My Interview with Holygram, Your New Modern Cult

Bennett Reimann, Sebastian Heer, Patrick Blümel, Marius Lansing, Pylo Lynger (Photo: Yves Christelsohn)

Saturday, December 8, 2018 was one of those rare and exciting nights just jam-packed full of firsts. First off, I actually had a +1 for a show (Hi Mike!), can you believe it? I never have one! What else? This was also my first show at Roseland Theater, if you can believe that? I also wasn’t the only writer, for a change (Shout outs to Xär Nomi and Sonic Szilvi! Go check them out at CVLT Nation and Darknoise Radio) It was also my first dark wave show but most importantly, this was also my very first Holygram show. This was also Holygram’s very first Portland show on their very first North American tour in support of their debut LP, Modern Cults. There was a magic in the air that night (That Fruit Punch Sour Shotz didn’t hurt, either, but I digress). The kind of magic you only get on a night filled with fun and vicarious wonder and discovery through new friends on an adventure in a new city. Doubly so when those new friends are also five talented young rockers on their first US tour? 

Naturally, I was delighted to have a chat before the show with Holygram’s frontman Patrick Blümel and bassist Bennett Reimann (as well the rest of group) to ask about their tour with Hamburg-based EBM act VNV Nation and Charlottesville goth rocker (Bella Morte), Andy Deane’s synth wave solo project, The Rain Within

Ms. Moneynine: How’s the tour going with VNV Nation?

Patrick Blümel: It’s amazing, the tour is crazy for us because it’s the first time in the US as a band and it’s always an adventure go somewhere where you’ve never been and when you don’t know what to expect because we are a German band and we have certainly an audience in Germany but to go to the US is something adventurous because I don’t expect anyone to know us here. And when you’re touring with a big band like VNV, you can expect that the people wanna see VNV. Whenever I go to a concert and I wanna see the main band and there is this one shitty support band, I usually skip it or it’s just boring and I have a drink at the bar or whatever. So I come here with this background of like, “Okay, the support band is gonna suck. We are the support, so how are people gonna treat us? And the amazing thing is the US has been very kind to us, very welcoming, every show is super great, people apparently like what we’re doing, so yeah, it’s cool. We’ve seen so much of the country, so far, we’ve seen so many different cities with lots of great people and that’s how I think the tour is going.

Ms. Moneynine: Cool!

Bennett Reimann: All the people in the crew are really nice people and we really like them and we like VNV the band, and Ronan (Harris) ––

Patrick Blümel: And don’t forget Andy from The Rain Within!

Bennett Reimann: And Andy!

Patrick Blümel: And because without Andy, we’d already be lost in the country.

[Everyone laughs]

Patrick Blümel: We would’ve died somewhere… we would’ve died from food poisoning because he brings us to all the good places like Taco Bell and Burger King.

[Everyone laughs]

Bennett Reimann: He’s like a guiding light!

Ms. Moneynine: He’s got the inside culinary track!

Patrick Blümel: Absolutely! I mean we’re experiencing the US the way it is!

Ms. Moneynine: You’re getting the real experience!

Patrick Blümel: Absolutely!

Ms. Moneynine: Nice! Right on, you’ve gotten to take in a few sights along the way?

Patrick Blümel: Yeah, some. I mean, the schedule is always pretty tight because the US is such a giant country so we always have to drive for at least 6 or 7 hours, so that doesn’t leave a lot of time for sightseeing but whenever we have the time, for example, when we were in New York City, we had some time and we went to the Empire State Building and had a look from up there. And when we entered the city, we saw the Statue of Liberty, from the back, at least (laughs)

Ms. Moneynine: That’s closer than I’ve gotten! (laughs)

Pylo Lynger: She had a great bum!

(everyone laughs)

Patrick Blümel: She was very small! (laughs) I can’t even imagine. We’re trying to do the most we can, mainly from the car, like driving by, like, ”Oh, look that way! I got it on photo!”

Bennett Reimann: Whenever there’s time, we stop and keep on looking at things.

Patrick Blümel: I’ve said it before, but the greatest sightseeing we did was when we visited Snoqualmie, WA which is the place where Twin Peaks was shot and I’m a big, big Twin Peaks fan and I grew up with it and for me, it was like I was in the series. I went to the Double R Diner and we went to the waterfall and it was a crazy, not-so-common site.

Bennett Reimann: And we listened to the soundtrack while driving through the landscape.

Ms. Moneynine: Before you had pie and coffee.

Patrick Blümel: Yeah, at least coffee! We had the coffee in the diner, damn good coffee!

Ms. Moneynine: Excellent! So, it’s gotta be fun performing out here! The shows are going well?

