My first thought when I encountered Long Island-based band Hold Fast Hope was whether they took their name from the Thrice song of the same title. My second, far more important thought upon listening to the band’s recently launched debut EP, was that the New Yorker rockers are truly outstanding.
To very quickly deal with that first question, guitarist Dan L told us, when asked if it was inspired by the Thrice song or something totally different: “A little combination of both actually! We had all agreed on the idea of using the sailors term ‘Hold Fast’ in some way and added ‘Hope’ as it’s something we think we all need these days. It conjured images of what you can see on our album artwork, someone clinging onto the ship’s wheel as utter chaos descends around them.”
And to move swiftly on, the band’s first EP Traitors is superb, combining hard-hitting rock and elements of post-hardcore, with diverse moments of ambience.
It begins by lulling you into a false sense of calmness with opening track Ripple, which opens up with a relatively light, repeating funky guitar riff, then floaty vocals from frontman DJ, which continue as the guitars drop lower over a rolling drumbeat. Palm muted chords kick in alongside a meandering guitar lick as the vocals increase in intensity, into a chorus of layered vocals and bigger looping guitars.
On the opening track, Dan tells us: “Ripple was written after we had met and started listening to the guys in Gates (Pure Noise Records). We wanted to write something that, although not as heavy or distorted, could carry the same emotional strength as the other EP tracks.”
That’s followed by the EP’s lead single, the brilliant Fade. It opens up with a fairly long drum solo then a rolling guitar riff and cool bursts of guitar under echoey, distant sounding vocals. It all drops out then a big smash of guitars kicks in under big singalong vocals in a deliciously engaging rocky chorus that compels you to singalong to the lyrics “Woh-oh, Did it ever complicate you?, Way down, Without all this fear, So watered down, Walking down,” ending on a long high note.
DJ’s cutting vocals really come to the fore in the huge, very Thrice-like choruses, and they mix it up a little second time around with the lyrics: “Watered down, Did it ever captivate you?, Walking down, There’s nothing left to say… I’m giving up on everything you are.” His vocals are supported superbly by contrasting heavy and light guitars, followed by a big, effects ridden extended solo over darting guitar chords and pounding drums and cymbals.
The solo drops into relaxed, almost whispered vocals and light guitars, which make you think the track is cooling to a laid-back ending. But you’re soon shocked awake by a smash of big guitar chords and a drawn-out cry of “I never wanted to stay” then high-pitched guitars come in over the booming chords.
It’s a real epic of a track, on which Dan tells us: “Fade was without a doubt the single, it fell together so simply in the beginning and we were able to expand on it from there. In the studio, our producer decided he didn’t feel enough of a ‘punch’ from the bridge section we had written at the time, so our guitarist, also named Dan, had to improvise something of a guitar solo on the spot, which really ended up tying the song together in the end.” Check it out below:
The heaviness is boosted a notch on Traitors Pt I, which Dan tells us was the song that kicked off the writing of the EP. He said: “The main riff was brought to us by our drummer (also called Dan), who had been sitting with a guitar for a little bit. His influence definitely made that the heaviest track on the record, by far. We had a blast in the studio with Pt I while we were making different sound effects for the bridge section. All the extra noise you hear was us basically throwing around and smacking a guitar that was being processed through so many layers of reverb and modulation you couldn’t even tell what it was.”
It opens up with a cool little distant riff then stabby guitar chords com in and lead into powerful vocals over an awesome jumpy guitar riff. Big screamed vocals bring in a chorus, then drops down into a more relaxed section, before launching into another big singalong chorus with guitars that sound like they’re hardest to pierce through your speakers / headphones. The aforementioned bridge is awesomely vicious yet eerie with all the strange noises going on, just listen to it to understand!
That flows straight into Traitor Pt II, which opens with ambient floaty guitars, then huge drums and bass kick in under DJ’s vocals with guitars gradually edging in through a verse that ends on the line “Darkest blue without a trace, Where traitors keep all their thoughts,” of which the last word is a powerful long held note. It suddenly descends into prog rockiness with a more experimental feel to the guitars, but that’s soon forgotten as they blast into a hard-hitting smash of huge guitar chords, chuggy bass and drums supporting DJ’s amazing vocals.
On the EP, Dan tells us: “We’re incredibly excited to have it released and out in the world after patiently waiting for so long for everything to fall into place. For me personally, this is the first piece of music I’ve gotten to publicly release of my own in over four years so it’s a really great feeling. This record has a lot of ebb and flow, or push and pull.
“We wanted it to be dynamic in a way that leads the record to feel like you’re being tossed around in open water. One of my favourite parts is towards the end of our single Fade, the ambient solo clean guitar of arpeggiated chords with DJ’s voice laid on top is the real ‘calm before the storm’ as it’s followed by the huge full band outro.”
As mentioned, there are clear elements of Thrice to the Hold Fast Hope sound, but on what influences their music Dan explains: “We have such a range of musical influences it’s hard to really pinpoint a specific term to fit the sound. I’d like to describe it as big guitar sounds, moving leads and a fat bass sound like early Circa Survive and Thrice. Drum-wise the rhythms are heavily influenced by bands like Norma Jean, Underoath & Mewithoutyou.
“This EP tells the story of different types of relationships and how they can impact you as a person & the ripple effect of those actions in the relationships. Our new music has taken a slight departure from that and has started to reflect varying issues in our current society as our singer relates to it, honing in on themes of race, creed and subjugation.”
Traitors is a really impressive debut effort by Hold Fast Hope. It’s powerful and heavy but diverse, keeping you wanting more from their dynamic rock sound, so much so that the choruses on Fade make the hairs on my arms stand on end. It’s so good that you just hit repeat again and again. This is a bold statement, but I think they’re the most exciting new American band I’ve written about.
The band already have new music in the works, which they’re hoping to release before the end of the year as well as a music video for Fade, and, if you’re lucky enough to be in the US, you’ll be able to see them on the road too.