In this first ever installment of the Lower Grand Blog, we profile Holophone on the eve of his debut release Humanimal EP. Holophone (Nick Stein) is a Bay Area native with a knack for the psychedelic. But he also spent years on the road with as a member of Finish Ticket. Starting on the piano from a very early age, his own musical journey informs the captivating melodies, chimerical chordscapes, and pounding grooves.
LG: When did you first fall in love with music?
NS: Music’s been an integral part of my life from the beginning. My parents brought me to a ton of shows as a kid and I learned early that a good show can take you to another world with only limited travel! I started playing music at age six, but had already been attending shows for as long as I can remember. It was love at first listen for sure.
LG: How did Holophone come to be?
NS: I’d been gestating the idea that would become Holophone for quite some time. I spent a couple solid years touring with a rock band and while on the road I had all these ideas piling up about how to turn my synthesizer into a rocket ship and ride it into space. Once I finally had some time at home, the music poured out of me. Now that I’ve gotten a lot of the song ideas down, I’m into the second stage of showcasing the elements of live music that I love (virtuosity, improvisation, and variation) with the power and impact of your standard electronic performance.
LG: Tell us about this project, and how it came together.
NS: The Humanimal EP is five songs of me finding my voice. The opening track 'Humanimal' was one of the first tracks I made at the end of 2017 and best reflects the vibe I’m going for: chill, beautiful, and spacious valleys which climb to peaks of driving, joyous energy. I have a very eclectic music taste and I think that’s reflected in the EP.
LG: What’s different about your approach to your other work in indie rock?
NS: I actually brought a lot of the aspects of rock music that I love into the Humanimal EP. The form of the songs is definitely much closer to your standard rock song than the usual more repetitive electronic structure. I’ve found some of my favorite artists take heavy influences from other genres and infuse them into their sound. I think of groups like Foals and Justice as opposite sides of that same coin. The main thing I’m noticing is that things move slower when it’s just one person doing all of the work instead of four or five. While it’s amazing to have complete creative control and have the final say on all things creative or otherwise, it can definitely test my patience as I get antsy to share my music with the world.
LG: You’re a budding collector of synthesizers. What kind of instruments did you use on Humanimal EP?
NS: I’d say 80+% of the album is my Prophet 12. It was my only synth for most of the recording process and it is the single most inspiring inanimate object I’ve ever laid my hands on. The sound and interface are amazing, and I found it extra cool that the instrument was built less than a mile from where I ultimately ended up writing and recording the whole EP. I recently picked up a Roland SE-02 and an Elektron Analog Rhythm MkII, both of which should be featured more heavily on subsequent tracks. Also gotta give a shout out to my Korg Volcas and Strymon Big Sky.
LG: Is there anything else that you got cooking?
NS: I’m currently reworking the songs for my live set and have a ton of new songs in the works as well. I’ll be playing a number of shows in California at the end of 2018 and early 2019 and hopefully pushing out farther into our beautiful country shortly after that!
Holophone is the new project from Bay Area synthesist and producer Nick Stein on Lower Grand. With influences spanning multiple decades and continents, Holophone has found an alluring mix of psychedlia and dance music, all presented with compelling musicianship.