Holy Sons – In His Own Words

Holy Sons is the musical pseudonym of Emil Amos, a twenty year veteran of the ever shifting world known as the music industry. Emil’s something of a musical magpie, as a member of bands like Om, Lilacs and Champagne and Grails, as well as across his many solo albums, he’s been a musician always ready to surprise his loyal fanbase.

Released last week, Emil’s latest offering In The Garden, his thirteenth album under the Holy Sons moniker, is typically intriguing. In The Garden was recorded in collaboration with producer John Agnello, known for his work with the likes of Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile, Phosphorescent and Sonic Youth. Across it’s thirty-four minute run time, the album takes in the Bonnie “Prince” Billy like Americana of Denmark, the expansive Pink Floydish-prog of Eyes Can See Clearly and It’s My Feeling,an which suggests Emil’s been listening to many of the same records as BC Camplight. Particularly wonderful is the album’s opening track, and recent single, Robbed & Gifted; building around a wash of beautifully layered guitar sounds, Emil’s voice soars and swoops as he spins a tale of alchemy, fate and the trade-offs life presents us all with.

It might sound remarkable for an artist twenty years into his career, but In The Garden feels in many ways like an artist discovering their true voice. It’s not just the best album Emil has produced, it’s the start of an exciting new musical chapter for this most talented of songwriters.

Following the release, Emil was kind enough to answer our questions, dipping into his love of the analog recording sounds of the 1970’s, his evolution as a songwriter, finding his own way to mess with modern culture, and much more besides.

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FTR: You’re releasing your new album, In The Garden, this week, what can you tell us about it?

EA: This is the 13th Holy Sons record and the first time I’ve ever worked with a ‘producer’. John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) is also a workaholic so we fit well together immediately. I’ve basically given my life to studying arrangement and song craft and he’s given his to controlling frequencies and capturing sound, so it has been a perfect marriage.

FTR: Where does the title come from?

EA: I went to church in a small town in Georgia with my mother recently and the preacher’s theme that day was ‘evolution’. They were singing a lot of hymns that were tied in with nature and creation myths and every single song had obtuse and beautiful turns of phrases that stuck in my head. I lifted a few phrases from the hymn “In the Garden” and went home and wrote my own version of the song.

FTR:You’ve mentioned a 1970’s influence on this record, what appeals to you about that era?

EA: The seventies were a hated period when I was growing up. There was a palpable atmosphere of overt cultural depression after the crash of the sixties counter-culture. In the eighties, we often assumed the 70’s were totally bereft of meaning until punk came along. But that created a dark box to open up later on and now the 70’s essentially rule modern culture. Musically, that had a lot to do with where technology was at because it was the height of analog recording equipment and the techniques that were used to record all the definitive rock and folk records. So making a record like this can become a sort of testament to understanding why 70’s records make you feel the way they do.


FTR: Would you describe this record as nostalgic? Is that something you are keen to embrace/avoid?

EA: I don’t think the record is meant to be or really sounds nostalgic. Any attempt to be ‘retro’ would probably cancel out any potential profundity it could have. When one person hears the Beatles’ White Album they might imagine they’re hearing a dated sound… but my emotional reaction is that it largely exists outside of time. And the great challenge of any artist is to create something that can do that.

FTR: You’ve been making music for over 20 years, what’s changed? Do you think you’re getting better at it?

EA: I think you inevitably become more efficient. I set Holy Sons up to be something I could age into. If you think about the great artists like William Blake or Oscar Wilde, people may only ever know of a couple quotes they said. So you better get as good as you can at whittlingdown your ideas and sentiments into the sharpest weapon you can to get your point across quickly.

FTR: Your track, Robbed & Gifted has really struck a chord with us; you described it as being about, “the trade-off that fate can deal you.” Can you explain that?

EA: Everybody knows the feeling of how aging takes something away and gives you something new. I think the concept of ‘Robbed and Gifted’ is a good way to sum up that strange feeling in a way that doesn’t tell you what to think… it just emotes how it feels to be alive.

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FTR: You’re involved in numerous other projects (Om, Lilacs & Champagne, Grails), what makes Holy Sons different?

EA: All of these projects grant a different form of total freedom. And in offering someone 40 minutes of music, part of the art can be playing with the context of how they interpret it. I don’t live in a time where culture can really support another Bob Dylan, so I’ve found my own weird way to fuck with culture. And in a world where virtually nothing will be remembered, I suppose I’m succeeded in just getting away with what I’m doing for now. Holy Sons is very much a zone where I can transmogrify the scars of life and turn them into knowledge.

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FTR: You mention, “the joy of pulling out old 70’s American & British songwriting LPs at night while you’re pounding whiskeys by the fireplace” – is vinyl important to you? 

EA: I don’t think that the fetishism for ‘things’ will ever go away. People will always want to hold and keep things like records if their relationship with them runs deep enough. In terms of album art, I don’t think that the prism on the front of Dark Side of the Moon is insanely ‘important’, but it is important to identifying and illustrating the world in which this piece of art lives.

FTR: We really like the artwork for the record, what was the thinking behind it? Do you think aesthetics are important to you? Or would you rather just be judged on the music?

I’d been addicted to the Garden of Eden myth for a few years now philosophically, so I eventually went out looking for a way to use the imagery for the album cover. There’s definitely a mystical aspect in our relationship to the world as you touch and hear it, so artwork is essential, but probably not within the same league as the musicology itself in terms of the central articulation of a record.

FTR: Are you going to be touring this album?

EA: I’m on a plane to the West Coast shows as we speak. We hope to be announcing an East Coast tour early next year. {West Coast Dates listed below}

FTR: What’s next for Holy Sons?

EA: I’ve been slaving away on my new podcast called “Drifter’s Sympathy” for Feral Audio right now. It’s a massive project that’s essentially an audio book cataloging a sordid world that I accidentally fell into in the 90’s. Other than that I’m almost done writing the next Holy Sons record now.


In The Garden is out now via Partisan Records. Click HERE for all upcoming Holy Sons tour dates.

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