INTERVIEW: The Holy Knives on quarantine jams and working with the prolific Jamie Hince

Brothers Kyle and Kody Valentine are the exceptional brains behind The Holy Knives. The duo’s low, textured vocals and vibrant country vibes make The Holy Knives’s brand of rebellious rock even more unique.  Their latest release is a remix of their single “Always Gone” by Jamie Hince of The Kills. Highlighting western infused guitars, layered vocals and eerie melodies, the track lingers with listeners long after it is over.

New Orleans born, but San Antonio based, The Holy Knives are known for their boisterous sold-out shows where they enchant audiences with their melancholy charm and twangy grit. Their reflective releases transport you to a wild world of pure adventure and fantasy. Culture Collide spoke with Holy Knives discussing their conception,  partnership with Jamie Hince and more.

You are both brothers who have formed a band together. What is it like working with your sibling and what inspired the two of you to create this project together?

The two of us have been making music together since we both picked up the guitar around the same time when I (Kyle) was around 12. We wrote songs together, formed bands, toured, etc. The Holy Knives is the 3rd or 4th iteration of our musical self. Working together has always felt natural because, I’d say, we get along better than most siblings. I think it makes working easier because we have a shared history and a shared language, so communicating and forming ideas is intuitive and almost second nature at this point.

Your new remix of “Always Gone” is a collaboration with Jamie Hince of The Kills. How did you end up joining forces for this innovative release?

The short version is that our manager, Vicky, happens to dog sit for him, haha. We have a song called “Stray Dog” and The Kills have a song called “Heart of a Dog”, and she showed Jamie our song joking that she thought our dog song was as good as theirs. Dogs are a major recurring theme, as you can see. When we made the Always Gone EP we sent it over to him and he liked it and we decided to do a remix. We discussed our love for Portishead and Massive Attack as major influences on our music, and Jamie liked the idea of working elements of that style of music into the remix.

What is the message behind the track and do you feel the remix heightens its meaning?

When we fall in love with someone or something, we usually aren’t thinking about where it will lead years down the line, we just know we want it more than anything in that moment. The products of lovestruck decisions often determine the course of our lives & this song is about wondering where my own decisions have led me and what it means to be in love. I think the remix shows another side to this feeling by giving the song an overall injection of energy; It feels like knowing something is going to end, but soaking up every last bit of it while you can and enjoying it & I think that’s a potent feeling in love.

The band is known for possessing deep, warm vocals and a unique western flair, are there any artists who have influenced your sound?

I think as a lot of artists would say, there are almost too many influences to name. For the Always Gone EP, we were highly influenced by the atmospheres and worlds that 90s trip-hop acts like Portishead and Massive Attack created. We’ve always strived for trying to create our own sound, attempting to do something no one else has done before. We don’t want to be another zero after the decimal. Combined with creating the right mood, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, and Alex Turner were/are major influences on the songwriting front. What if we took the songwriting approach of these legendary baritones and mixed it with the sounds and style of trip hop, what would happen? We in no way even approached the power and beauty of all these influences, but they all played a major role in the creation of this EP.

I understand your band name was derived from The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky and the poetry book The Singing Knives by Frank Stanford. Why are those pieces of work so meaningful to you?

We’ve come to realize that we are attracted to the hyper-stylized in the world of art. Both Jodorowsky and Stanford have made works that no one else could have made. Both of these works, when I first encountered them, floored me. I had never seen or read anything like it. I’m not sure if I even immediately loved them or understood them–they just made me go What is this?! Taking our name from these works serves a beacon and a reminder to ourselves of what we’re striving to make, something that is truly our own. This draw toward hyper-stylization comes through in our aesthetic approach as well. Our favorite show is Twin Peaks, and we make more than obvious visual cues to that. I even designed my living room to look like The Black Lodge.

Lastly, how have you two passed your time in quarantine?  Reading any good books or listening to any new artists?

Kody had probably the nerdiest idea of anyone I know in quarantine. He started an Infinite Jest book club. I joined in. We’re about halfway through the book right now, and there are more than a few eerie parallels in the book to the times we’re in right now, which has been interesting to see and discuss. Plus, the book is just damn good. As for music, Run the Jewels has been on repeat since RTJ4 came out since it’s so mind-bogglingly good and a propos. In light of the protesting, we both watched 13th, which we recommend to everyone who hasn’t seen it. It very logically and cogently paints the portrait of systemic racism and how we are far from being where we need to be in this country. And, like many artists living through this possibly pivotal moment, we’re rethinking what the role of the artist is and should be in the larger conversation we’re all part of right now.