Patrick Blümel: Yeah, it’s going super well! It’s interesting for us, the band’s sound, you can’t call it a German sound. I mean, we try to sound at least kind of international. I’m not singing in German. I never thought about singing in German, although we discussed recently maybe to do one German song, but we’re not doing something that people cannot understand. It’s not like we’re too local sounding. It works pretty well, here, because it also has a bit of an American touch, I don’t know, I can’t really say. Although, all of my influences are mainly European, but yeah, I guess it works.

Ms. Moneynine: It sounds a lot like The Cure Disintegration and New Order, did you guys grow up with a lot of Eighties synth?

Nima Davari: Sure.

Ms. Moneynine: Like, because there’s some of that on there (Modern Cults LP) but it’s not like a re-creation it’s more just like something you just absorbed like from being around it.

Bennett Reimann: Of course.

Ms. Moneynine: Is that fair to say?

Patrick Blümel: Yeah, yeah, sure! We don’t wanna sound like a copy of anything we like. Of course, we like The Cure, I like The Cure, I like New Order, Joy Division, and so on but I don’t try to sound like a… I was in a Sixties garage band for ten years, so I was more in a totally different scene. I sometimes try to import some of this stuff for my own performance so that it’s not a ripoff of an Eighties singer or whatever. So, sometimes, I try to take these influences for me. I really the Eighties garage revival for example there’s The Gruesomes and The Fuzztones and The Miracle Workers all this stuff that’s kinda nosey, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah! Very tough very minimalistic kind of garage music. Maybe you don’t hear that, but for me, it’s kind of there.

Ms. Moneynine: Oh yeah, like there’s no one or two things, it’s like you’ve got a lot of things going on, it’s very cool! So, I read initially that you guys started out as a duo?

Patrick Blümel: Eh, I mean not really as a duo, Bennett and I first met, and we kinda started doing something together because we wanted to do something new as I said, I was in a Sixties band, before I got really bored of the scene of Mods and Soul and I couldn’t listen to it, anymore because it was turning like just around this one little sun, like I dunno. And I wanted to do something different and I was into The Cure before that Sixties period in my life and I felt like, okay, I needed something a little darker for myself, which already was in the Sixties scene and was not very much appreciated by these people because they wanted “fun stuff” and whenever it got too dark, people were like “Why are you doing that?”. So, yeah, I wanted to do something darker, and we (Bennett) met and we…

Bennett Reimann: We tried to just make sounds and make songs but it wasn’t yet, in this situation, like playing with stuff and have fun with some kind of other drummer and other kind of sounds and effects and yeah but when the others joined, I think that was a point where Holygram was created.   

Patrick Blümel: The name, let’s say the brand, Holygram, was created when we all came together.

Bennett Reimann: And we didn’t play live, so it wasn’t a duet kind of thing. We met and we tried things out and we tried music out and then the other comes around and then Holygram started.

Ms. Moneynine: Right, so, you’re more like the two founding members.

Patrick Blümel: Right, let’s say initially, we were the initial spark and then so that the spark doesn’t go off we need wood and like in pictures.

Ms. Moneynine: Gotcha, also Modern Cults, great album, first off. I’ve heard you guys say in an interview that the theme of the album is like, um, moving to a new city and how it can be kinda lonely in the beginning. Can you elaborate a little more on that? I mean, do you still find that, were all of you moving to Cologne or did any of you already live there?

Nima Davari: Oh we all live there, right now, we’ve not always lived there.

Patrick Blümel: I mean it’s a general thing (the theme of Modern Cults) and we are writing from our perspective but I think it can be a situation everybody can be in, you know. You go somewhere and you don’t know anybody and you feel lonely and what do you do to not be alone, anymore? And there, the idea of Modern Cults came up, like different kind of scenes you join, musical scenes and whatever or any movement or any community you become part of. But on the other hand, I mean, Modern Cults is also… we kind of see our sound also as an homage to   certain bands, so, this kind of cult that is created around bands like The Cure, you have a very big community that identifies with this band and you have a very big community for Joy Division, New Order, all these very iconic bands from the Eighties and for us it’s an historical cult. The Cure are still playing and New Order, too, but when it was created, it was in the past. We were not part of that creation. So Modern Cults could be a new kind of cult. You know, a new something new, and I think that also reflects on how we are working. We don’t wanna be the new New Order. We don’t wanna be the new The Cure or something, we wanna be a new kind of band that is rooted there but is something new modern and eventually, there is a cult, in the end. That could be a different side for that I mean that is not so much in the album itself, but like more on a meta level.

Holygram, don’t call it a dark wave revival, call it a revelation.

Ms. Moneynine: I’m curious to know what the scene is like in Cologne. I got to interview someone who came from Berlin, so I got to learn a little bit about Berlin, so I’d be interested to know. Tell me a little about the scene in Cologne.

