Holy Grove is one of the most talked about up and coming bands in the Portland metal scene right now. Each member has undeniable talent and they all complement each other very well. Although the band was originated in Portland, the members are not Portland natives. In fact, the story of how they met is quite unique. I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with three of the four members.
We met up at the Sandy Hut, a local dive bar, to begin the interview-
Where are you guys from?
Andrea Vidal- Cape Cod, Massachusetts born and raised. And then I lived in Boston and then from Boston I moved to Portland, about 6 years ago.
Trent Jacobs- I grew up in Boise, Idaho. Moved here in 2003? So I’ve been here for a bit.
Gregg Emley- And I moved here from San Jose, California. I moved to Portland in July of 2008. One of the things I really feel like is an interesting tidbit about our band is that we are a total Craigslist success story.
That’s how you guys found each other? Craigslist?
Gregg- Yeah ALL Craigslist.
Trent- It’s a miracle!
Gregg- Yeah it really is! You know, none of us knew each other and we all had ads on Craigslist for various amounts of time, until we all sort of just fell into each other’s lap. Not one of us had to try out. There was no question that each one of us was the right person for the job. Being on Craigslist, having to go back and forth is like utter frustration of trying to meet the right people. Before I met all of these guys I met Craig, our drummer, on Craigslist. And for the four of us to have come together on Craigslist and immediately meet each other and be like ‘Alright, ya know, you are the right person for the job.’
Andrea- Timing! It just happened!
Gregg- It was literally like picking off the list. But when we met Andrea and Trent we had just started looking for a singer, we had just started looking for a guitar player and these two were the first people to come out. We didn’t have to try out 30 people. They were the perfect people for the job. Which seems to me like that doesn’t happen very often.
Trent- What is interesting to me is I had been looking for a couple years to be in a band like this and I had been kind of searching the Craigslist thing. I was already playing in another band, and that was fun, but I had wanted to do something a little bit different. So I started looking around and Craigslist is typically just a fucking hole. I would occasionally keep checking back in. I’d type in really dumb search terms like “heavy” or “stoner” just to try to weed out all the funk bands that were trying to start. I think it was like a year or two before I even came across Holy Grove.
Gregg and I were emailing before Holy Grove ever started. We almost got together to try to start something and for some reason it never happened. So when I came out and tried out for Holy Grove, two years later or whatever it was, I had no idea that there was that connection.
Andrea- For everyone wanting to start a band, Craigslist is not bad. There are like-minded assholes; you just have to look really hard. Never give up. But Gregg, from the moment he moved here, had been looking.
Trent- I had people responding to me when I was trying to get people together before Holy Grove. I was willing to either join something or start something new. There was one guy in particular who messaged me and was like ‘Yeah man I’m totally into it! Lets start a band,’ and I was like ‘When do you wanna jam?’ and he was like ‘Oh that’s the one hang up man, I don’t have a drum kit. Do you have a drum kit that I could borrow?’ and I was like, ‘No you’re a fucking drummer you are supposed to have a drum kit!’
Haha That’s like half your job.
Trent- Yeah half your job is showing up with your drum kit.
So you guys have been together for two years? Is that right?
Gregg- Two and a half. Our first practice was January of 2012 and we had another guitar player for the first year of the band and then Trent joined in March of 2013 and that was when the band really sort of fell into place. We decided to go just the four of us in April I think? We had another guitar player, Sam, for a long time but decided to become just a four piece in April.
Holy Grove – Death of Magic live at Noise Cellar by Chris
What bands were you in before Holy Grove?
Gregg- When I used to live in the Bay Area, I was in a band called the Greenhouse Effect. We were a part of the original San Francisco stoner rock thing. We had a record that was supposed to come out on Meteorcity Records. The band broke up before it came out, so the record kind of got shit-canned, but we played with YOB and we played with Acid King. The early days of stoner rock and stonerrock.com was going on and we were sort of apart of that. We played at Stoner Hands of Doom and the first sort of stoner rock shows. When that band disintegrated, and the album we recorded never got released, that was when I decided to move to Portland and try to find other musicians to play with.
You said 2008 you moved up here?
Gregg- Yeah 2008
That’s a long time to search for people.
