Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

If you dig deep enough into any culture’s storybook you will find a fear of the mediocre. And while the tale of Denver’s O’Holloran is not a particularly ethnic one – it is a particularly human one.

O’Holloran is the vision of Denver songwriter Josh Holloran. The fruits of many years of precursory bands, Holloran’s neo-folk pop act is a unique torrent of sound. Taking elements of electronic music and extracting them for use in acoustic arrangements appears to be a silent hallmark of the band. Just when they can be found to sound like something basking in a day of bluegrass, they turn a corner for something poppier – rockier.

Distinctive in their instrumentation and composition, O’Holloran is malleable in what they can present: from a full, electric band to a stripped-down acoustic act. To this end, O’Holloran is not a simple dissection – an easy sound to categorize. And this kind of challenge is precisely what has provided motivation for the band. For where the players spend their days in the real nine-to-five world, their musical outlet is about risk-taking and the chance of being heard by the broader community around them.

Now surrounded by a cast of players that are supporting and enhancing his melodic library (Seth Evans – Banjo, Accordion, Keys, Vocals; Ron Charlesworth – Bass, Vocals; Cody Schlueter – Drums), O’Holloran has begun to look like the kind of act that Josh Holloran once imagined. All the players around him provide a wealth of dexterity and this is precisely where Josh Holloran’s vision has gelled: in the ability to swim in the big aquarium of sounds and textures that are always afforded a musician.

Josh Holloran’s songs begin with the observations of life that he witnesses during his daily life, only to reach a culmination on Monday night, his designated night – when he takes the time to empty his mind’s pockets, to see what he collected for song material. For the most part, Holloran’s songs are about people – all kinds of people – those he knows, those that he is, and those that he has never met, but walks alongside during the day.

His songs ride the wave of hope and perseverance, of very human relations – romantic and otherwise. He talks of community and authenticity. His words aim at action and losing the high, stale face of pride.

A dream is but a dream until it has faces
And talk is rather cheap in the absence of spaces
Love is foul and unrefined when all it is, is felt inside
So tighten up your laces because people live in places

Whether or not others recognize your refusal for mediocrity – the personal drive to move away from the middle road can be born from fear, or simple motivation. For Josh Holloran, life appears to swerve dangerously in-between these cones of discontent and drive.

And let’s speak it straight: O’Holloran is anything but mediocre. Their songs are compositionally dynamic and intriguing on account of their wealthy harmonies. There’s 3-part harmonies – there’s primary and secondary elements that dissipate, hang and explode into bright swatches of light and heat. Theirs is an organic sound – the honest intersection of all elements that have been afforded all the players. O’Holloran is the amalgamation of all these possibilities – of electronic, acoustic, electric, pop and bluegrass and folk – and the talent demanded in making those choices.

This sound is an intelligent one. It is not a learned one, nor a taught one. It is an honest one. What I draw-up in the middle of their songs is Josh Holloran, along with the players in O’Holloran, reaching into the currents of possibility and carefully sorting-out what they want and what they need – all while understanding why it is that they need and want what they believe in.

In this exercise called O’Holloran, everything is human. The recordings have been done in Josh Holloran’s house –with his gear, with his human hand. The banjo that you hear is not the sound of a traditional one – to the contrary, the hand that picks its strings does so very unconventionally – it is a very human one.

And maybe this is precisely where the body of O’Holloran exists: in that honest challenge – to right what is yours, to own what you can and to give to everything around you what it deserves. And if only the rest of the world thought this way; if they did, ears would be pinned-back and the wind of O’Holloran would be sweetly screaming hearing into these lives.

Keep-up with O’Holloran: www.myspace.com/OHolloran