As the song swells, the swirling guitars and synths make for an exuberant and rip-roaring sound. Belting out, “We’re victims of our time”, the vulnerable and honest lyrics will resonate with many, and have people agreeing that’s just “how it goes”.
A mix of rock and alternative with a touch of surf, HOLSTER is paving their own way in The Big Apple. With influences from The Velvet Underground, R.E.M., Pixies, The Strokes, Parquet Courts, and Deerhunter, classic meets contemporary with this rock duo. The lyrical storytelling coupled with the distinct and smooth vocals captivates and transports listeners to a different world.
Beginning as friends, Ted Winston (vocals, and guitar) and Chase Harris (guitar, bass, and drums) had a dream to create music that was familiar yet different at the same time. Since forming the duo in Brooklyn in 2019, they already have five singles on streaming platforms, with “Sweet Side Eyes” being the first they released in March earlier this year. It was then followed by “Get it Straight” in June, “Cheyenne” in August, “Sun Raze” in September, and “Nowhere (Left to Go)” recently released in November.
Leaning more on the alternative/rock side, their first single opens with a short and mesmerizing guitar solo that continues throughout. The rock sound remains with the next two singles, and then lifts and becomes more airy with the inclusion of more drums in the latest two. Refreshing and uplifting while being paired with female vocals, the latest single “Nowhere (Left to Go)” tells of two individuals getting through hard times together and looking up at the bright side of having each other to travel through life with. With lyrics like “I’ll connect the dots, you count mile signs”, the tune can’t help but make you want to go explore on your own road trip.
Being fresh on the scene, HOLSTER certainly isn’t wasting any time on releasing music and showing their music doesn’t fit into any precise mold. “How it Goes” just dropped 12/4, and we got a chance to chat with Ted and Chase about the single and much more.
So how did HOLSTER come together, and how did you finally land on the name?
Ted: Chase comes from a musical background, but I actually didn’t pick up the guitar until about 3 years ago. At first we were just jamming, but I realized that I enjoyed writing my own music a lot more than playing other people’s. We began to take it seriously, as a band, last year. What we like about a “holster” is that it’s harmless by itself, but it’s also associated with a tool of violence. And they’re incomplete without each other. That duality has always been the goal of our music – to have songs that can be loud and raw, as well as songs that are soft and intimate. Love and violence, together. That, and “HOLSTER” is short enough to fit on almost anything.
Chase: Like Ted said, a few years ago he picked up a guitar and wanted to learn how to play. I’m an OK guitar player, so I figured I’d teach him a few starter things, then he could teach himself from there. Turns out, Ted is a killer songwriter. He started coming up with these awesome tunes, and since I have a music background, I could help clean up harmonies and chord choices, and do the production and engineering. We’ve been working on songs ever since, and we keep liking our material more and more as time goes on and we get better. Why HOLSTER? It’s bold. Also that it implies something heavy, something not to be taken lightly.
How would you describe your sound and style to those wondering what HOLSTER is all about?
Ted: I think two of our strengths are our diverse musical influences, and how different my musical theory knowledge is from Chase’s. Our songs do vary a good amount, while still staying in the realm of rock, or at least the spirit of it. But influences from folk, punk, New Wave, Country, and even Doo-Wop are in there. In general terms, I’d say we often end up sounding somewhat like The Strokes or R.E.M., depending on the day. We want to get it right, but the perfect take isn’t all that important compared to feeling. And as a writer who uses music as a vehicle for words, lyrics are always vital to the songs.
Chase: Our music tastes are like a big Venn diagram: I grew up on Pink Floyd, The Who, Radiohead, Massive Attack, Portishead, Green Day, Nirvana, The Killers, The Strokes, etc. I like to think those influences come out in my production style and ear for arrangement. Ted has gotten me into a bunch of older stuff, like older punk and 50’s rock. I think our sound lands in it’s own spot, but if I had to compare I’d agree with R.E.M. and The Strokes, with the occasional touch of The Pixies, Queens of the Stone Age, and others.
Ted: I’d second those bands.
What does a day in the life of HOLSTER’s songwriting process look like?