Gregg- Yeah it took me a long time to find all these guys! I mean it was a total process of trial and error and what we were talking about with Craigslist. You know I’d jam with people every week until I met these guys. When this band started, we knew we didn’t just want to have someone in the band say ‘You sing because no one wants to do it. We don’t care about the vocals it’s more about the riffs or the music, so you sing.’
One of the main things for us was we have to find a real singer, you know. When we finally had enough songs to start looking for a singer, she was literally the first person to answer our shitty Craigslist ad. None of us had ever thought about having a female singer and her response to our ad was, ‘Have you ever thought about a girl singer?’ We weren’t opposed but we had just never thought about it.
Trent- I wasn’t here for that, I joined later, but from what I heard it was like she just walked in and started singing and it was like ‘Oh!’ You know, like everyone was just floored. That was also my experience with hearing the band for the first time. I had heard demos they put up when I was responding to the Craigslist ad. That was my first reaction too. I was just like ‘Who the fuck is this singer?’ She’s amazing and incredible. Obviously I really enjoyed the music too but it was just like where did we find this singer? The dynamic, the power, it’s hard to find. Really hard to find.
Andrea- Well this is my first band. It’s kind of funny because I don’t doubt it’s really hard to find the right people. You know I think all those years that I wanted to be in a band, it just wasn’t the right time.
So what is your singing background?
Andrea- Just self taught. Singing at home to albums, loving music, and people would always tell me I had a great voice. I always felt like I did. I’d go to a lot of shows and I just think I didn’t know the right people that were making music I wanted. I didn’t look at a band and think ‘I can do that better!’ Or ‘I would love to be the singer for THAT band!’ I just decided one day I would like to be in a band in Portland. I want to play shows with these bands. So I was not on Craigslist relentlessly looking for people.
For a brief period there was that kind of fielding the wrong type of person, but it was brief because then I hooked up with these guys within the first week. So I didn’t get burned out, I don’t have a Craigslist horror story. So yeah this is my first band.
Trent – Well I played my first shows when I was 15 years old and went on my first tour when I was 17. I have played in a lot of varied styles of bands. It’s pretty much always come from a punk rock and hardcore metal perspective. But within that there has been a lot of variation and I’ve been in some that were experimental or pretty straight forward. I’ve done a lot of different shit. When I moved to Portland it was mainly because it was the closest big city and more liberal than where I grew up. Boise was kind of stagnant as far as culture. I didn’t really fit in. So I moved here thinking I was going to join a lot of bands but it actually took me a really long time, kind of like what Gregg was saying, to find people that I actually wanted to play music with. I was picky about it. So most recently I was in this band Dark Country. It is very rock and roll inspired punk rock I guess. We always described ourselves as Black Sabbath on speed, Iron Maiden on weed. So yeah that’s my background.
Gregg, have you always played bass and Trent you always played guitar in your other bands or did you explore other instruments?
Trent- I always played guitar.
Gregg- I knew, from the moment I saw Cliff Burton play Bass, that Bass was the instrument I wanted to play. I saw the Cliff ‘Em All video when I was about 14 or 15 and I had aspirations of playing music, but I wasn’t really sure. I thought I wanted to play drums, but it takes up a lot of space and my parents wouldn’t let me play drums in their house. I saw Cliff ‘Em All and I saw Cliff Burton shredding Bass like I didn’t know was possible. He has basically influenced every aspect of my musical direction. Like playing a Rickenbacker with an SVT and a wah and fuzz. Cliff Burton has just been my guy. From the moment I saw that dude play bass, I knew that I had to be a bass player. It was one of those moments like, the revelation type moment where I was like this guy is playing a guitar solo on a bass! And he has long hair and bell bottoms and he loves Black Sabbath. I was already a huge Black Sabbath fan by the time I realized I loved Metallica. In the Master of Puppets and Justice days. It was pre-internet so I never really saw pictures of them. So when I saw Cliff ‘Em All and I saw Cliff just shredding wearing bell bottoms, a jean jacket and long hair I was like that’s the guy. That’s what I’m supposed to do.
Andrea, have you played any instruments before?
