Although it’s looking like most of Philadelphia will be shut down today to make room for a snow storm, at the moment, Julia Holter’s show at Underground Arts is still set to go on as planned… and we hope it stays that way… This is just the second night of the experimental pop singer/songwriter’s tour in support of Aviary, her fifth studio album, which hit shelves last October, courtesy of Domino. The album has already spawned several singles and received profound praise from the likes of The New York Times, Pitchfork, and Noisey (who ranked it as the 14th best album of 2018).
Last Wednesday I got a chance to chat with Julia Holter. And while she must enjoy the critical recognition, she seems to be the happiest to hear what her fans think of the record… and she has definitely noticed some patterns: “I’ve been signing records after shows and people seem personally affected. There have been a lot of people who have said things like, ‘I know that probably no one’s gonna like this record, but it really means a lot to me [laughs],’ but there are a lot of people assuming other people won’t like it, but they do… People seem very personally attached to it.” And when I ask her how she feels the album compares to her previous work, she expresses a similar sentiment: “It’s a personal record and very dear to me. I mean, that could be said of all my music, but my last record was a little more of a specific endeavor, while Aviator was very intimate to me.” Of the influences behind Aviary, Holter tells me that there were a number, but admits that there were certainly some things especially present in her mind: “It’s a mix of things I’ve been into. The easiest thing for me to say is I thought a lot more about arranging. I thought a lot about Alice Coltrane’s Universal Consciousness and the Blade Runner Vangelis score.
My own, personal favorite track off of Aviary is “Underneath the Moon,” which would seem to blend the best kinds of late ‘60s art rock with moody ethereal wave. I ask Julia how this particular track came about and she tells me, oddly enough, that it was actually a somewhat avant-garde attempt at some form of dance music.
“I wanted to make something that was fun and cathartic dance music, but obviously not dance music in the traditional way… I wanted to work a lot with percussion. I just wanted to be fun and exploratory and wild and I just wanted it to be dancey in some way, and I mean, I kind of wanted the whole album to be that, but especially this song. It was also inspired by St. Vitus’ Dance, which has a lot of religious connotations, but I just liked the idea of this story where a group of people go into convulsions from dancing too much, which is basically what I wanted to do.”
I probe Holter as to which cities she’s most excited to visit, although she doesn’t take the bait, claiming to be, “Equally excited for all cities,” although she does admit to being anxious to get back to Philly, in addition to Detroit and St. Paul, where she has roots, and some of the places she hasn’t played before. As far as what can be expected from her stop tonight (hopefully!!!) at Underground Arts, she tells me that fans of her latest album will not be disappointed: “It’s gonna be a 6-piece band — a big-time band — that sounds like the record. It’s basically the same band on the album. It’ll definitely be colorful and really fun and crazy.” She also tells me that she expects to spend much of 2019 on the road… in addition to a few other things she’s working on: “We are going to do more touring, just a lot of touring. And I’m working on a project with my partner, Tashi Wada, which will be at the Chicago Midwinter festival… I’m just working on a lot of different projects.”