For far too long, Holiday Friends has been in a state of flux. While a trio of musicians—singer/guitarist Scott Fagerland, his multi-instrumentalist brother Jon, and bassist Zack O’Connor—have remained as the core of this Astoria, Oregon-based alternative rock group since 2008, other members came and went. But with the addition of drummer Joey Ficken in 2015, the lineup and the collective perspective for the band are now set.
“This is the first time we’ve had everyone in the band there for the start and finish of a record,” says Scott Fagerland. “We were all able to take a step back and approach an album as a four piece that all had the same vision.”
That cohesion has resulted in Night Terrors, one of the group’s strongest efforts to date. The new album finds the group honing their already razor sharp pop hooks while embracing moodier, darker elements. Take a song like “Heyday,” which boasts a fist-pumping chorus and throwback ‘80s synth pulses that seems ripe for Top 40 radio, but is cut through with lyrics that by turns abstract and direct. Or “Loaded Gun,” a song that builds slowly on a bed of programmed rhythms and throbbing bass lines that would make Nine Inch Nails proud, then kept aloft by airy vocals and glistening atmospherics.
With a firm foundation in place, Scott allowed himself to dive even deeper as a lyricist than he has before. Throughout Night Terrors, he dares to explore the titular affliction that has him waking up some nights unable to move and, on the closing track “Young” wonders with piercing honesty about pursuing one’s artistic dreams in the face of getting older and settling down.
“This is probably the first time that I’ve really been able to write something that was so truthful and just put it out there,” Scott says. “These are the things I deal with on a day-to-day basis that I’m able to put into words now.”
The precision and depth that Holiday Friends are able to achieve was helped by the fact that in the two years since their last album Major Magic, the gents have built their own studio in Astoria that they used to record all of Night Terrors. It was a long process but one that allowed them to experiment and really lock down every last note on the album. The hard work is evident on the LP, even in how effortless it all sounds.
Night Terrors marks a huge leap forward for Holiday Friends, and one that should help continue the momentum that they’ve been gathering in recent years. They’re always a welcome draw in Portland, where they’ve sold out clubs like Doug Fir Lounge and Mississippi Studios, and been invited to open up for artists like Vampire Weekend, Bastille, and The Vaccines. The album will only add an extra bit of wind in their sails as they look toward more shows and touring through 2017, and, with their lineup now secure, an even stronger future together.