Andrea- I picked up the guitar when I was a kid, and I can play probably like the first minute or 30 seconds of a handful of songs. I know a lot of Pink Floyd, Marley, and Neil Young. I wrote a couple songs as a kid on the acoustic guitar but I always identified my voice as my instrument. I was always very comfortable within the blues kind of feeling. I feel like it was always my voice that came most natural to me, you know, and I just let that be my guide. I think picking up a guitar and knowing chords and reading tabs, that’s essential because a guitar is a great instrument to kind of just know. It’s always good to have a couple songs in your pocket. But when it comes to being on stage and actually writing, I can’t quite put what I hear in my head to keys or guitar or bass or anything. I’m more vocal.
How did you come up with the name Holy Grove? What inspired that?
Andrea- It’s hard! Band names are really hard, you’re locked in!
Gregg- I swear to god the first 3 or 4 songs came really easily. We didn’t even have a name yet.
Andrea- It’s always hard to have really good songs and everyone was like what’s your bands name, what’s your bands name? I’d be like uh we don’t have a name…but in hindsight…smart.
Gregg- It took us a long time. Holy Grove, I believe it was a cemetery out somewhere on Division and way far out in the Southeast. Our drummer, Craig, had driven by it and was like ‘I saw this cemetery, what do you think of Holy Grove?’
Andrea- This was after weeks of trying to figure out band names. We had lists and lists of good song titles but shitty band names. He was just like ‘What about Holy Grove?’
Gregg- And we were all sitting there in practice and we were like dude that’s perfect! We had a couple B-list names that we were like that’s ok that’s ok. When Craig said Holy Grove, everyone was like yep. Yep that’s it.
Andrea- But I think the band name is very similar to the formation of the band, because it was like we knew we didn’t want a band name that could make one think, ‘Ok female.’ I always think of Christian Mistress…fucking great name…it just so happens there is a female singer. Like that’s a great name and they have a female singer. We didn’t want a band name where it had that female connotation and like you knew. I remember very vividly that Gregg brought up, if we saw our band name on a flyer, what would someone walking by think?
Gregg- That’s the other thing we tried to picture every time we brought up a band name, what would it look like on a flyer.
Andrea- It’s important! Is it too wordy? Can people pronounce it? Spell it? These are literally things you have to consider because what may make sense to us and be awesome…we could go play a show in the middle of nowhere and someone would like mess up our name so bad. I’m sure we will still get like Holy Grave.
Gregg- or Holy Groove. It’s happened. It’s happened a lot.
Andrea- At least it’s a name that’s like, it’s Holy Grove. You know how it’s spelled, you know how to pronounce it, and I feel like there is kind of an image.
Trent- It definitely evokes an image.
Andrea- Whether it be spiritual or not, I mean we don’t come from that type of background, the holy part isn’t that. For me, it’s anything that lends itself to interpretation. No matter what your interpretation is, it’s gonna be about right.
Gregg- It was a struggle to get that name. We had a show booked before we had a name!
Where was your first show at?
Gregg- Our first show was at The Tube.
Andrea- A friend of mine named Lloyd works at Sizzle Pie. He was having a birthday party. It was great for us! It was our first show and you just want to get one under your belt and kind of learn a little bit. This was before The Tube had a bunch of remodeling. We are a very loud band and The Tube was literally a tube!
Gregg- We were playing across from a piece of PVC pipe that is like a concave. So the sound just goes around and right back to you.
Andrea – It was so loud! It was what you would’ve thought it was *plugs her ears* and the audience is like you guys look like you’re having fun! You know haha and then we played the East End. We wanted to play Plan B and our guitarist, Sam at the time, knew the booker at Plan B who knew Nate Carson and he got in touch with our demo.
Gregg- Our third show ever was with Witch Mountain and Castle! That show was our third or fourth show. Which was us, Rabbits, Witch Mountain, and Castle. It was unbelievable! We were so green!
Andrea- Well I knew who Nate was and Nanotear in Boston and Gregg knew the booking agency.
Gregg- Well Witch Mountain has been around forever and Nate has been doing stuff in this town forever.
Andrea- Nate in Portland and metal…it’s synonymous and to have him…I was still kinda green to Facebook at the time. I remember him adding me and being like WTF? I know who Nate Carson is. Then he added me and wrote this thing on Facebook, like “I love your band!” It was a great moment for me.
