How a Grandma + a 90-Year-Old Song Inspired Holding Absence to be Timeless
Holding Absence are bringing something fresh to the rock proceedings as one of the U.K.’s most quickly rising stars, but despite being a bright new band themselves, they actually found inspiration for their upcoming album The Greatest Mistake of My Life from a much older source — a 90-year-old, mostly forgotten song.
Their sophomore album, The Greatest Mistake of My Life, arrives this Friday (April 16), but through its singles already has shown the young band have stepped up their game. From the huge and anthemic chorus of “Afterlife” to the more subdued but still dynamic “In Circles,” the shoegaze inspired “Beyond Belief” and the progressive "nomoreroses," Holding Absence prove that they can pack an emotional punch into a wide range of songs. And most importantly, they can do it well.
Vocalist Lucas Woodland has said that The Greatest Mistake of My Life “is about life in spite of death,” which in essence is the definition of something being timeless. Something that lives on and continues to resonate with people even after its creator is gone. As Holding Absence set off to create something that could tap into emotions that would transcend modern trends, a nearly forgotten relic from the past found its way to the singer.
This story actually begins with the band's self-titled debut LP. As Woodland explained it, the band had just started working on their second album and only had a couple of songs written when a conversation with his grandmother led him on the path to the new album’s title.
“In my Nan’s living room we used to have a record player. As a kid I always thought it was cool that she had that there and she would sometimes play vinyl on there. So when we did the first album, the first thing I wanted to do was give that vinyl to my Nan,” he told Rock Sound. “That felt like a really full circle thing for me to do. I gave it to her and she said, ‘Thanks love. This is now the second vinyl in our family.’”
When Woodland asked his grandmother what she meant, she explained that his great uncle had recorded himself singing a song called “The Greatest Mistake of My Life” onto a 7” vinyl. After pressing her for more information, she remembered the lyric “The greatest mistake of my life was saying goodbye to you.”
“So I went home and typed that lyric into Google and a Gracie Fields song from 1939 came up,” he shared. “It was so old. It had like 100 views on the one video there was of it, and I remember thinking that through my great uncle that I’ve never even met I’ve stumbled upon something really special. Something about it just resonated.”
With this story in mind, we caught up with Woodland to find out more about how the song inspired him, the eternal effort to create something timeless and why it’s important to chat with the elders in your life.
The title The Greatest Mistake of My Life came from a song from the late 1930s. Can you explain how this song found its way into your life?
It was something that came up in conversation when I gave my Nan a copy of the LP1 vinyl. She made a passing comment about how my great-uncle had recorded a 7” many moons ago, too, and TGMOML was that song.
Why did the words of the song resonate with you?
They stuck with me straight away because they sounded like something I myself could’ve written, despite being a century old!
What feelings did this song evoke that made you want to name your album after it? It seems like it sparked a whole idea or concept in you, which shows how art can inspire art.
We were definitely going for a more “timeless” vibe with this record, and here, a 90-year-old song finds its way into my lap... What’s more timeless than that? Even just the fact that it was brought to me via my grandmother, it felt like that song was destined to find me, y'know? But yeah, there’s nothing more inspiring to me than fellow artists and their work. Over the years everything from TV/film to installation art-pieces and so on have nudged their way into my lyrics.
This essentially forgotten song now lives on to a whole new set of people because of you and your family. That’s pretty special. How do you think artists can create work that is timeless?
That’s such a tough question because I believe timelessness to be something that every artist should strive to achieve more than anything else. For me personally, it’s trying to capture humanity and emotion within the music. Nu-Metal stopped being cool and I’m sure someday Lo-fi Jazz Trap will start being cool, but emotion will never go out of fashion regardless of how it’s packaged.
What did your Nan think when you told her about the title?
She was very happy to hear about it, as you can imagine! It’s been a long year of not being able to hug her or play the piano for her so I can’t wait for this to all be over and to give her a copy of LP2, as well.
Are there any other classic or antique things that helped to inspire the album?
Nothing quite as specific as the song, but we definitely took a lot of inspiration from different places for this album. Everything from dress-sense to video aesthetics and so on.
Many people just have an appreciation for things like antiques, classical music, classic movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood, muscle cars, vinyl and all kinds of other relics from the past. Was that something that interested you before or was this a new experience for you?
This song has definitely made me realize just how special longevity is in every walk of life! Even things as simple architectural history or the etymology of everyday words. Just seeing how small things can trickle through time and what impact they have is really cool and kinda the ultimate goal as somebody trying to create art.
Something else I’d like you to touch on is how important it is to ask questions of the elders in your life. We have so much to learn!
Yup, it’s relevant in so many walks of life but youth and wisdom are a perfect pairing. To have the humility to learn from your elders is one of life’s greatest secrets. I’ll chat to my Nan for hours about her life and it’s always so interesting to learn of how the world was back when she was my age.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Our new album The Greatest Mistake of My Life is out April 16th and I think it’s really good... Hope you do too!
Thank you to Lucas for answering our questions. Holding Absence's sophomore album 'The Greatest Mistake of My Life' is out this Friday (April 16). You can preorder via SharpTone Records, and hear their latest single directly above.
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