Blending indie, punk, and garage rock, Shawn Holley gives more details about his background and how Mythological Horses came to be. And man, did he keep it really real – and I loved every minute of it.
It’s with great pleasure that I share my interview with Shawn Holley of Mythological Horses.
Hi Shawn, can you tell me a bit about the band?
Mythological Horses is currently 2 people consisting of me Shawn (guitar, vocals) and Jest Commons (drums). Jest was one of the founding members of The Moldy Peaches (with Kimya Dawson and Adam Green). Over our years of touring, we kept running into each other on the road and talked about playing music together. After about 8 years of emails and these random meetings, Jest agreed to join the band. That was two years ago, and now we are best friends! Jest is now dating the mother of my original guitarist’s children… my other best friend and a founding member of Mythological Horses. The band started in Seattle, but we have recently relocated to Alaska to focus on songwriting and development of our music.
On tour so frequently with over 200 shows a year, how do you keep a clear head? Are there any diet and exercise rituals you have on the road?
There is no such thing as a clear head for any Mythological Horse! Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy (brain seizures) which forced me to change a lot of my rock n’ roll habits. After touring almost straight for over a decade, it was hard for me to slow down. Smoking massive amounts of weed every day helps a lot. Being in an underground DIY rock and roll band pretty much means that we are at the mercy of the people who are feeding us that night, so one night it’s pizza, the next night it’s tofu and steamed veggies. If we ever have money, it’s cheeseburgers all the way! Again, my vice is marijuana and Jest’s is chugging gin, tequila or whisky each morning to help with shakes. In recent years, I have been bringing running shoes on the tour van with us, running around random cities and getting lost before shows.
Of all the places you have performed, which has been your favorite so far? Why?
I’ve played over 2,000 shows and counting and don’t remember 80% of them. I will say that I love house shows more than anything! Good people, good food, good times. Oh, and that one show in Fargo, ND.. or was that Yelm, WA?
How did you end up with your former band name, Churpbleepuh?
We had recently been turned on to something called LSD.
What led you in the direction of anti-folk music?
I was writing all these acoustic songs for a long time until someone told me that I was playing ‘anti-folk music’. The next thing I knew, I was headlining the New York Anti-folk Festival in 2010. I grew up listening to a lot of early Beck, Beatles, and Butthole Surfers (you know the triple B?) and wanted to make simple folk songs that were in the vein of weirdness, such as those bands. I really liked Beck’s first album ‘One Foot in The Grave’. That album was a big influence on me as a teenager.
The video for Cold Heart really took me by surprise. Can you explain the concept and story of it?
I wrote and directed that video. The original concept was to have two farm girl lesbians falling in love on a farm. When one of the girls couldn’t show up for the first day of filming, we had to switch characters and I ended up playing the other lead character. The video was shot on an apple orchard in Dallas, Oregon, and I had been given a ten-minute horse riding lesson before filming started.
I always liked Beastie Boys videos, and wanted to use a recurring Beastie Boy theme of a mannequin being thrown through the air after being hit or struck by an object, so we incorporated that into the blood cannon scene. We used 20 gallons of fake blood hooked to a homemade pressurized blood cannon. We filmed the surgery scenes in an old abandoned computer factory that was so cold inside that the dry ice that we had for props wouldn’t work, so at the moment when you see the girls heart being removed and the ‘steam’ that’s rising.. that was me smoking weed and blowing it up from under the table. We had a lot of fun shooting that video. Brett Roberts was the filmmaker and co-director.
Interesting fact: The F/X girl who worked on my video works on the show Grimm, and our cameraman works on the show Portlandia! The production company that did the video is half-owned by Danger Erin of the MTV Jackass crew!
I know that Jack Endino has also worked with Nirvana. How was it working with him?
I’ve never personally met Jack, but have spent quite a bit of time on the phone with him. He’s incredibly professional and truly cares about music. He wanted it to sound the best that he could while being very mindful of my artistic intentions for the album. The album was recorded by Tad Doyle of the SubPop band TAD, who also performed regularly with Nirvana. Being a fan of Tad’s since I was 14, I went into the studio feeling nervous about my sensitive emo garage rock songs, and I was asking the master of heavy grunge how to make these songs a little louder, a little beefier.
How do you take a simple soft song and make it thunderous? Tad has been working with Jack Endino for the past 20 years on various projects, so it was cool to have both of them working together on this album. The album ended up being praised in the grunge rock community, both locally and internationally.
So, you’re watching Weeds and you see your band’s poster in not one, but two, episodes. How did you react?
I’ve never seen the show, but I smoke a lot of weed! I plan on watching it on Netflix soon. Big shout out to Pat Moriarity, whose poster art was featured! He has done most of Mythological Horse’s art.
What’s next for Mythological Horses?
We plan to spend this upcoming winter hunkering down in cabins in the middle of Alaska preparing for Y2K, or X Day, whichever happens first. If the world should not end, we will release a new album by early 2016.
Here is where you can keep up with Mythological Horses: