AMERICAN HOLOGRAM has called their style "Americana goth pop." We're not talking about a corn-fed Bauhaus, or Depeche Mode draped in stars and stripes, though.
It’s more along the lines of painter Grant Wood’s unsettling, can’t-quite-place-it masterpiece “American Gothic”—songs grown from the rich history of roots and folk music, wrapped up in themes of disillusionment and frustration with guises and shadow play.
Hearing vocalist/guitarist Eric Britt describe his band name and their common themes, that perfect accidental double-entendre from GPB’s interview with developer Ben Carter comes to mind: “I’m here to talk to you about facades.”
American Hologram certainly is. They’re going to break them down brutally and beautifully, and their debut LP, Same Blue Sky, is not going to leave your CD player for a good, long while.
The name American Hologram is “about political and media deception,” Britt explains. “’Watch this hand while I do this with this hand.’ A lot of these tunes are very contemplative and pensive, deep and dark.”
Bandmates Britt, Craig Tanner, and Britt Scott have all contributed songs to the album to make it a harmonious call to arms: a call to speak out, stand up, and break out of expectations.
“The ultimate idea is thinking for yourself and finding your own truth instead of taking things at face value,” says Scott.
Mere seconds in, “You Lie” announces Same Blue Sky’s thesis: “Dreaming the American dream/eyes closed it’s hard to see/what we want versus what we need.”
But they know better, as Scott lashes out in the chorus: “You lie. I’ve got time.”
It’s jaded and pent-up, but grows surer and surer of itself as the verses teem with Tanner’s intricate guitar picking and harmonies from the three singer-songwriters, who each contributed songs to Same Blue Sky.
Writing with bandmates is new for Britt, who composed alone for his old band, Hazel Virtue, and his 2012 solo effort, Greener. Praised for its unflinching honesty and warm breadth, Greener was a brutally personal tale of survival.
Same Blue Sky, Britt explains, “is way more politically edged. This is a way more big-picture thing.”
American Hologram naturally fell together while Britt was promoting Greener. Old friend Tanner had been playing along to Britt’s recordings at home, and offered to add a second guitar to live performances. Scott was given a copy of Britt’s album, kept it on repeat in her car, and found herself singing harmonies while driving around.
Through loose collaborations—Scott popping by a Britt gig to sit in, Tanner and Britt eventually billing together—the three found a bond, both musically and personally. Tanner and Scott began bringing their own songs to the table, and they fleshed them out as a team.
Britt admits it takes courage, and a particular kind of vulnerability, to share original songs and open them up for tweaking.
“It’s still something that means a lot to you,” he says. “So for you to ask your bandmates—‘hey, can you help me write this chorus?’ or “can you think of a harmony to go here?’—that takes a lot of confidence in another person.”
For having three contributors, Same Blue Sky is quite cohesive—folk, roots, and, yes, Americana, serve as a base.
Tanner is of the folk camp; his contemplative songs are “cut in a John Prine kind of way,” says Britt.
Title track “Same Blue Sky,” comforting and unifying, is actually the first song that Tanner ever wrote.
“It kind of encompasses this “we’re all in this together’ concept,’ says Britt. “And unfortunately,” he laughs, “we’re all on this sinking raft together.”
As for Britt, he’s found himself experimenting with new tones and textures. Songs like “Judges” and “The Plan” show a darker, more rock-oriented turn from Greener.
“We’ve been doing this two acoustic guitars, percussion, and three vocals, where it’s been eclectic and rootsy and beautiful,” says Britt. “The songs that I brought to this record absolutely screamed out for distorted guitars and deep, dark rock noises.”
Britt hints that his successful studio experiments may apply to live shows down the road.
“I’m going to be very interested to see where it goes in the next year,” he says. “After recording this, I think I wanna rock!”
It’s not all about dusting off the ol’ Stratocaster, though. Scott’s stripped-down closer “Silence” is a devastatingly gorgeous and haunting song for survivors of rape and abuse, shakingly delicate in its power. It’s Same Blue Sky in a nutshell, empowering listeners to stand up and fight for their truth.
American Hologram celebrates their album release at Bub-Ba-Q. Britt selected the outdoor space for its warm, inviting vibe and great live sound.
“That space is in between two buildings,” he explains, “so it forms this natural shotgun thing, where the sound is captured, but not enough to make it be overbearing. It’s a beautiful sounding little space right there.”
It also allows the band to plug in, rock out, and show off Same Blue Sky’s many layers live and in person. Special guests will join in to flesh out the sound.
The $15 entry charge gets you a copy of Same Blue Sky, dinner (barbecue, of course, and sides), and a frothy, 32-ounce Southbound brew. The show is open to all ages—if you’re under 21, it’s just $10 for a CD and dinner.
A pork sandwich, local beer, and an outdoor stage packed with talented musicians: you can’t get much more American than that.
Saturday. Nov. 8, Bub-Ba-Q, 514 Martin Luther King Blvd.
Doors 6 p.m., all ages
$15 21+, $10 under 21