A basement studio on North Lawndale houses the meeting ground, practice space and social hub of Chicago band Holly, (stylized with a comma after their name). Home-made insulation lines the walls and guitars and other instruments line the corners. It is cramped but it feels like home. It is here that local band Holly, has really found their sound.
Holly, is Tanner Bednar on vocals and guitar, Rafael Soto on drums, Brandon Couture on guitar, Domonic Zeier on bass and Peter Gieire on keys. They each describe the band’s genre as something different. Overall, it is a mix of old school sounds, mainly R&B, soul and blues, but alternative soul remains at the core. Sharon Jones, Lee Fields, Leon Bridges and Whitney have all been cited as influences on Holly,’s work.
“We all have very different tastes but we all pull different elements from them which influences how we write and play our music,” said Couture. “We’re all over the place in terms of taste and inspiration.”
When asked about the intentional comma after the band’s name, lead singer Bednar said it was originally a punctuation quirk that the band wanted to use to lead into their songs and projects, to signify what’s coming next from the band. But while that didn’t quite pan out, it stuck and has become a favorite fan quirk, he said.
Holly, has played Logan Square Arts Festival, Lakeview East Festival, Virgin Hotel, and several other venues in Chicago. Their first album, “Letters from Lawndale,” came out in 2018 and the band is currently working on new material for their next full-length release, set to come out later this year. In preparation for the new album, they are playing a headlining show Jan. 10 at Schubas (3159 N. Southport Ave.) with Leah Jean and French Police as openers. This will be their first time headlining the venue and they said they are excited to be playing at such an iconic venue in Chicago’s music scene. Geire described it as being “kind of the culmination of what’s really the last year and a half to two years worth of work.”
This headlining show will mark a pivotal moment in the band’s career. Although they have played the venue three other times in their history, this is the longest set time they have ever been allotted and they are eager to fill that time with new material.
Photos: Erin Dickson
Over the past year, Holly, says that their songwriting process has changed. Before, one of the members would bring a complete song that they had put together and the band would help perfect it. Now, it is more common for someone to bring in an idea, which then becomes more put together as different layers of instruments and melodies are added from the other band members.
“It feels like everybody kind of owns the song at the same time,” Giere said. “It is challenging at some points but when a song does eventually work out it’s like an epiphany.”
“That’s when the magic happens,” Couture quickly added.
For Holly, this is only the beginning. “A year and a half ago we were just booking shows anywhere that would accept us and it really didn’t matter [where it was],” said Bednar. “It’s been fun watching it grow a little bit around Chicago, upping our live performance and getting tighter as a group.”
In a city that has such a rich history of soul and blues music, Holly, is excited to make their mark. They have big plans for the new year and are itching to make their dreams come true.
“We’ve been writing and recording for so long that we’re itching to get some of this stuff out,” Couture said. “We’ve gotten to the point now that we’re ready to pull the trigger and hopefully we can go on tour or something and start from there. Keep building.”
If you go: Holly, with Leah Jean and French Police / Friday, Jan. 10 / 8 p.m. / Schubas (3159 N. Southport Ave.) / $10 advance, $13 door (low ticket alert)
Featured photo: Erin Dickson