The resurgence of music festivals in recent years has ushered in some distinct sounds. People spend hundreds of dollars to attend these massive gatherings with the hopes of seeing their favorite surf punk band, DJ or anthem-toting rapper. The seas of drunken, pogo-hopping people who attend is incessant with its need to turn it all into a fashion show, flooding social media in the process.
Then there’s the bands themselves — brazenly uncreative and hell-bent on turning trends into dollars. It’s all a sickening mistreatment of the festival atmosphere bearing a distinctly clear message: this is where music comes to die.
But not all bands are siphoning money from our wallets. Even some with an unmistakable festival tailoring have it with nothing but good intentions. In fact, Holy Fawn, the latest Tempe group making waves in our scene, is becoming just that.
The band is a cross between Beach House and Wild Beasts, straddling a middle ground between synth pop and post-rock. Every second in Holy Fawn’s music pushes forward, cultivating an intensity that never strays from inherent melody as ethereal wide open spaces linger between each note.
Ryan Osterman, guitar and vocals, describes a fawn as “a creature that is gentle — growing into something powerful, strong and agile,” and one that has “spiritual properties of being capable of seeing into otherworldly visions and realms.” He said this in reference to Holy Fawn as a name, but I find the quote more fitting as a description of the music itself.
When you hear Holy Fawn, you’ll probably muster an image of what the members look like. But these guys aren’t quite the Urban Outfitters' indie-grunge mannequins you might expect. For example, bassist Alexander Rieth is a tattoo canvas with gauged ears you could fit a microphone through (note to the band: please do this, that’d be the greatest stage gimmick of all time).
I’d sooner expect these guys to melt my face off then woo me to sleep with the reverb beauty of a track like “Amulet.” I know, “never judge a book by its cover,” but it’s hard not to when the cover reads Mastodon and inside you find music for a gorgeously overcast day.
The buzz surrounding Holy Fawn feels unprecedented to Osterman though, as he’s unsure of its cause. Crescent Ballroom even approached the band, offering a headlining show on Nov. 29. Considering Crescent is many Arizona groups’ dream stage, playing there after only a few months of existing is a major accomplishment.
“For our live shows, we hope to create an environment that makes you forget you’re at a venue,” Osterman said. “It’s easy to just stand and stare at your feet, but that’s kind of boring. I want to see a band lose their minds and really dive into their music – that’s what I hope to convey.”
“Colossus,” the second track currently available, is a massive crescendo built to command a festival crowd. The potential for a live setting extension is evident and Austin Reinholz’s drumming towards the end could incite a manic breakdown on stage. This is where the post-rock influences should culminate. It’s a chance to differentiate themselves from bands with a similar sound and prove festival music can still be stimulating.
Osterman uses dark imagery like “the teeth of a colossus” and “frightened feral huntress” to convey the dreams he often has in response to his life’s past and present dealings. His lyrics are purposefully vague though, as he wants listeners to interpret them individually.
“I don’t really like to go into the exact explanation of my lyrics,” Osterman said. “I feel like I get something new out of listening to it or playing it every single time and I would love to share that same type of transportation with others.”
A lot of Holy Fawn’s musical persona seems derived from the chimerical thoughts in Osterman’s head. But despite the dreaminess, he has quite a realistic view on what it will take for the band to schedule the high volume tours and festival dates it so craves.
“All of us have been in bands and we realize that there aren’t lucky breaks anymore," he said. "You have to work incredibly hard, you have to engage your community, you have to create music that you 100 percent believe in, something genuine and pure."
The “bloody-hearted” devotion Osterman has for this project is apparent. It’s easy to spot fakes in the music business, and judging by the way he speaks of it, Osterman makes me confident in the band’s ability to future-proof itself.
The upcoming debut album “Realms” is slated for an early 2016 release and will be solid ground to judge whether Holy Fawn has the legs to reach its goals. As long as it lives up to expectations, the group could potentially break out.
Holy Fawn is a band taking what’s in vogue and using it to bring attention to Arizona’s small-time scene. We need this, and Holy Fawn knows it.
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