It’s been almost a week since our last interview. Now, a conversation with Erik Virtanen of Holland Creek:
Dingus: Holland Creek has got to be one of the best Dingus finds, care to give us some background?
Virtanen: Holland Creek is a solo project, or ‘solo collective’, I like to call it (b/c of guest invites), started by me, Erik, in Montreal. In the city, I was, and still am a songwriter for an indie pop band called Darling Demaes (named after dead porn star Lea Demae). We put out some music in 2007/08 to some really nice reviews and were fast-tracked into some festivals, etc. It was all exciting – named one of the Montreal bands of the year by Montreal Mirror (the free arts newspaper) and really became well-supported by people behind the music in the city. BUT, like most bands, we lost some key members in the middle of it all, which REALLY sucked, and went on hiatus, which is why Holland Creek started.
You have a pretty deep musical history. Do you hold HC to the same standard as the other projects you’ve been a part of?
Yeah, I definitely put the same care into every record, hold them all to the same standard so-to-speak, which I guess is if I think other people might want to hear it, and if it has some things to say that I think other people could maybe connect with, like shared experiences.
“Houses” is unique from everything else I’ve done though, not only from the semi-improvised spirit, but also because it was mixed in Los Angeles. I think that made a difference. Bringing in another city. Bringing in America!, haha. Jimmy Fahey mixed it at an amazing studio that saw the likes of Beach Boys, Tom Petty, and Tool. Now they do more pop stuff – like, actually while I was mixing “Houses” there during overnight sessions, Good Charlotte was recording by day. It was kinda funny because I guess they had some privacy things, so I wasn’t allowed in the studio until like 2am after everyone was gone. Then me and Jimmy would mix till daylight. And then one time Creed – yes, Creed – needed to do vocal fixes and took over the studio for like two weeks, day and night – most of my trip there. So we had to mix via gmail chat when I was back in Montreal, like Jimmy would send snippets of songs through the chat and we’d make adjustments like that. But I went into the studio one day and Jimmy showed me why Creed took over the studio — they locked it down, the whole place for one single channel in a giant mixing board- like one little microphone on a mic stand stood alone in the studio for a couple weeks and no one was allowed in. Actually in the Montreal Mirror Arts Magazine, Creed’s record got a 0/10 review, so I felt vindicated for losing all that mixing time because of them. Well, it was all for a reason I guess – because by mixing over gmail chat, we did it for like 2 or 3 months. so I got to spend way more time mixing and tweaking the record because of that.
But for standards, to speak honestly, the first time I sat down and listened to “Houses” after it was completely finished, I felt like it was the first record I was completely proud of from start to finish. At that time, the songs, those circumstances – oh, I was basically poor during all this time too, which sucked – I don’t think I could have done much better. Now, I’ve learned more about making records for the next stuff – but for “Houses”, that album is exactly what it is supposed to be, and I would not change a single note.
Do you have a favorite song? I know that’s like a favorite child, but everyone has a favorite child…
Actually, yeah I’m pretty straight-up about favourites songs, but I guess it’s not so much favourite as different songs mean different things to me. Every song on “Houses” has it’s own story – from writing to recording – so they each mean something different to me.. and depending where I am in life, different songs resonate more. ”The Square Hallway” started the floodgate. It was the first song written of “Houses”, and had a message, images, and a feeling that led to so many songs. That’s why it’s the opening track. A few years back, I woke up at like 3am and wrote out these two dreams I’d just had, which are the verses (wandering around and seeing all your friends at a celebration, then realizing you’re at a funeral) and the chorus (swimming in the ocean when the water disappears), and wrote the music that night too. The next morning I recorded on garageband the arrangement you basically hear on the record (but no drums, organ, or piano).
But every song has a story. ”Claustrophobia” I wrote on a bus to a show in Toronto. I was having severe anxiety problems for no reason and could barely leave my place, thinking I was becoming agoraphobic. I was cancelling shows because of it at the time, but was determined to go and play this show in Toronto, and faced the shitty hell-like feelings of anxiety. So writing it out on the way helped a bit. ”The Red Staircase” is about 3 important events in my life that completely changed who I was. you know, what I mean?
You are a person of a certain mindset, then an event happens, be it death or loss or seeing something or whatever – and for the rest of your life, you are now different. So that one is pretty special to me, and the images led to the next album of songs I wrote (which I’m hoping to record soon!).
Having released the album, does it feel like you got a lot off your chest?
Well, the stuff never leaves. But musically – definitely. Like walking upstairs or snorting lines– once you are done the album, you are immediately looking for another line to snort and then musically those songs are now etched in stone, so in a way you kill them at the same time you record them. But that’s why I enjoy playing them live still, because they stay alive and still grow a bit, I guess as long as I’m alive.