Brian Borcherdt doesn’t have a lot of downtime. Whether he’s out on tour or just driving between his home base in Yarmouth and his creative centre in Toronto, penning a tune for his solo project, The Remains of Brian Borcherdt or developing a new concept for his red-hot electronica improv combo, Holy Fuck, he always seems to be tweaking away at an idea or two.
“I’m just playing guitar; just working on some songs,” he says while strumming a few chords late Sunday evening. “I spent the whole day today doing nothing. I’m going into the studio with Beans tomorrow and the next day, then I’m headed out east. So, I can do nothing today.”
Renowned for his solo material, Borcherdt has also been in a slew of successful bands—from Burnt Black to By Divine Right, Chiselhand to Trephines, and now Holy Fuck, one of the most hyped musical acts in Toronto. The hype is not because they’re overly accessible; you’ll likely never hear them on mainstream radio. Instead, it’s because their innovative sound—live, ever-changing and computerless electronica—is something so completely skewed from the norm that Torontonians can’t help but pay attention. And they’re not the only ones.
Holy Fuck has been all over the map over the past year, from California to Denmark, performing their own material and serving as the backing band for New York rapper Beans. While Borcherdt and co-conspirator Graham Walsh push buttons and turn knobs on a wide variety of synthesizers, guitar pedals and children’s toys at the front of the stage, King Cobb Steelie alum Kevin Lynn plugs away on bass. On any given night, the drum stool will be occupied by anyone from Blue Rodeo’s Glenn Milchem to Dragonette’s Joel Stouffer to Wintersleep’s Loel Campbell. Their allure is not the number of shows that they’ve played. Instead, it’s the diversity of crowds they have played to which makes Holy Fuck one of our nation’s most promising acts.
“Mostly, what we’ve done have been really, really ambitious one-offs,” says Borcherdt. “If you mapped our past two tour schedules, it’s pretty stupid. We go here, then there, then over there, but not a lot of shows at one time; mostly just showcases. This past year seemed to involve a lot of driving, but the shows were awesome and were always worth pursuing. The sheer magnitude of the shows that we were being offered was what caused us to feel like clowns who had to jump through flaming hoops.
“A lot of challenges were being thrown at us and we haven’t had opportunities like that before so we were genuinely enthusiastic, but it was hard to make it feasible—to drive all the way to California for one show, and nobody knew who we were down there yet so we couldn’t tour. It’s all been first-time exposure, showing our music to large audiences. It’s been an interesting, busy year, but a different kind of busy.”
Two thousand six promises to be another busy year for Holy Fuck; one in which they hope to rekindle some of the interest from crowds in faraway lands. And, while the band has seen tremendous support from a Canadian indie scene that habitually ignores unconventional, guitarless acts, Borcherdt says that not everyone appreciates the band, in part due to their vulgar moniker.
“I thought it was funny; just a joke,” he says. “Now, I think people think we’re serious about the name. It was all good at first, because we’d go to these festivals and people would remember us. They wouldn’t have even seen our show, but they’d remember reading it in the little guide. There’s a novelty there, but now that we’re becoming more and more of a real band, people want to take a shot at the name, assuming that we’re hotshots who take ourselves too seriously and thought we named the band for its shock value, which exaggerates our performing abilities.
“And, the government seems to not be giving us a single grant, which is suspect. When you have Glenn Milchem and Kevin Lynn in your band and you’re making creative new music and doing all of these reputable things, and you get rejected for every one...I’ve got some of these grants this year for myself, but we haven’t got any tour support or PromoFact, but lots of bands don’t. I guess most of them have Fuck in the title.”
Holy Fuck w/Contrived, Play Guitar and Money, January 14 at The Pavilion, 7pm, $8; w/Contrived and On Vinyl, January 14 at The Attic, 11pm, $10
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