We sat down with Pool Holograph to discuss their momentum going into 2019, how their latest two singles provided them with a fresh start, the peaks and pits of writing music, and more. Indulge below and make sure to follow the band on social media.
Hey, we are Pool Holograph. Made up of Wyatt Grant (lead vocals/guitar), Zach Stuckmann (bass), Jake Stolz (drums), and Paul Stolz (guitar).
Pool Holograph started as a solo project for Wyatt and besides Paul and Jake being brothers, you all met while living in Rogers Park and attending Loyola University. What was the moment you guys realized the band was going to be more than a college band?
Wyatt: The first wave of music Zach and I created was valuable to us. Adding Jake as our drummer helped us regroup and hone in on what we want to do, which in the long run has kept us making music to this day.
I met Jake on a train on St. Patrick’s Day through our mutual friends. Both of us instantly started to talk about music and as we got off the train and started to walk home we were weirdly going down the same streets and trying to figure out who was following who home. Zach and I were living together and it turned out that Jake had been living across the street from us this whole time and we could see his drum kit from our window. It was very spooky.
Zach: Adding Jake definitely helped us take the band to a new level and then adding Paul helped round us out, but I don’t think there was ever a thought that anything spectacular or more serious was going to emerge. All of us were just friends helping each other out musically and looking for an excuse to play.
Ever since becoming a band you have agreed that the writing process is very collaborative and you even have a google drive titled “Revolving Door” that you all put your individual pieces on. What would say are a few of the defining elements and visions you all share for the band that allows you all to work cohesively?
Wyatt: One thing our band enjoys is that, while it is collaborative, we don’t all navigate towards one center. Our collaboration is more fragmented and when we capture something in a Google Drive, we enjoy the friction of it not really sounding like us or it being outside of ourselves. It is kind of the joy of making art in general, you make things and you didn’t even realize you could do it. We don’t aim to meet in the middle. We like the tension of a new band image bubbling up and us having to deal with it.
Zach: In a sense, all of us are makers and curators at the same time. All of us have similar interests and taste in music of what we think will sound good, whether we are jamming or working on writing a piece. However, what it really comes down to is that we all have our own individual interests and would never play something that someone else in the band had played. Instead, we are able to see things in each others playing and can point out something that sounds good that they may have not heard. Intuition is our main factor.
At the end of November, you released “Contours” and “No Escape.” It has been mentioned before that the band is “trying to pull in more realism, rather than the Sci-Fi elements the last release had.” Do you think these two singles stick to that?
Wyatt: That was the initial goal if anything just to help us navigate a new space. If a strategy seems good to your group creatively, everything follows suit because everyone starts thinking in that vein. As a band, we tend to have a “vision board” we springboard off of. For these two tracks, it was a direction and writing prompt that excited and led us to create in a more earthly and terrestrial manner. Kind of more concrete and less heady.
Paul: All of us wanted a palette cleanser. “Transparent World” as an album and our last release was sitting on us for a while. We wanted to get out of that mindset and start fresh. It is nice to releases a few singles quick like “Contours” and “No Escape” and have that serve as our new palette that our band bases ourselves upon.
Zach: it is a lot more productive and less constricting to work through exercises and call those the single rather than thinking this is the direction we have to go in because you end up feeling stuck by it. We want to throw out prompts and see how people react to it. From the start, our goal was to have this be a fluid project and allow things to rise to the surface. I envision it as taking a scoop of sand from the ocean and sifting it out to see what you’re left with that time and explore it until you find something that has meaning to you. Then when you are ready, you dump it out and take the next scoop.
Let’s play a little game called Peak and Pit. I’m going to ask you each to highlight the peak being the high-point and the pit being the low-point of making the two-track EP.
Paul: Peak: The songs were not fully flushed out by the time we recorded them. I wrote my guitar part for “No Escape” in the control room a couple hours before I played it and was really nervous because I didn’t know exactly what or how I wanted the guitar to sound. It finally clicked and when that happened it was the best feeling.
Pit: We hadn’t worked that hard on the songs before going to record because we didn’t realize how little time we had. I was stressed out about it and I remember the last Sunday of recording I crashed completely. I couldn’t spend any more energy at that point and it was definitely a struggle to get through. In the end, though, it was a very rewarding weekend.
Wyatt: Peak: At the end of “No Escape” I took a microphone, a symbol and sang and played at the same time. It created really high gain and delay at the same time. It was new and interesting. It created weird feedback that I am still fascinated by.
Pit: I had written a lot of different lyrics for “No Escape” and weirdly that was a fast song to come up with and we didn’t want to talk about much because we knew we were all happy with it. The last time we played it was three weeks before heading into the studio. There is something about preserving it for the unknowns that you can’t anticipate that is special, but lyrically it was gut-wrenching to figure out what I exactly wanted to say from all the lyrics I had written. It is a particularly tough thing when you lose trust in yourself and start second-guessing your creative process so I ended up having to do the vocals on a later date. It was challenging because I was trying to relate lyrics in a new way and to take routes I hadn’t normally taken.
