If you are a fan of Frank Turner, Skinny Lister, Gogol Bordello, or Imelda May like I am then you could do a lot worse than check out Newcastle’s Holy Moly And The Crackers. They are one of the country’s hardest working bands. You might call that a cliché, but how many others can you name that have covered the thousands of miles and played the amount of shows that Holy Moly And The Crackers have, in just two years? Whilst managing to write, record, and release a critically acclaimed album, Salem, and start their own record label.
Lead singers Conrad Bird and Ruth Patterson met when they were teenagers in 2008 and Ruth was in the midst of adapting to a diagnosis of chronic arthritis. At one stage cited for an orchestral career on the violin, she’d not played for two years. But, encouraged by their mutual passion for music, she battled through the new limitations to relearn her instrument and discovered a love and skill for singing.
Not long after the couple met costume designer and accordion player Rosie Bristow they started to perform Irish, American, and Balkan folk songs together at open mics and dive bars. They were cutting their teeth, learning the ropes.
By 2015 the trio had moved to Newcastle and met jazz/funk bass player Jamie Shields and drummer Tommy Evans (who would give Keith Moon a run for his money). The gang began to blend their love of the folk tradition with a contemporary rock sound, influenced by a wide range of artists, from Cold War Kids to Gogol Bordello and Jack White.
Since then the bombastic folk rockers have been on what seems like a never-ending tour; playing over 300 shows, 60 festivals (including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Boomtown, and Bestival), and tearing around Italy, the Netherlands, France, Portugal, and Germany. Wowing their raucous and ever-expanding fan-base with instrument-swapping, squeezebox-growling, fiddle-shredding, brass-howling hoe-downs, the group have been able to hone a sound that is organic and invigorating, forged in the sweat and heat of the live show.
In 2017 Holy Moly And The Crackers stepped up a gear. They signed a deal with Wipe Out Music Publishing and, working with producer Matt Terry at the legendary rock studio VADA, recorded and released Salem, an album that has been described as a new kind of sonic madness by music magazine and long-time supporters Narc.
The album has taken them to new heights, and has seen the band’s idiosyncratic blend of folk and contemporary rock playlisted across Spotify, clocking up close to a million streams in the process, as well as receiving rotation on BBC Radio and RadioX. This is no surprise as the album is a collection of tracks that are diverse and showcase everyone in the band. Although each number is different, Holy Moly And The Crackers have a unique and distinctive sound. A band made up of accomplished musicians, backing the crystal clear angelic voice of Ruth and the deliciously devilish voice of gravel-throated Conrad. The singles from the album are a good sample of the whole piece.
The album’s hooky rabble-rousing lead single Cold Comfort Lane has been featured internationally on adverts and TV shows, including E4’s Tattoo Artist Of The Year.
Mary is a foot-tapping wall of sound with a driving trumpet and Conrad’s folk rap combined with Ruth’s chorus perfectly smoothing off the gravel.
Salem, the album title track is a dark song, but Ruth’s vocals are sublime on it, as are the bass notes throughout the chorus.
The last single released from Salem was Let Go with its rock guitar riffs, accordion, and superb fiddle playing. How many numbers these days have an accordion solo?
Now it is 2018. 22-year-old Nick Tyler has joined on guitar. Classically trained but influenced by psychedelic and DIY punk in equal measure, he is the final piece of the multifarious puzzle that is Holy Moly And The Crackers. The final Cracker, as it were.
This year Holy Moly And The Crackers will release two stand-alone singles, recorded by Matt Terry and mixed by Dan Austin (Pixies), and back the songs up with major international festival appearances, including a main-stage appearance at Beautiful Days and Colours Of Ostrava in the Czech Republic, before embarking on their biggest UK headline tour to date in November. Currently, Holy Moly And The Crackers are selling out shows in Germany.
Their new single, Gravel Rag, is due out on 6th April and carries on where Salem left off. In true Holy Moly And The Crackers style, it is more of the same and completely different. It will be worth the wait as it is another foot tapper.
They will also head back into the studio to record their next album and continue their relationship with Matt and Dan, both of whom use dynamic formulas combining tight pop sensibility with the naturalism of garage rock and folk/roots.
In 2018 off the back of the acclaimed album and many festival appearances Holy Moly And The Crackers aim is to make this the year that their live performances get bigger and better. They want more people through the door to share in the bombastic experience. They plan to party hard and you are all invited. RockShot are looking forward to being at their Cambridge Junction gig on 3rd November and, as always, we will be publishing a review and will be catching the raw joy of the band on stage.
Having been in contact with Conrad over the last few months, I can honestly say that Holy Moly And The Crackers are not only some of the best musicians in the business, but also some of the nicest. If you want to have a great night and be part of an energetic, immersive experience then you could do a lot worse than check out the gig closest to you. Put the date in your diary, you can thank me later.
The last two years have been a whirlwind and you might think that it’s time to take a breather. But Holy Moly And The Crackers are not that kind of band. The road is their home and they have got their foot to the floor.