Fam’ly matters

In an odd way, groups like Ah Holly Fam’ly are precisely the reason why there are so many crappy indie folk bands out there.

In an odd way, groups like Ah Holly Fam’ly are precisely the reason why there are so many crappy indie folk bands out there. Think about it. A couple of friends with a dozen piano lessons between them get bored one night when they hear the homespun melodies of Ah Holly Fam’ly and think to themselves, “I could do that.”

Despite their effortless sound, Ah Holly Fam’ly is a meticulous, albeit dichotomous, assortment of elegance and vulnerability. Their eight-piece cast of quirky characters is the archetypal indie folk setup with one exception—they have the talent that made such arrangements clichéd in the first place.

The band is the nursling of guitarist Jeremy Faulkner, who tends to take charge without becoming the ruthless, dictator type.

“The music is often collaborative,” said Faulkner. “A lot of the musicians write their own parts and harmonies. I write the songs then everyone brings their own mood.”

Often compared to Sufjan Stevens, that “mood” consists of flute, strings and percussion, harmonized with sleepy lulls and spooky twangs. On their new release, Reservoir, Faulkner’s trembling, earnest vocal styling punctuates the far more polished tones of his co-singer and wife, Becky Dawson. The resultant balance of idyllic and kooky are the stuff that field frolicking and river-floating dreams are made of. Such comparisons seem only appropriate considering Faulkner’s Idaho upbringing.

“It’s very much a memory kind of record—me dwelling on the past and my childhood recreation. It’s kind of a deconstruction of sentimentality, that’s the tag I gave it. It’s debatable whether it achieved that or not, but that’s the basic idea. It’s more of a personal thing—me trying to get through to myself, not to dwell on the past.”

The project is biting at times and often capricious, much like the inconsistency of childhood. Sprinkled with Americana breakdowns and embedded with delicate chimes and plinks, the attentive listener is privy to a well-managed smorgasbord of sounds.

“The shows I really enjoyed were house shows with these big ensembles. Listening to a lot of classical, avant-garde music, I really wanted to do something complex and orchestrated for a long time. So I spent years getting a crew of talented musicians together.”

The chosen few stem from a wide variety of backgrounds and dispositions, from engineering to science to writing and the variance is evident in the music. Though this isn’t Faulkner’s first release, he considers Reservoir to be his first “real record.” After signing with Lucky Madison, Faulkner began shaping a more holistic approach to his work while paying more attention to details and musical nuances.

“The record is very theme-oriented. Aesthetically, it’s all meant to fit together and topically it’s linked. I feel like the songs flow one into another really well. It’s definitely a lot more baroque than anything I’ve done before.”

Despite the repeat-worthy tracks on Reservoir, Ah Holly Fam’ly is a house band at heart. Minimalist and profound, their sound is sculpted to appeal to a live audience.

“I really love to play intimate venues and house shows,” Faulkner said. “If we can get away without using mics, it’s really rewarding for me to make that connection with a group of people with as little interference as possible. If I can forego a stage, and forego a sound system, I really like that feeling.”

Whether it’s obvious or clandestine, every band has its strongest suits. Ah Holly Fam’ly’s is its niche-y, easily identifiable sound. Not to be confused with the copycat folk poseurs, perhaps Faulkner’s most exclusive trait is his focus on self-medication and expression over industry or scene success.

“To me, my music is really personal. I’m not necessarily trying to make any statement or be didactic or teach a lesson. My take on things is very individualistic. I only do it for my reasons.”