Holding Absence‘s highly anticipated debut album released two weeks ago. Reflecting the Welsh band’s monochromatic aesthetic, Holding Absence explores light and shade of life and love. Constantly curious, we reached out to the band’s vocalist/lyricist/frontman Lucas Woodland about the album and its eleven songs, keen to learn more. Lucas generously took time while the band was on the road (for their UK & EU tour) to pour out his thoughts about the album and its songs.
Could you share with us the inspiration or thought behind the order of songs of the record?
“The track listing for the album was never something we were too adamant on, but we always felt like certain songs needed to be in certain places. “Wilt” was written as the closer, it was always going to be the closer. “Marigold” was always going to go in the middle – I liked the idea of this album being split into two halves and using “Marigold” as somewhat a divider. The opening of the album wasn’t always “Perish”. “A Godsend” was actually tracked to open the album! Our live shows are very up and down, and we felt like the album would benefit from that same feeling of unrest.”
“Perish” feels beautiful with darkness looming over it. I’d love to know more about this, in particular the “Every blind spot” lyric.
“”Perish”, though opening the album, is lyrically based after the relationship, and one of the last tracks in the narrative. I really wanted to parallel the lyrics of “Perish” and “To Fall Asleep”. “Perish” opens the first half but looks at the relationship of love and depression in hindsight. “To Fall Asleep” opens the second half and looks at that relationship in warning. When you pair these lyrics together there’s a kind of an “I told you so” feeling, the narrator was warning his partner of the struggles he faced, and then that partner showed no compassion and let the love die.
“The “Every blindspot and every nicety I learned about your heart… I watched them perish before me” line is like a final, begrudging observation. The point is that, every small detail you learn in love becomes so important, but when a relationship dies, those details become meaningless so quickly. It’s a very sad thought.”
“Your Love (Has Ruined My Life)”
With “Your Love (Has Ruined My Life)”, I’m intrigued by the idea of trying love in another lifetime, and I’m curious about the inspiration behind that.
“A few years back, I really got into a show on Netflix called The OA. Not many spoilers, but the show is very much about love, death and the afterlife. The show taught me a very interesting insight in regards to love transcending this mortal life, and that played into a few themes for this album. Tracks like “Your Love” and “Wilt” look at the idea of love failing in this life, but maybe working in the afterlife – Be it in reincarnation or heaven (or whatever).”
“Like A Shadow”
“Like A Shadow” feels like a fading relationship and letting go of it too. I love the image of ‘moonless midnight’ and other metaphors that feel timeless. What inspired this one?
“”Like A Shadow” was me being a professional over an artist. I knew this song was going to be one of the albums hits and knew I had to treat it as that – I didn’t want to overdo it lyrically here. This record is one of the earlier songs in the narrative and looks at this dangerous love from afar that the narrator knows he shouldn’t entertain, but still does. Both love and depression are pretty nonsensical – ‘Moonless Midnight’ and ‘Pitch-Black Sunshine’ were two different imagery-based lyrics of things that cannot, or should not be. When depression eclipses the light of day, or love blinds you, those are two intense and often unexpected experiences.”
“You Are Everything”
The line “It’s been a thousand weeks” of “You Are Everything” wrecks me. As does the “If you hear through the grapevine” lyric. It feels like a suicide note in a way, while also describing the work invested and how hard it is. What’s this one about?
“”You Are Everything” is a song very much about believing in yourself, but also the fear of failing. The mid-section is very personal to me; like a reminder for myself of how hard I’ve worked, and how uncompromising I’ve been all my life, and never to stop that. The 1000 weeks lyric is a reference to my age pretty much – I was just over 20 years at the time of writing. “The fire in my heart has lived a lifetime” is a lyric from my old band, believe it or not. Lyrically this song saw a lot of changes, but that verse was written in one sitting on Christmas Day about 2 years ago. It really rolled off the tongue and onto the paper.”
We’ve spoken about “Marigold” together before and the poem that inspired it. It’s another beautiful track capturing a fading relationship. I wondered: What will Marigold ‘never know’?
“”Marigold” was penned before I’d even started writing the love saga, and ironically it sits right in the middle of it all. The poem is very detailed and pretty much every word has a double meaning. It uses flowers as a metaphor for the documentation of a love that begins to slowly die.
“The first verse sees the love begin. An orchid, is a flower that can bloom even in mud. Flowers sleep at night and wake at day. Both these indicate that this love is stronger and more resilient than most. ‘Harmless delight’ is a reference to a poem entitled “Hymn To The Flowers”. The second verse sees the love take a shake due to the narrator’s negligence. “Notus” is the Greek god of the south wind.
