Although used to performing at smaller venues like the Lower East Side’s Pianos, this HOLY rodeo! treats every concert like a sold-out stadium. The band commands the audience’s attention (in the world of smartphones and 24/7 connectivity, an increasingly difficult thing to do) with an electric and eccentric stage show.
The concert is separated into chapters, denoted by a man who carries a cue card with the chapter title across the stage. The climax of the show is a sermon, preached by the band’s lead vocalist.
Beyond the Stage got a chance to talk to the electric group over Zoom and spoke about their dynamic performance style, inspirations, and their new single coming out November 12th.
BTS: Can we go around and everyone gives a short bio and what they do for the band?
Chris: I do the vocals, the guitar, keys, and I write songs. I’m from Jersey and I had a great childhood which is why I’m a musician.
Alan: I play the guitar and keys and do a lot of the recording stuff.
Gaetano: I play drums. From Jersey. Alan and I went to high school together. We knew each other since freshman year. We met Chris senior year.
Mario: I’m the bassist of the band and I’m from Puerto Rico. I currently live in Harlem.
BTS: Now that we have a sense of who guys are, who or what is this HOLY rodeo!?
Chris: I would say we’re a little bit performance art project with music that’s as honest and cynical as it’s trying to be uplifting. It comes from a lot of different musical perspectives since we all have pretty varied tastes. I’d say we’re just a group of fellas trying to make it in this dastardly world.
BTS: Would you describe yourself as genre-less then? Or is there a musical box you feel comfortable in?
Gaetano: We’re all over the place. We do whatever we want I guess.
Mario: My dad described [our music] as songs within songs.
Chris: That’s a great description.
BTS: So Gaetano, Chris, and Alan met in high school. Mario, how did you join the group?
Mario: I decided to do the whole music thing around a year ago. I really leaned into it and played with as many bands as I could. Any opportunity I’d take. Eventually, I met these guys through this app where you find other musicians. It’s kind of like Tinder. You literally swipe right or left. They told me to come audition and they loved me oh so much. That was around back in May when we were the other band.
BTS: Thank you for the great Segway. You guys used to be called Scissorfish. Why the change?
Chris: I wrote [Scissorfish’s] songs when I was around sixteen years old. Most of them were just teen angst poetry and rambling. A lot of people seemed to enjoy that but it was weird for me being nineteen years old and trying to sing those songs. I was not being as authentic to myself as I could have been. I was trying to be scary and off-putting and some weirdo who I don’t think I really was.
Doing a new name was a way of admitting that I wasn’t being honest to myself and I could be more honest in my music. The name comes from a relatively obscure poem that I read one day and had an insane experience that made me feel I had to throw everything away and start anew with this HOLY rodeo!.
BTS: Chris, you’re the primary songwriter. Do you have a creative process?
Chris: I’d say for the songwriting process there’s a conscious and unconscious element where I’ll be walking around day to day and sitting with my thoughts and little pieces of ideas come, not even with me trying. Living is songwriting I think. And there are other nights with me scribbling into a notebook. Songwriting is a long, arduous thing for me where I hit my head against the wall and eventually I have to show someone something.
BTS: What goes into the band? Who influences you? Bands, films?
Gaetano: I think we’re all pretty artistically minded, so whenever we’re together we just talk about music and movies and everything constantly. I think a lot of the process for us is less thinking about any specific artist or complete work and more just having general enthusiasm and having fun with it.
BTS: What got you guys into music in the first place?
Chris: For me—this is going to sound really bad— I was told because my dad is a musician, I’m going to be a musician so I didn’t have much of a choice in it…Lucky enough I actually enjoy it.
Alan: When I was a kid I was forced like any other Russian boy in my neighborhood to play the piano. So, that’s where it started but then I found other instruments. I love music. That’s it.
Mario: Alan plays the accordion very well.
BTS: You guys are multi-disciplined. Why music as the artistic path to pursue professionally?
Chris: Music makes the most sense to me. It’s a language that I’ve been speaking for so long. I do have a deep aspiration to write novels, but I’m too young to say anything good yet. For film, I don’t have the technical skill or the discipline. In music, I’ve been sitting with a metronome in my room for twelve years.
Mario: Music to me makes sense. It’s so pure. It’s by far my favorite art form, even when I was studying acting. The cool thing about this band is that the music is very active. It never lives in a dull state. It’s very much going somewhere, going forward…That’s what music should be in the end. Always active, never staying there.
Alan: I love music because it’s so emotionally present no matter what it is.
BTS: When I saw you, you had a very thought-out performance style/method. There’s a bible, some cue cards, a sermon. How did you develop the theatrics?
Chris: One thing we all agree on is we hate seeing musicians who do not seem to be enjoying themselves or aren’t being active. We’re in an era where people are desperate for stimulation. It’s a shame more bands don’t engage in performance art on stage. We’re almost in a post-music state to a point where music becomes a commodity to past time in the background or a study tool. That shows me that its purpose as a pure listening thing is dying. For better or worse.
Gaetano: In terms of development, a lot of that stuff carried over from the last band. A lot of it was about trying to make every show an event. Every show should be special. The audience should feel it’s specific for themselves.
BTS: What is your overall want for your audience then?
Chris: I want people to say they haven’t seen something like that or something spoke to me or they’re exhausted from dancing. I want them to be uplifted.
Gaetano: We also want them to think “We want to buy a shirt!”
BTS: You have a single coming out on November 12th. Can you speak about that?
Chris: The song is called DIG! This song was one of the first things I showed the boys…This is a cynical song. It’s very honest about the poisons of life and everything we have to contend with but also hopeful. Everything is going to crap so screw it.
BTS: Final question. What place is your favorite to perform at in the city?
Chris: Madison Square Garden when we get there.
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