Animal Holograms are an experimental grungegaze/psych-rock band from Chicago, Illinois that was originally formed as a solo project by Jason Williams in 2012, now currently a four-piece consisting of Williams, guitarist and synth player Danny Ong, drummer and percussionist, Marshall Greenhouse (KAVA, Afrozep, Mancho) and his wife, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Shannon Smiley Greenhouse. Strongly influenced by a wide range of musical influences, the band combines Williams' often delicate though occasionally abrasive vocals--typically double tracked and layered with falsetto which is also typically double tracked, a technique charicteristic of Elliott Smith and other inspirational singers like Freddy Mercury, Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan--with complex and dissonant chord progressions and a distinctive heavy, prominent bass and drum section. The band underwent several lineup changes before ever recording or performing live, finally releasing the single, "Hello, my Dark" (a song title later re-used as a title for a different song altogether on their debut record, 'Phantasmagoric Menagerie) in 2014. The track (performed by Williams and the band's second drummer, Samuel Barsi) can still be found on Soundcloud. They are more well associated with modern psychedelia or neo-psychedelia.
The band's inception (2012) - 'Phantasmagoric Menagerie' (2015) Edit
Jason Williams is a former member of Chicago bands Rocket Miner, Tundras, Sad Arabia, Black Mother Time, Skydancer and Emblems. The band Animal Holograms started out as an acoustic/electronic hybrid solo project formed by Jason Williams in his Pilsen studio apartment during the fall of 2012. His bandmate from Rocket Miner, drummer Nick Biscardi (Pilot Cloud, Emblems, All Eyes West, Sola Rex, North by North), joined him along with an acquaintance Biscardi had recently met in the Logan Square area, Jesse Askren (of the Gunshy and ex-Polar Opposite Bear). Their first official show was at Beat Kitchen in Chicago with the band's second line-up: Williams singing and playing guitar, D.J. Pearson singing back up vocals and playing guitar, Michael Peter Nauer on bass and Samuel Barsi on drums. The band's last lineup--Williams, Dahl and Brown--lasting from December 2014 to October 2015, released their debut album, Phantasmagoric Menagerie, on August 15th, 2015 on Monoblack Records.
- The current lineup consists of Williams, guitarist and synth player Danny Ong, drummer and percussionist, Marshall Greenhouse of KAVA, and singer and multi-instrumentalist, Shannon Smiley Greenhouse. The new experimental electroacoustic hybrid percussion, effects processing and synth rig, a major catalyst for much of the band's new sound and approach to both songwriting and live performance, debuted at the Empty Bottle on March 22nd and will feature on their third album, 'Toponym Hymnal'. Other significant differences include a second lead vocalist, female, in addition to Williams' vocal, which essentially replaces Williams' ubiquitous double tracked falsetto present on virtually every Animal Holograms recording prior to the addition of Marshall's wife, Shannon, to the current Holograms roster. Her contributions to the songs go beyond her voice and include performances by her on the theremin, saw, keys, assorted hand percussion, bells and bass. The most recent addition to the band, Danny Ong, fills out the band's sound and provides the textures and atmosphere characteristic of many Animal Holograms recordings, but up until recently absent from live performances.
- Animal Holograms have played with a few notable acts such as Spindrift (during the Ghost of the West and the Ghost Town Tour [Tee Pee Records]), Odonis odonis (Fat Cat Records), Hot Nerds (threeoneG Records), Mark Shippy as Secret Means of Escape, Sound of Ceres (Joyful Noise) and the Foreign Resort (Moon Sounds Records) among others.
Musical Style and Connection with Psychedelia Edit
Animal Holograms are a psychedelic band. Animal Holograms are often referred to as a "psych-rock" band, but Williams has made it clear just how vague and non descriptive the label actually is. It means 'mind manifesting' and most good music will engage the mind. Some, though not all members--past and present--have experience with psychedelics. Williams is the only one to go on record as having a long term and close connection with the Psychedelic experience. It has both shaped him as an individual and had a significant impact on his music. Many influences on the band include Elliott Smith, the Smashing Pumpkins, Tame Impala, Autolux, the Doors, of Montreal, Dumbo Gets Mad, Nirvana, and Radiohead.
"[Psychedelics]...dissolve boundaries, they expose the absurdity of the modern condition of men and women in the world behaving irrationally inside of a hyper complex civilization and they promote iconoclastic and intensely creative modes of thinking. Psychedelic music is only comparable to psychedelic chemicals if it interfaces with the mind in a similar way."
- Jason Williams | que4 radio interview (2014)
Animal Holograms are simply not participating in the, now culturally dogmatic, misappropriation of the word as it's often, or at least some of the time, used to describe bands with heavily reverberated vocals, vast arrays of guitar pedals and a tendency to fantasize about, idealize and exaggerate or distort the nature of the zeitgeist of "the 60's" and are instead reviving the term's actual and relevant meaning in the context of the creative process and the emotionally and experientially expressive sonic and semantic structures which come out of it.
By dissolving boundaries between "pop" music and the manifold marginalized sub genres like "art rock" or "grungegaze", their songs are uninhibited by the confines created by expectations subconsciously worshiped by listeners and bands alike who favor revisiting the familiar to discovering the unknown. This in and of itself exposes one of many obvious and subtle absurdities common to humankind at large. And since music can be just about anything, in its form as a hypnotic, subliminal carrier of meaningless hedonistic messages intended to infiltrate massive populations of distracted minds, no one can argue, despite however spiritually destructive it may be, that it isn't music.
"[But]...if labeled as "psychedelic" music, a conscious effort to undermine and expose popular modes of spreading propaganda through the medium of mass produced, recycled music should be an obvious objective or at the very least, a subconscious motive driving a person or band to create music embedded in psychedelic ideals and with the collective “anti-tradition” attitude towards forms and ideas in art, an inherently psychedelic human behavior which is often most effective when interfacing with culture in awkward and uncomfortable ways to provoke a reaction and if successful, change." - Jason Williams | que4 radio interview (2014)
Band Name Edit
The band's name came from a song title made up by Williams and long time friend, Michael Nauer, while Williams was recording and assisting Nauer in the arrangements and completion of Nauer's solo material some time in 2011. Originally intended as a comical song title, the word Animal was paired with a series of other words, finally settling on the more cerebral or serious sounding word 'Holograms'. Eventually reused by Williams as a song title for a song written under an old alias in early 2012, the phrase 'Animal Holograms' finally took its place as the umbrella band name for Williams' solo musical project in late 2012. When questioned about the name's meaning, Williams has offered several answers such as...
"[Animal Holograms]...is sort of a semantic representation of the alchemical coniunctio oppositorum, a linguistic heiros gamos or spiritual union where the flesh, the real thing-in-itself is unified with the artifice and the illusion of a thing, the actual with the ideal. An animal and its hologram are made one as an Animal Hologram, much like the actual self and the imagined self are made one as the personality or psyche. Not the same thing as actual idealism, which I don't agree with, since I believe creative thought in the form of imagination defines reality, which contrasts with the philosophy of actual idealism." (Excerpt from an interview on WCRX's "The Process", 2014)
Other responses to the question of the band name's meaning range from the deeply philosophical to the meaningless and random, as he has explained in an interview with Flabby Hoffman in 2015 that the name was "pulled out of a hat".
- Phantasmagoric Menagerie (Monoblack Records 2015)
- When the World Froze Over (Silber Records 2014)
- Naked in the Water (Berserk Records' Annual 2016 Compilation "Hooliganism Vol. III")
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- Flabby Hoffman's Radio Extravagonzo: https://www.facebook.com/flabbyhoffmansradioextravagonzo￼