Gregg- We were a brand new band, man. We were around for 6 months when all of a sudden this band that we looked up to and this guy we looked up to was like, ‘Yeah we like you guys. Come open for us.’
Andrea- And we were like buh buh buh buh what? We were so thankful because we felt like, in a lot of ways, what we were doing in our practice was special and great. Then we kind of leap jumped because we were able to play and I mean it’s great, his support has been wonderful. It’s funny because of Gregg being in Green House Effect, they had actually played shows together.
Gregg- Yeah I knew Nate from the early days, I mean we didn’t really know each other, but my old band played with Witch Mountain in S.F. when I lived there. We played with YOB, so when this band started going and I re-met Nate, there was this moment of like oh yeah I remember you! He’s just been one of the best dudes.
Andrea- Fall into Darkness is something that when I lived in Boston it was the second year and I was like, ‘I have to get to Portland before it starts.’ When it was at Ash Street and all that. It was just really wonderful. It’s like being in Hoverfest! We are still a young band! Even though they have a lot of experience in bands, Portland is such a great community, music and all that shit. That’s the thing dude, I set out to play in a band that would play these shows…to actually be offered them is not something I take lightly.
Do you guys have any influences that aren’t metal or rock and roll?
Trent- I mean, I don’t want to embarrass anybody. Like I said before I think we all have a lot of influences. One thing I’ve learned from talking to everyone in this band is we all love metal and we all love Classic Rock and these things, but we all at heart are really just music dorks. We like stuff from all over the place. Me, personally, will find myself on any given day listening to Zeppelin and then High on Fire and then Otis Redding. I draw from all kinds of different places and I find inspiration from a lot of different places. Their lists might be different, but I think the commonality is that we all listen to a lot of music and a lot of different music.
I think that’s great.
Andrea- Yeah like we can hold a conversation about it. I mean I worked in record stores, Gregg worked in record stores, I think it’s important to understand and at least know kind of all the genres. Maybe there are some genres that we love a little more and are more literate with. I love early 80’s Cure, Echo and The Bunnymen, and Depeche Mode… Sisters of Mercy, but those seem so obvious. I think that you know Misfits were a big one too. I also love ska. I am not a ‘Rude Girl’ like you can’t look at me and be like you know, but that doesn’t mean if you throw on some Specials and I won’t nail it. I love it. I think just the music that comes natural if you give me a microphone, is more bluesy. I’d relate more to that sort of guttural style.
You guys definitely have a ‘bluesy’ sound to you.
Gregg- I think that is one of the most important things about what we try to maintain with this band. The element of we don’t want to be so heavy that there’s like ten minutes of doom.
Andrea- Which we love!
Gregg- I love Electric Wizard as much as the next person but I never wanted to be one of those bands that makes sound effects, like doom guitar sound effects. *imitates sound effect*
What, no brown notes?
Andrea- *laughs* How are you going to spell the sound he just made?
Haha I’m not sure.
Gregg- We have always wanted to be heavy and dark but also make sure there’s something for people to follow and there is like a head bobbing element. I feel like that is very important. Not be so heavy that it’s just heavy for heavy’s sake. There is still an element of a swing or groove and I think those are the two terms I would use to try to differentiate what we are hoping to accomplish. Heavy but yet swinging and groovy.
Lately there has been a lot of controversy about the phrase ‘Women in Metal.’ Some feel it is empowering and long overdue that women are getting the respect they deserve, while others feel it’s demeaning and want to be treated equally as an artist or contributor. As a female-fronted band, what is your take on this subject?
Gregg- I’m sure everyone has a different take on that.
Andrea- We’ve kind of dodged it.
Gregg- But we have done our best to not emphasize it. When we first started, we got a lot of the shows offered that was with other female-fronted bands. Like, ‘Hey come play with this band because it’s an all girl line up!’
