AfterEllen hoped on the phone with the firecracker frontwoman of Austin’s dubby-dance, poptastic, bombastic, electronic party trio Holiday Mountain. The band, consisting of Laura Patiño (keys, vocals), Bradley Will (synth, bass, vocals) and Zander Kagle (drums) formed in 2011 while attending Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. This April they released a punchy, genre-defying EP titled You Do You, Part 1 and are currently touring the East Coast.
Lauratook some time out of her packed tour schedule to discuss a bit of the band’s history, her relationship to fashion and watching The Simpsons in her formative years.
photo by George Brainard
Here’s an exclusive live video performance of Holiday Mountain covering Technotronic’s ’90s hit “Pump Up The Jam” from this year’s SXSW.
Laura Patiño: My mom got me started with playing classical piano when I was five. At first I didn’t really latch on to it, but she kinda kept me going. And then basically once I hit puberty and just started going through all the different kinds of mental and emotional fluctuations that you go through, I started writing my own songs on piano. That became a safe haven for me.
AE: What’s the origin story for Holiday Mountain?
LP: The name itself is based off of Billie Holiday and the Rocky Mountains, which are two formative inspirations for me. One night while I was in college one of my friends knew I had been writing, but keeping it to myself in a practice room, and he mentioned that a band dropped off at a DIY show and did I want to come play. I figured, “Okay, I’ll say I’m Holiday Mountain.” That’s how I kind of got my start in the Boston DIY scene and met a lot of different musicians through that. I ultimately went through a couple bands before I found the current formation of the band as it is now.
AE: How would you describe y’alls sound?
LP: The most vanilla terms that everybody can kind of understand is dance-pop. We all bring a lot of our own influences, but one thing we all really love is a lot of old reggae and dub. I grew up really into Gwen Stefani and the ska and punk thing, which I supposed happened naturally for me. The band as a whole also really loves a lot of the current EDM, like Diplo and Major Lazer. And yeah, as a frontwoman I just try to bring strong female energy that I saw a lot of punk singers do when I was young that gave me a lot of inspiration.
AE: Austin has become a real hotbed for creatives, musicians especially. That being said how is the music scene down there?
LP: The music scene is so wonderful. Being on tour has definitely made me miss Austin even more. The fact that it is in the middle of Texas, obviously there is a lot of weird like political things that happen in Texas, but I can remember the first time we visited Austin and there was this thing called a decentralized dance party where it’s like a radio transmitter and everyone brings boomboxes. And, literally, it’s the very first night we’re there and we’re at a street dance party where there’s these two dudes that started making out on top of a cop car and I was just like, “This is the best city.” I think the the fact that there are so many political restrictions being put on people everybody comes to Austin ready to have a strong community and lift each other up to say that there’s some place where we can all embrace our uniqueness or you know weirdness, or whatever you want to call it.
AE: You’ve been receiving a lot of praise and attention for your style. How does fashion and that form of expression factor into your music?
LP: Definitely the music influences style. I’ve always had a love of funky style or just fresh colors, just a way to kind of express how you’re feeling instantly. But especially once we got Brad in the band who brought all his knowledge of synthesizers and a lot of different electronic things I definitely wanted to match the visual end of the band to the sounds. I thought, so what would our sound look like, which all of the brazen big electronic sounds just reminded me of a lot of neon and glitter and equally bombastic things. We are a very visual generation and I think the outlook is that music is just free now so that any way that you can incorporate and translate your artistry into something visual or something tangible is only going to help you as a musician.
AE: Your lyrics are definitely pointed and have a lot of strong feminist notions, can you talk a little about your perspective?
LP: When puberty happened, it was challenging for me to find female role models in music. Growing up being a woman there’s a lot of things you face as far as how you’re supposed to act and how you’re supposed to be, and when you feel like you’re just naturally not that and you almost feel like an alien or something that led me to feel inspired to stand up. I guess I’m just kind of looking for that role model in myself that I didn’t exactly find when I was younger and I hope that I can offer that to the next generation of women. I’m super psyched when anybody finds inspiration in our music, but I especially have a soft place in my heart for young girls who are trying to figure out who they want to be and that know they can feel supported and strong to be themselves in whatever way, even if that means facing adversity.
AE: How does your sexuality factor into your music?
LP: I think that gender and sexuality and all that is a very fluid thing and the restrictions that are put around especially women can create a lot of unhealthy internal relationships with oneself. I’m just really about self-expression and self-acceptance, and loving yourself from the inside out. In that way that if you’re loving yourself first you can just kind of say fuck you to the haters and feel good about carrying on.
AE: Do you think that as an artist you have a responsibility to be visible and vocal about your beliefs?
LP: Absolutely. I think that for me that’s the whole point and there’s a solace in it. People being able to exchange ideas that are hard to talk about and me feeling connected by that in a time that I felt alone. When there’s music that’s more like an advertisement or something part of me is like man, maybe it would be easier to market myself like that, you know if I didn’t have such strong beliefs, but at the end of the day it’s not about it being easy it’s about following the purpose you feel like you have or the message that you need to spread.
AE: Your recently released EP You Be You, Pt. 1 has been garnering a lot of great press attention, what comes next for the band?
LP: We are gonna keep constantly writing and working on the next thing. We put a lot of effort into these songs and we have a lot of material ready for Part 2, but we are feeling like to make a bigger impact we need to do something more innovative and take advantage of the technology that’s available so that we can make a bigger splash and just keep progressing our art in general. I think we’re never satisfied, and that’s kind of life, but we try to put that energy into making the best art possible. So I can say there will be a Part 2 soon and hopefully it will be a more interactive experience. We’re definitely really really loving the opportunity just to be on the road. So hopefully that will happen more as well.
AE: What would the theme song of your life be?
LP: I guess I’m just gonna go with the first thing that came to my mind which is The Simpsons theme song. Maybe that’s just because every night when my mom would make me practice piano my dad and my sister would be watching The Simpsons and that’s just like a formative show for our family, as for the band a lot of us grew up with it. And actually it was my final proficiency song I played on piano when I graduated Berklee, so I would say that The Simpsons theme song always finds a way to stay relevant in my life. And it’s a very well composed piece of music.
AE: What’s one thing that we wouldn’t be able to find out about you in a deep internet lurk?
LP: The most honest thing is that I bite my nails. I’ve been biting my nails forever and I wanna stop but it’s really challenging.