Music has a knack for echoing the place from where it comes from. Detroit and New York City are known for punk and garage rock sonically representing their grit. Nashville is the nucleus for the twangy tunes of the South and Los Angeles has always had a steady stream of glamorous pop coming from its bright lights. Now what about Rhode Island? The state is very diverse when it comes to the styles that play the various venues within it but reggae and surf music has reflected the vibe of its many beaches for decades. Providence musician JD Holiday, the moniker of Hopkinton native John DeTora, is putting his own spin on the latter with harmonious melodies and smooth riffs.
Holiday and I had a talk about him making the move to Providence a few years ago, embracing a certain style, a new backing band he has and a few new records he’ll be putting out soon.
Rob Duguay: Five years ago you moved from Hopkinton to Providence. What made you want to make the move and did it take any adapting for you to come from a rural area to a city?
JD Holiday: I always wanted to live in a city and moving to Providence was always the next step up for me. After friends moved after high school, I got a place and set my sights on being a part of the music scene there. It did take some adapting, traffic being the biggest thing that took some adjusting to, but the lively vibe more than made up for it.
RD: That’s awesome, a place like Providence is perfect for anyone who is pursuing the performing arts.
RD: There’s an evident surf rock aesthetic with your music. What do you consider the creative spark that made you embrace this particular style?
JH: I grew up with my Mom playing The Beach Boys and the ’60s pop a lot in the car. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it had a huge influence on my musical taste. What really got me into the style as an adult was “Album” from this band out of San Francisco called Girls. I loved the way it made me feel when driving around the beautiful Rhode Island coastline. That album along with Vampire Weekend and some of the surfy Ramones songs really set the tone for the kind of music I knew I wanted to make. It just makes you feel good.
RD: Back in August you released the track “Run Away” on literally every streaming platform on the internet. It’s sort of an introduction to your backing band the Jetplanes consisting of Bryan Destefano on drums, Tyler North on the keys and Marina Phom on bass. How did you go about getting everyone together?
JH: I’ve been friends with Tyler since high school and he’s the best musician I know, so him and I made a band during high school called Happy Cooter with another friend of ours. Eventually I met Bryan and his girlfriend Marina at the New England Institute of Technology during college and we quickly became friends with our shared musical interests. The Jetplanes themselves have their own band known as Panzerchocolate.
RD: I know them, they’re fantastic.
JH: Yeah, they really rip with some harder faster stuff. I asked if they wanted to help me play live and the rest is history. They really make playing live fun after playing solo for so long.
RD: Do you find it easier with either songwriting or recording to have a backing band instead of you playing all the instruments?
JH: Yes, both are much easier with The Jetplanes. When rehearsing a new song we’ll start with the basics and let the song naturally evolve. Marina comes up with some great backing vocals that I could never think of and Bryan is a really great drummer, which is great because drums aren’t my strong suit. With Tyler I can just have him freelance because I know he’ll come up with something great. Recording is easier because I don’t have to play as many instruments and can listen to the performances from a more objective standpoint. Soon we’re going to experiment with live tracking which will make it all even easier.
RD: So far you’ve put out a ton of singles but you haven’t released a full-length or an EP yet. Can we expect one of those things from you in the future?
JH: I’ve been developing my style and recording process since I started, with the goal to get better and really find what I wanted to do before committing to a full length album. As an audio engineer, a lot of the fun comes during the mixing process. Those earlier recordings were experimental in a way. Each single taught me a lot about how to paint the full picture with recording and mixing. Plus, going to school for audio production I knew what was possible with the right equipment and technique.
You can hear the difference when comparing to my older recordings that “Run Away” marks a huge improvement in quality of both overall sound and performance quality. With all that being said, I think the songs themselves are more important than the minute details of the recordings. Now that I know what I want to do, I’m working on a more stripped down full length album for next summer. There will also be a live tracked Jetplanes EP coming sooner. I just hope I can reach more people with my music before then so that fans can make a real connection with the album.