“This is our spiritual home, the Yorkshire Dales and Moors, so it will be a very special day for us to be back where we started.”
So said Conrad Bird, singer in shanty folk-rock band Holy Moly and the Crackers.
Conrad has a real affinity with North Yorkshire as it’s a case of home is where the heart is. Brought up with his co-Holy Moly partner Ruth Patterson near Ampleforth, all their early gigging days were in this corner of the North. Which is one of the reasons why their show at Richmondshire Cricket Club on October 1 will be one to really look forward to.
“Without a doubt, we absolutely love playing where we come from,” he said. “It’s a wonderful reminder of where it all started and how lucky we are.”
Holy Moly and the Crackers are now regulars on the festival scene – they’ve played Glastonbury, Bestival, Cropedy and even Richmond Live – and have enjoyed significant commercial success since they began strumming and singing over a decade ago.
Those beginnings were in the unlikely surroundings of Leamington Spa, about 20 miles from Birmingham.
“The three of us – me, Rosie Bristow and Ruth – were all university students and all musically minded, so it just happened after we met at a house party,” said Conrad.
“It all started from a fairly low point on the compass, developed over several years and we were joined by the other band members, all of whom are brilliant performers. In around 2015 we all looked around and thought, holy cow, we can actually do this! And what is more, we’re not bad at it!”
The band has gone from strength to strength, recording three highly acclaimed albums and are now firm favourites in the nationwide gigging circuit. Having seen them live myself, their infectious joie-de-vivre is thrilling to experience. Their live set may be rumbustious and riotous, but Holy Moly do actually look as though they are having the time of their lives, not always a factor you associate with some shows. Nick Tyler (guitar), Jamie Shields (bass) and Tommy Evans (drums) make up the Crackers and performing live, they are a joy to behold.
Their music is a cross between so many genres. There is a pot pourri of everything from Pogues, Levellers, Clash, Gogol Bordello, Bob Dylan, Frank Turner, Van Morrison, you name it. They’ve been labelled gypsy punks, which is probably about as close as you’re going to get.
Last year the pandemic hit Holy Moly in the solar plexus, as they were just about to set off on a huge European tour, which included a slot at Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary.
“It has been hard,” said Conrad. “But it’s been tough for everyone. On the plus side it has allowed us a bit of breathing space, which we have all appreciated because it has been a rollercoaster. In that sense it has helped us all take a look around and yes, we do realise how lucky we are.
“Ruth and I live together and have converted a spare room into a studio. Rosie has been in a caravan in Scotland doing a new eco-fashion designing project, while the others have been doing their own mad things. Before Covid we didn’t know what it was like not to be busy. But we’ve all missed being on the road and doing what we love doing. Maybe it has made us all appreciate it a little more.”
Don’t expect a quiet night on October 1st, but also there will be moments of tenderness and timing. Holy Moly have it all. Plus, they are accomplished musicians, which makes a difference. They are right up there in terms of technical skills, which adjoined to a real desire to ENJOY, makes it a formidable combination.
Their music has meaning. Holy Moly’s third album, 2019s ‘Take a Bite’ remains a high point and it will be fascinating to see where they head next in the studio.
“We started from playing in a pals’ kitchen and now we are back touring again,” said Conrad. “Richmond? We will make it a night to remember. Ruth’s grandparents are from Leyburn so it will be familiar ground for her and the rest of us.”
The best thing about touring? “Hmm,” pondered Conrad. “It sounds a bit naff, but the travelling and seeing new places and people is fascinating. But performing on stage and seeing the audience having a fantastic time – the adrenalin you get from that cannot be bettered.”
And the worst? “Being in a band means you have an altered reality of life. You basically never grow up from being a teenager. Every night is a pub night and that can make you a bit disconnected from everyone else who has mortgages, jobs etc. Stopping touring has enabled me to temporarily stop being in a band and to find a sense of my own identity.
“What scares me is when touring and playing live becomes routine, because it has never been like that for us. OK, some gigs are better received than others, but that is something I fear. Being in our band is a double-edged sword. It is so enjoyable in so many ways, but after four years of non-stop touring, reality does take a back seat. It was like being a hamster on a wheel so Covid has at least given us all the chance to get off that wheel and look around. Mind you, we are ready to go out again now. We can’t wait.”
Neither can we. Holy Moly and the Crackers bring their music and mayhem to Richmondshire Cricket Club on October 1. Support comes from Katie Grace, a prodigiously talented teenager from Newcastle, who this summer released her first EP ‘From the wildflowers’ and has now been nominated for the British Youth Music Lyricist Awards, with the finals in London on October 20.
Also supporting will be Richmond act Midnight Revelations, as Rob and Amy have been favourites on the local circuit since 2013.
Doors open at 6pm.