Zach: Peak: I just ran into an old friend and he was telling me that he was excited about these new releases. He has listened to us for a long time and he liked all of it, but it wasn’t until these two releases that it clicked for him and that the band made sense. In the past, it had been hard for him to separate friends and music, but those two songs allowed him to be completely apart from us as people and take in the songs. It was great to hear.
Pit: Mine goes along with Paul. It doesn’t specifically have to do with recording, but that weekend set off a chain reaction of panic attacks. I’m good now, but that was a tough month and it sucked because we were right in the middle of recording and I was out of commission. It was such a low point because it affected recording.
In general, the band is known for lyrics that challenge the listener and are meant for adventurous souls. When asked before about lyrics, you have described your own as, “a naive beautiful lens and poetry with no punchline.” How do you continue to stay inspired and write in a poetic way?
Wyatt: Hahaaa wow, sorry that sounds conceited. In the past few years, I have gotten more into Grateful Dead and studied a lot of Robert Hunter’s, lyrics. The narrative and ethos he creates for the band inspire me to do the same in our music. Stylistically we are not similar, but I like the variety of subjects they approach and the variation of the imagery. I gravitate towards subjects I don’t typically see day to day or that have polarizing concepts. For example, “Contours” is a you got bumped on the head love song and are delirious in love. “No Escape” is a very faceless, carbon copy of a punk song. They sort of contradict one another. I like to know that I am setting something into motion that doesn’t feel easy and that encourages people to draw their own conclusions.
This past September you performed at Audiotree Live Music Festival, which is a festival reserved for “celebrating new and emerging artists from all over the world.” How does it feel to be recognized as that and how was that experience as a whole?
Zach: There were a lot of Chicago bands there so it felt like a big migration. It was great hanging out with that community and having two days dedicated to music and being able to talk to fellow musicians that you normally see for a few minutes at a random venue.
Wyatt: It was the biggest show our band ever played and it was fun because we got to see other bands we look up to in Chicago, like NE-HI, perform and it was overall a very centering experience. We got a lot of support and made some new friends which was nice.
Paul: We had the most blissful show experience there and the most terrifying. We played an after show Saturday night of the festival and that show was beautiful. We played a few songs live for the first time ever and they were well received and it was a very homey and welcoming crowd. Then Sunday is when we played our actual show for the festival and we had the most technical difficulties ever including a bee that was attacking me and Wyatt. Pool Holograph was right after Post Animal and they played amazing and sounded great. Then it was our turn and an amp blew out, but I think we weathered the storm well and still had a lot of fun.
You all are not only DIY when it comes to music, but you also design and print your own t-shirts and posters. What do you enjoy most about having another way to express the band’s vision through design?
Wyatt: Getting to change anything at any time and being able to do short runs of designs. Sometimes we will only create ten shirts of one design so it is fun to tell people they have one of the ten shirts made. I also have a screen in my house that allows us to print our own shirts and choose our own colors on a whim. Homemade has worked really well for us and I think we are going to stick with it now that we know what we are doing. The first time Zach and I ever printed Pool Holograph shirts we used the wrong ink. Everybody’s ink came off in the wash. We promise not to do that again.
Zach: We spent the whole night amping ourselves up saying it was our coolest design yet and then the next day we got texts saying “my t-shirt is gone.” We basically sold people cream t-shirts. We have learned our lesson since then.
With 2018 coming to an end let’s take a moment to reflect on the past year and what 2019 will hold: Spotify is known for their end of the year wrap-ups that let Spotify listeners review their year and have fun seeing who they listened to the most, etc. However, for a band do you look at your numbers with the same thrill or do you treat it as a true measure of the band’s success for that year?
Zach: I think it is just kind of fun. It is cool to see that and I am motivated by it. At the same time if there were fifty people listening to us we would still be a band. The numbers don’t change the band. It doesn’t feel tangible until you meet the people behind the numbers. Seeing people come out to shows and personal messages we receive from people that like our music is what really hits us and means a lot.
Paul: I think we got lucky and someone at Spotify likes us. It is cool to see people out at our shows because they genuinely like our music and it isn’t forced support from friends and family.
Wyatt: We mention it to say “thank you”, but it is not a serious measure of the value of our music. If that was the only thing holding up our posture as a band it would be extremely superficial. Despite that, all of us are thankful people are listening to us and we have been able to reach people outside of Chicago through the virtue of digital music.
Pool Holograph will have their first show of 2019 at TNK (Tomorrow Never Knows) Fest. How do you want this show to set the tone for 2019?
Zach: The show is indicative of how awesome the community Lincoln Hall and Schubas has been able to create. I feel grateful to get to be a part of that.
Paul: Resolution for 2019 is to make sure a full-length album gets put out and dive into the creative zone.
Wyatt: Pool Holograph has a lot of new music to play and hopefully some new releases coming out in the early days of 2019. The band is currently building another full-length album so that is the momentum and energy we are going into 2019 with. Our 2018 has been capped with the release of our two singles and it is time to move on from there.
Written by: Colleen Kennedy
Header Photo: Clare Byrne