When she came on board, that was a lot of the things we talked about. We don’t wanna be like, ‘Holy Grove is playing Girl’s Night at Club 21!’ Or whatever. It was a really big thing for us and it still is. Granted, I’m not a girl but it seems really short sighted to be like we are a heavy band with a girl singer. Witch Mountain is an example of a band that has dodged that bullet. They embrace their female singer but aren’t only seen as a female-fronted band. She’s like Ian Gillan to us, not like the girl Ian Gillan. We think of her as our singer and she’s great and it doesn’t matter that she’s a girl. It’s not something we are trying to emphasize. I know this is sort of a trend. Having the stoner rock band with the girl singer. We never set out to have a girl singer, we just knew we wanted someone with pipes. We had all been in bands where the singer was an after-thought. We didn’t want the singer to be an after-thought. The singer had to be able to be like the star almost. We wound up with Andrea. She’s a girl and that is just the way it happened.
Andrea- I just think it’s a sign of the times. What I mean is I think that there was always heavy rock and roll but a lot of women were pushed into a Linda Ronstadt role. Being more sultry and a little more reserved. Women just kind of didn’t have that confidence or feel like they could stand on stage with these guys that have been playing for a long time.
Trent- It’s like somewhat treacherous ground to try to comment on, especially as a guy. For me, they should be a good singer. A goddman good singer and performer. It doesn’t matter whether they are a girl or a guy. I’m proud we have a female singer and I’m glad more female musicians in general are kind of like in the foreground these days. There’s a fine line between that and sort of capitalizing and relying on the female singer. Or getting lumped into this, like you were saying before, it’s ‘Girl Rock Night. We are going to have the girl bands play.’ No! Don’t fucking shove us into this box, man. I think we have had some promoters whose heart is in the right place. They aren’t trying to do anything disingenuous, but I think we have been offered some shows where you can see the wheels turning in their brain. They are like, ‘Oh this other band has a girl singer so we’ll take the Portland band with the girl singer to play with that band! Of course!’ It’s just weird when it automatically goes to that.
Andrea- I mean we are offered more shows for that than if you had guy singer. We are still offered shows that a guy singer would take too. I’m just very thankful. I get women that come up to me and go, this is kind of cheesy, I know, but it’s true. They go ‘You are exactly what I want to be. You are doing exactly what I want to do.’ There are plenty of guys that come up to me and say they are so happy that there is a singer like me around too. The women are the ones that say they never thought they could do anything like that. I’m not saying I’m a trail-blazer, because I’m not, but I think it’s important to have some women around that have been doing this for a long time. I’m thankful that I’m in a rock and roll band with a bunch of guys that play instruments well and love my voice. My voice is deep. I get a lot of people thinking I’m a man when I’m on stage and I dig it. I mean, they don’t see me and think I’m a guy. It’s not like I’m Meat Loaf with my scarf you know. *laughs* It’s just nice because I think about when I messaged these guys and was like, ‘Have you ever thought of female vocals,’ I didn’t want them to say yes! I never wanted the fact that I’m a female to come into play.
Trent- I was struck by that myself, before I actually joined the band. I saw Holy Grove play at Ceremony of Sludge at The Alleyway. I had kind of been in contact with Gregg about trying out and jamming. He said they were playing this show and to come check them out. I remember just watching the band and thinking they are heavy and awesome. I was watching Andrea and it’s kind of rare to see a good female-fronted band. She has this power and sort of confidence that was just like rawr! In your face! Really confident and strong and super powerful vocals and didn’t rely on any tricks of trapezing around or anything like that. It was like I’m just gonna own it; I’m just gonna kill. When they played Nix and she was down there with the delay pedal making this crazy noise, I was like this girl is a BADASS. I was blown away. After I saw that performance I was like I HAVE TO JOIN THIS BAND!
Andrea- There are women that have been asked that question for a long time. I can’t imagine how many times Uta (Plotkin) has been asked that question. It’s not just a question. Part of you feels like you need to defend your band and yourself. Part of you looks at others and think people are doing the same thing, following that formula. I think women in metal shouldn’t matter but it kind of does. Because people will always say female-fronted and that’s fine. I dig it. It’s cool!
Gregg- Yeah I know we are going to be instantly described as Holy Grove with the female lead singer.
Andrea- I mean I earned it. I’m a fucking woman! We are a female-fronted band, but don’t let that be the only reason you come to our show. Don’t let that be the reason you don’t come to our show. Let the music kind of resonate with you and if it does it does and if it doesn’t then fine.
