The Holy has toured Europe diligently and earned their reputation as a fierce live act driven by a duo of percussionists. The band's wide screen indie rock gained attention also overseas when the distinguished indie radio KEXP hosted and streamed their set from Reykjavik. The Helsinki based quintet's sophomore full-length "Mono Freedom", is a theme album whose story only grew more relevant during the coronavirus outbreak.
Here's the plot: Humanity has been the plague of the earth for so long that finally Mother Nature reclaims the control back and wipes the disastrous race. The only idea the last of the humans have is to build a rocket and fly it to the nearest black hole and hope for the best. Of course it is obvious that they don't make it.
In Eetu Henrik Iivari's head – and his band's sophomore album – this was meant play out as a utopian but romantic space odyssey. But then the global pandemic happened and the theme of the album shifted from that to a sinister prognostication.
The Holy had prepared for the spring release of their second album Mono Freedom. They had everything planned out from the release concerts to a fully booked festival summer in Europe. They had made huge promotional efforts especially in Germany and the United Kingdom where there had been a rising interest in the band. Their live performance hosted by the beloved Seattle based indie radio station KEXP (watch a recording of the performance below) had opened doors that the band hadn't even dreamed of opening in the United States.
We knew we're going to lose some of the momentum we've managed to build, but the chance of completely watering down the work we've done with the album was too high.
But as soon as the news about the spreading of the coronavirus became more frequent and severe, The Holy decided to postpone the release of their album.
"We made the decision rather quickly. We knew that people's attention was going to be somewhere else for an unpredictable time. We knew we're going to lose some of the momentum we've managed to build, but the chance of completely watering down the work we've done with the album was too high", Eetu Henrik Iivari, The Holy's songwriter, singer and guitarist says.
"The doors are not fully closed but only ajar."
Mono Freedom's story is inspired by Alan Weisman's thought exercise The World Without Us. The bestseller displays a handful of scenarios of what would happen if humans suddenly disappeared. How cities would deteriorate and how other lifeforms would evolve.
Eetu Henrik Iivari read the book while on tour supporting The Holy's debut album Daughter. He was intrigued by the immense force of nature portrayed by Weisman. The story Iivari wrote for his band was aimed as a societal commentary.
"But now it feels like I want to strip the commentary and think of it as a beautiful story that mirrors hope. I want to focus on the romantic side of it. If there's ever a time when people don't need a lecture about these more serious themes, it's now."
To most, freedom means that you can buy whatever you want, eat whatever you like and fly wherever you please – just enjoying the treats the world has to offer.
Iivari underlines that he doesn't want to preach a single truth, Mono Freedom is not a statement. He describes the album as an introspection about the Western way of living, which is of course causing the climate crisis that we are facing.
"When measuring with indicators based on welfare or capitalism, I as a Finnish person am among the most well-off people in the world. This makes speaking about these subjects hard. You have to question them, but without stepping out of your position."
According to Iivari the album's name Mono Freedom is a take on the paradox of the considered freedom of the Western people.
"To most, freedom means that you can buy whatever you want, eat whatever you like and fly wherever you please – just enjoying the treats the world has to offer. But on the other hand you have to be a part of the rat race to be able to do so, and the social media era emphasizes it. That kind of freedom is really one-dimensional."
Eetu Henrik Iivari nods to my conclusion about the album being thoroughly political.
"When you take the lid off and start really digesting it, yes it is", he says.
"If you want to influence people and their behaviour, it has to be through hints and details. You can get people thinking by giving a bit of stimulus here and a piece of information there. Blurting just The One Big Truth only gets everybody defensive."
If you want to influence people and their behaviour, it has to be through hints and details.
He uses one of his all time favorite bands, Radiohead, as an example. Their abstract lyrics might not open up at all, and the politically charged interviews the band used to give caused bafflement in contrast.
"But you understood that there's frustration. There's a craving for change. It sparked a feeling of doubt towards everything, in a good way. And when you heard about some puzzling matters you could deal with them a healthy contest. Radiohead didn't teach you to think in certain way, it activated some sectors in you."
A better future
The live music industry has relied on relatively cheap flights and the swiftness of air travel for years. The environmental impact of aviation is well documented, but it needed the coronavirus crisis to ground the planes. Eetu Henrik Iivari sees this as a turning point towards a healthier way of touring.
"I've been working as a tour manager and a FOH (Front of house) for North American bands for a long time. I know about the subject. It all comes down to orderliness: how much can we commit to planning ahead? Everything from the PR to logistics and economical aspects, the longer the time frame the smaller the role of flying. The world's so small and show technology is so universal. This applies to superstar artists as well as smaller bands."
When will it be safe for us and the audiences? How can we book tours that are doable mostly without flying? When will it be the right thing to do and not based just on hubris?
The Holy's focus is on Europe. Iivari promises that the band will pay attention to scheduling and will succeed in minimizing the burden to earth for their part. But right now it all comes down to these questions:
"When will it be safe for us and the audiences? How can we book tours that are doable mostly without flying? When will it be the right thing to do and not based just on hubris?"
The Holy have confirmed about 15 festival gigs in Europe for the summer of 2021, all of which were deferred from last summer. A club tour is in the talks.
"We are planning to head out on the road, full-on starting next Spring. But we have no intentions of risking our or anyone else’s health."