Chase: Since the shutdowns, we’ve actually gotten more dialed in. Usually Ted will come up with the basics for a song – a guitar riff, a vocal melody, etc. – and send me the partial multi-track. I’ll fill in the rest of the arrangement, sometimes with Ted on a video call bouncing ideas back and forth. Once the arrangement is done, we go on to the mixing stage and wrap things up from there. Often we go through a lot of reference material during the arrangement phase, and we’ll go through a lot of possible parts and instrumentation. It always feels better to have too much and subtract than to be out of ideas, searching for “the thing” that ties the song together.
Ted: As to the songs themselves, it usually just starts with a guitar, playing different chord progressions or trying to match the melody in my head. The wake-up-and-grab-my-guitar thing does happen, but not too often. The songs are mostly about both personal things, as well as contained stories or scenarios I create. We want to make songs that make you feel something. Whether it’s getting invested in these characters or connecting with the subject matter, the goal is having an emotion stay with you after the song is over and you’ve taken off your headphones.
So I was hoping you could talk about your new single “How It Goes.” What struck you to write this song?
Ted: “How It Goes” was actually written a while ago, but we didn’t feel we got it right until recently. It’s kind of an homage to the groove and tough-but-heartfelt lyrics of Lou Reed’s mid-80s albums; an update to that. He’s the artist who influences my songwriting the most. Combine that with a climax of some Strokes-like layered guitar rhythms, and you’ve got “How It Goes.” It’s the first single we are really promoting.
Is it a standalone single or can folks expect to see it on an upcoming EP or LP perhaps?
Ted: So “How It Goes” was among the first batch of songs we worked on, and they did feel somewhat like a set to us. But we may need to step away from the songs we’ve released, as well as those we have coming up, and see what really makes sense. As an artist, that’s hard to do. But that helps make an EP or LP stronger.
What does success as a band and an artist mean to you?
Chase: For me, success as an artist is two things – first, it’s the back and forth process between motivation and self-discipline to keep doing what you love, and the sense of fulfillment from keeping up that process. Second, it’s paying the bills!
Ted: Totally agree. We both have full-time jobs in addition to HOLSTER, but success to me would mean getting to the point where music would be my main job, maybe with some other gigs to supplement on the side. At its base level, success would be continuing to put our music out there, both on record and on stages.
In a pre-COVID world, how would you describe the current Brooklyn rock and roll scene?
Ted: Like a lot of things in New York, abundance of choice is both a blessing and a curse. There were–and hopefully will continue to be– a ton of venues to catch local music. A lot of bands means a lot of audiences, but it also makes drawing and keeping their attention that much harder. There’s live music all over the city any night of the week, offering a lot of opportunity to play live.
What does a dream gig look like for HOLSTER?
Chase: In my experience, the most meaningful gigs I’ve played were the ones where I got to chat with the audience after, and came home with a story to tell about the show. So what’s the dream gig? I guess it’s just that on a larger scale. I’m going to aim high and say our dream gig is headlining the main stage at a festival, and getting to hang out with the other bands before/after.
Ted: We’ve never actually played live as HOLSTER. We were practicing for some open mics right when COVID hit. That’s something we will get back to after all this. As for a dream gig, it’s tempting to say something like MSG, but I think there’s a kind of magic in getting big and then playing an intimate venue with your fans that had been with you from the start.
What are/were some of your favorite NYC venues to either see or play music?
Ted: Besides the bigger places, I’d say: Pete’s Candy Store, Otto’s Shrunken Head, Warsaw, Parkside Lounge, Mercury Lounge, Arlene’s Grocery, Union Pool, Alphaville, Market Hotel, Planet X, Sofar Sounds, and random apartments are all places we like and would like to play.
What can fans expect from HOLSTER to close out the year and going into the next?
Chase: We’ve got a huge list of songs that are in various stages of production. Sometimes it feels like spinning plates, but we plan on cranking out about a song a month for a while. Then maybe we’ll retreat and really work on an EP or album. I’m looking forward to playing live music again, and to do that as HOLSTER for the first time!
Ted: Yeah, we’d definitely like to do an EP or LP eventually. I’m not sure when we’ll get back to playing live music, but I know we will. Even if it’s a changed situation. But that’s what’s special about music – it can’t be killed, because it keeps evolving.
Photo by Mark Cartier