Trent- It has become normal. It’s not a thing. It’s like you don’t have to think about it like it’s a novelty. It’s just normal. Like, you’re in the band, big deal.
Holy Grove playing “Nix” at Joonier Stuidos.
Ok, so I wanted to talk about your album. I know you guys have been recording recently. Is this your first album?
Will it be full length?
Trent- Yep. Eight songs, about an hour?
Gregg- Yeah about an hour’s worth of material.
How’s the recording going?
Trent- It’s going very well. It’s been a lengthy process in terms of scheduling.
Gregg- Scheduling and finances. We are all on our own with this.
Trent- Yeah we did all the basic tracking in November of last year and since then it’s been like, we go in every couple months and we work on some over-dubs and some vocals. We typically spend a day or two in the studio and then wait again.
Gregg- I’d say we are 90 percent done. So it’s been a long process but we are also trying to do it right.
Trent- We are being really patient about it because we don’t want to settle. We want the album to be what we want it to be. I think we could have rushed it through and been done last winter. But it wouldn’t have been exactly what we wanted and we are trying to really do it right. Hopefully we will.
Gregg- It’s just one of those things. It’s got to be exactly how we want it and we can cut corners and try to pinch pennies, but there comes a point where we had to just be like, it’s gonna cost us out of our own pocket and take us longer than we thought. At least it’ll be exactly how we wanted it. It was maybe a tough call to make but it was also a call that had to be made.
I know you guys went to Joonier Studios and recorded some live stuff, is that going be on the album too?
Trent- No, that was just for fun. We happened to have some shows booked in Washington.
Andrea-We have been really fortunate to have a lot of people record us live. Chris contacted us in the early part of this last year.
Gregg- Yeah he knew we were friends with Ancient Warlocks and we had to record with Ancient Warlocks in his little studio thing that he does. He sent an email that said, ‘Hey I saw some live footage of you guys. I would love to have you come up!’ So we just like knew we had to go to Seattle sooner or later and then when this opportunity came up to play with Ancient Warlocks and Sioux in Seattle, we scheduled around going to visit Chris to record those live songs.
Trent-Yeah we went and played Seattle on a Friday night and we recorded with him on Saturday. It was literally just a few hours. We did a couple takes of each song. He’s amazing. He gets really amazing sound and it’s amazing how much he can get out of video. I mean he did a great job but it was all very quick. We got there at noon and we were out of there by like 4.
Andrea- I think it really gave us an opportunity to watch ourselves. It’s something that has kind of represented us the best way possible.
Trent- And given that we don’t really have anything right now in terms of a record, the only way we can really represent ourselves musically right now is live footage. That was the great thing about Billy Goate and Chris. They are taking the time to bother to do this shit for us for free. Now we have something that people can actually see and hear in anticipation of the record being done.
Andrea- We were very comfortable there.
Trent- I have to say, it sounds really good and looks really good but also we were just immediately really comfortable with the dude. He’s a cool guy. I’m really in awe and inspired and excited by what he’s doing. He is just helping bands out for the hell of it. For fun! There are plenty of people that do stuff like that but they don’t go all in and do it very well, but he’s doing a really great job
Gregg- Yeah he spent the greater most of his Saturday, his day off, with us just to record three songs and video. Those three videos that he provided us are incredible promotional material. Especially because we have an album coming out.
Trent- He gave us the gift of time you know?
Well you guys are making waves for sure. I actually first heard about you from Nial. (Owner of Hovercraft Amps) He loves your band.
Gregg- I was hoping we would talk about Nial! That guy has been nothing but awesome. When we were recording at Everything Hz with Billy Anderson, we did some stuff with Nial.
Andrea- I did the vocals there and I wonder if that was his first introduction.
Trent- The two of them are always in the same space, so like when Billy has bands over working on records, Nial is always building amplifiers. I think that was his introduction to Holy Grove. I think he heard Andrea singing and he was into it. That was our introduction to Nial. I mean we met him before, but this was the initial introduction.
Gregg- That guy is literally a wizard.
I would like to say thank you to Gregg, Andrea, and Trent for spending an evening out of your lives with me!
For more info on Holy Grove go here