Patrick Blumel: The thing is we are not really part of a scene. It’s always funny when you meet people from Cologne who are in certain scenes, for example, in the Dark scene, who are like “We never see you. Why you never come to our parties, why do you never come to our clubs?” and so on. And for us, when we started the band, we never wanted to do a post-punk band, we didn’t want to do a goth band or new wave band and so on. That’s kind of labels we had to choose at some point so that people get an idea of what the music might be about but it has never been the initial thought of the band to be part of a scene. And so, of course, there’s different scenes. There’s a gothic scene definitely in Cologne but it’s small. It’s a very close community which is very nice to be part of partially.

Bennett Reimann: It’s like a family.

Patrick Blümel: It’s always very nice to play for these people and so on — these people sounds like I’ve separated myself (laughs) but you know, I don’t see it like that. For me, it’s sometimes a bit sad for me that people have to separate and it was a very nice experience here in the United States for us that people mix a lot more, here.

Ms. Moneynine: Oh, especially here in Portland.

Patrick Blümel: Yeah, so, that’s something that doesn’t happen in Germany. I’ve played shows and people came to me and said like “The people here are weird.” And it was a goth guy who came to me and he felt uncomfortable because there were other people there who were not goth. I always feel weird because I’m happy when there is not just one subculture at a concert because that’s the idea behind Holygram, we wanna be more than just one genre and that actually happens here in the US and that’s pretty exciting.

Ms. Moneynine: Cool, very cool! So, would you guys ever do a show with Rummelsnuff?

Nima Davari: What?

Patrick Blümel: Oh, I always wanted to go to Rummelsnuff!

Ms. Moneynine: Would you, if you had the chance?

Patrick Blümel: For awhile I listened to him quite a lot, he’s got very funny songs!

Bennett Reimann: I’ve listened to him and I’ve seen his music videos and I’ve listened to some songs with my flatmate and he’s very funny but I’ve never seen him live.

Patrick Blümel: We’ve talked about Rammstein, before. It’s (Rummelsnuff’s music) like Rammstein but sailor. Sailor wave!

Bennett Reimann: Like Sailorstein!

Patrick Blümel: Rummelsnuff, he’s a sweet guy.   

Rummelsnuff, “The Mickey Rourke of Germany”–thanks, Bennett!

Ms. Moneynine: So, what are you guys currently listening to?

Nima Davari: Nothing at the moment.

Ms. Moneynine: I mean, lately.

Patrick Blümel: Every night we listen to Rihanna’s  “Umbrella”

Bennett Reimann: It’s true

Patrick Blümel: Because Andy is so genius that he covers Rihanna’s “My Umbrella”.

Patrick Blümel: In a kind of dark rave way, it’s really awesome.

Ms. Moneynine: I must know what this sounds like!

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Patrick Blümel: We also listen to other stuff in the car. Our driver, one of our dear friends, Chris, listens to a lot of cool stuff when he’s here. When he’s driving, we’re listening to more garage punk bands and so on. It’s a nice change when you’re like playing with VNV and so on, you have to have something different.

Ms. Moneynine: Some variety…

Patrick Blümel: Right.

Bennett Reimann: The car is like the biggest mixtape of all time ‘cause of all the… sometimes we listen to songs of soul and then we listen to garage and then we kind of listen to post-punk and instrumentals and

Marius Lansing: Soundtracks…

Bennett Reimann: We listen to soundtracks, it’s like a huge kind of mixtape.

Ms. Moneynine: You’ve got like a balanced musical diet there.

From left: Pylo Lynger, Bennett Reimann, Marius Lansing, Patrick Blümel, Nima Davari, Yours Truly, Sebastian Heer (Not Pictured) Photo: Sonic Szilvi

Patrick Blümel: We love a recent post-punk band from France, Rendezvous. Rendezvous released a very nice album we’ve listened to it several times, already.

Bennett Reimann: It’s kind of hard-driven synth post-punk thing with a kind of…

Patrick Blümel: It’s more punk.

Bennett Reimann: The voice is kind of like an old English ’70’s punk band. It’s very cool, it’s like working class, something like that.

Patrick Blümel: Rendez-vous.

Be sure to nab Holygram’s Modern Cults LP if you haven’t, already, and while you’re at it, pick up Rendezvous’ debut album Superior State

Photo: Sonic Szilvi

Special thanks to Holygram, Shauna McLarnon and Shameless Promotion PR, Cleopatra Records, the cool staff at Roseland Theater, +1 Mike, Sonic Szilvi, Barbie Saint, and The Lovecraft Bar!  Rummelsnuff, if you’re reading this, please come to Portland!

PS. German fans can catch Holygram’s Modern Cults Tour in 2019:

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Ms. Moneynine

Musician, Music lover, Maniac! I’m also a freelance writer and contributor at Please Kill Me. And I’m presently calling the PDX my home. You can also follow me on Bandcamp.

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