage we had three guitarists – it was admittedly a bit over-the-top,” Henning says.

Joining the band in 2007 was Chad Harbott (a teenage firebrand) on drums, and Holly and The Woods spent most of 2007 & 2008 notching up an impressive slate of live performances, bringing their sprawling and no-holds-barred rock to stages alongside the likes of Sarah Bettens (from K’s Choice), Prime Circle, Wonderboom, Hellphones, Karma, Love Jones, Cassette, Veeva Feeva (Australian band), My Epic, Walt, Running With Scissors, Lonehill Estate, Voodoo Child and The Sick-Leaves. They also snagged a highly coveted support slot with Seether’s Shaun Morgan late in 2007, an undisputed highlight of their live career thus far.

Followers of the band from those first days were happy to know that the album included ‘Save Me’, the song that broke Holly and The Woods both live and on radio.

The song is possibly the best place to start for Holly and The Wood’s coruscating but hugely accessible sound. It begins with the kind of crunching guitarwork that demands you listen before Conradie’s powerful vocals take centre-stage, managing to channel the spirit of Skunk Anansie’s Skin while delivering a signature sound.

But there are plenty of other places to get your rock rocks off on ‘So I Rage’: the solar plexus-smashing ‘Get Out’, with its astutely placed backing vocals, is hard to resist and impossible to ignore – and just when you think you’ve pinned Conradie and her crew down as hard rockers who don’t let up the pace for an instant comes the lovely ‘So I Rage Gently’, a piano-propelled version of the album’s anthemic title track and a cut that is more than a hint at the versatility Holly and The Woods is capable of.

‘Falling’ - the single that went Top 10 on Kovsie Fm and had been play-listed on stations such as Radio 2000, Tuks FM, MFM, UJ FM and UCT FM – revealed yet another side to the five-piece: a slice of radio friendly rock, ‘Falling’ nonetheless allowed Holly and The Woods’ trademark sound to leak through the melodic thrust of this standout track (it’s also the song that inspired the quite beautiful tattoo on Conradie’s arm).

“Not Like Me” and “Save Me” we’re both #1 hit singles on Highveld’s Homebrew chart and also dominated the Radio charts of stations such as Ofm, Tuks FM, Kovsie FM, PUK Fm and MFm, to name a f