“The third verse sees the love rekindle, sleepless nights, gift-bearing, etc. Over time the narrator realises he sees love different to his partner. Acacia symbolises ‘Friendship’, as time goes by. “Rain” further strengthens the roots and pushes their love farther back.
“Verse four is the death of love. A corpse is a type of flower – It’s Indonesian name is carrion, which means “the decaying flesh of dead animals”. As time passes, the lover becomes just a withered outskirts to the narrators life, as symbolised by the wallflower.
“As for the “You’ll never know”, I like the idea of that never being answered. The relationship ends very messily, but I like the idea of maybe the narrator falling out of love before being trodden on. It leaves more room for interpretation that way.”
“To Fall Asleep”
“To Fall Asleep” comes across like a call for understanding, while also not wanting others to be negatively affected by the narrator’s struggles?
“This song is one of the first tracks in the narrative and like I said earlier, this song acts as a warning. It kinda says “Our life will be rocky, and is that okay?”. One of the best overview lines here is “I am nailed to this cross and I must carry it alone. I’d ask you to hold my hands but they’re worn to the bone”. The narrator is saying that they have this burden that they are always going to be attached to, and even if they could ask for help, they’re physically incapable. Another song I left some open imagery for – What IS the bittersweet remedy? Love? Drugs? God?”
What a great video “Monochrome” has. I get all moved and messy every time when the Lucas ‘character’ dressed in white finds his band and is at home finally. Is the video sharing a different perspective in comparison to the song?
“The video to this song has pretty much no relevance to the lyrics, but still holds a really strong message in my opinion. This song is one of the last chapters to the story, if anything, it’s based completely after the story. It’s like a calm hindsight, whereas “Perish” is quite a bitter one. One of my favourites lines on this track is “I sat in your life with nowhere to hide, and still you couldn’t find me”. It’s spoken in such a calm tone, but the topic is something that would have once been quite spite-filled. It brings me peace that the narrator does heal someday.”
“A Godsend” is so special. I think I read a tweet where you explained that you weren’t religious? To me this has it hit even harder in the context of someone feeling that desperate.
“The power in this track is the fact that, yes, I am atheist. God is a very fascinating thing to me. People turn to God on their deathbed so often, so the idea of somebody morbidly depressed turning to God, fully aware that they don’t believe in it… It’s just really sad. I wanted to not use too many words here, and let the few sentences speak for themselves. My favourite lyrics here are, “A message in a bottle, a whistle in the wind… And I’m still whistling”. To me that says, even though I know this is hopeless, I’m still trying and I’m still praying that things will change.”
“Last Of The Evening Light”
“Last Of The Evening Light” feels like one of the darker songs of the album. It seems like an expression of knowing that there HAS to be an inverse to darkness, yet not feeling it?
“This is the darkest song on the album, no doubt. This was inspired by Martin Creed’s “Work No. 227”: An installation art piece of a blinking light. The light goes on for 5 seconds, off for 5 seconds, and repeats. There’s a lot of speculation about it, as it’s seemingly very simple, but the idea of rationalising the dark times and the light times in life is really inspiring to me. The message is that, though dark times may come, and they may seem infinite, they will ALWAYS go. It’s up to you to bask in the sunlight and endure the dark in equal measure.”
“I prayed until my hands were red
A couple times I prayed for death
I fell in love and back out again
I learned that I was everything“
Yet another song that makes me cry, “Purge”‘s lightness feels like an angel from above, commenting and observing. It’s so beautiful, seeming to capture a series of experiences?
“This is the “Harry and Dumbledore at the train station” scene of the album. It’s that final moment of clarity and overview. A moment to contemplate all that’s happened and all you’ve learned in the last 45 minutes. Every line is a reference to another track, and provides a real anthology.”
It very much helps to notice the quotation marks in the lyrics for “Wilt” versus listening to the words as they are! The song strikes like an ending and ties in to the idea of trying again in another lifetime. This album is divine.
“I’m glad you mentioned the quotation marks! They’re littered throughout the album, and help make the songs feel bigger – As if these are conversations or flashbacks, and you’re not just seeing the narrators point of view. It’s important to know that, though “Wilt” is the end of the album, and the final bittersweet goodbye of the relationship, it is NOT the last song in the narrative. This song was supposed to be that last time you see the person you once loved so dearly. You’ve cried until your eyes were sore, and aren’t sure whether to leave or stay. “Hold me now, for a little bit. Burn it down, get it over with” helps paint the juxtaposition where you know you can’t be with this person any longer, but don’t want to just walk away from everything. It’s a very sad, contemplative goodbye. I really wanted to capture a moment to undo a million moments here.”
More about Holding Absence: https://www.holdingabsence.com/