Wyatt Grant from Pool Holograph on the Intersection Between Art & Music
WYATT GRANT FROM POOL HOLOGRAPH ON THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN ART & MUSIC
We’re intrigued by the intersection of art and music and how they influence one another. Wyatt Grant sheds light on this mystical intersection and dives deep into his journey as an artist and musician. He currently sings and plays guitar in the band Pool Holograph. He’s also a designer and artist and has worked with a plethora of bands and entities that are also tied to the music scene such as, Land and Sea Dept., the Twin Peaks band, Red Bull Music, and many more.
💥 What came first: music or art?
🎸 I started making art very vigorously because of album covers. I've been drawing since I was a little kid and that's kind of what I always wanted to do. There's never been a time where I wanted to do something else really. I mean, I think I watched Jurassic Park and then wanted to be an archaeologist, but for like a hot minute, because then I realized I had to be really smart to do that, you know? Basically, when I got attached to album art that kind of sent me in the direction of making music so that I could make artwork for it. That was one of my motivations for making music in the first place so I can make graphics to go along with it. I can relate to a lot of musicians and a lot of art friends that are musicians who also have the same motivation, they go hand-in-hand.
It’s really magical. Kind of like the counterbalance where it makes you want to experiment in a graphic realm because you're like, “man, this album cover could be something totally different, like a totally different style for me.” I have really wanted to investigate what it would be like to do something hyper-geometric or hyper-minimal or whatever, and then what would that music sound like. Then you start to go down the rabbit hole and that became an obsession for me.
💥 Your approach to creating seems to stem from this process of working with a lot of rough sketches or raw voice memos. How does your approach to making art and music relate to each other?
🎸 It's inseparable for me and I do mean that literally. They both have layers and sometimes you can overwork it, or it gets too convoluted or, sometimes your first idea was better. They're both escapes and ways to construct ideas. It helps me get to more unfamiliar places.
I’ve had similar questions before with an art magazine or a music publication and I always kick myself because it’s like I should have been more detailed, because to me they’re the same thing, literally the same process and problem solving.
💥 Although your approach to art and music come from the same process, your visual language is very different in your personal art compared to the graphics you make for Pool Holograph. Do you intentionally keep a divide between “Wyatt” and “Pool Holograph”?
🎸 I think that's an awesome question. I want to clarify though; do you mean aesthetically do they feel like they come from different places?
💥 Yeah, your work seems to be more organic and illustrative. There’s a lot of line-work and blocks of color. Whereas your designs for Pool Holograph have until now been more photo and type-driven.
🎸 Yeah totally. The art for Pool Holograph remains somewhat different from my personal art process because I feel like our music doesn't really lend to the art that I happen to be working on at the time. When I think about our music, I'm like, this needs to be blown out text, or it needs to channel what I'm talking about in the lyrics a little bit, or this needs to be really sentimental, or needs to be like a diary. However, I think this album is the closest that I've been to merging my art style with our music. The cover is literally a collection of paintings that I did right when I got to Asheville. I started decompressing by making a lot of charcoal and pastel drawings and stuff. And India ink drawings and stuff. It’s the kind of art I don't really show a lot of folks because it's stylistically not super coherent with what I usually show. This comes from when I sit down and just try to free draw and intentionally tell myself I don't have to show anyone the result. This is the kind of stuff that really helps me unwind and it isn’t really trying to necessarily catch anyone’s attention. It's more just about navigating my mental space and that is the kind of art that I feel like landed on the album cover for this for this album.
“You can't determine what the painting is gonna look like by the paintbrush really, it's how you use it.”
— Wyatt Grant
Let me answer your question a little more clearly, I want the art to serve the music in Pool Holograph, that's the primary goal. I'm working with someone on an album cover right now where it's a pattern design because the guy’s an ambient artist and makes patterns and loops, so I interpreted that visually. That’s the most important thing as a graphic designer/artist, you know, you're helping someone convey a message and you want to make sure that it says visually what the music does too.
I just did a shirt for an amazing band called The Heavy Eyes, they're incredible and I'm so into their music. The guitarist sounds like giant slabs of meat hitting concrete, it amazingly knocks you on your ass. When thinking about this I could envision rattlesnakes, streams of smoke, and lightning hitting spiderwebs and stuff like that, you know. But then I'm like, how am I gonna translate that with my style? I illustrated it and it worked great. So I'm gonna surrender my style more often.
💥 Do you work on visual and sonic work in the same space?
🎸 Yes, in my studio I work on graphics and I also bring in one of my guitars, usually my hollowbody or acoustic guitar, when working on things for the band.
💥 Do you have a favorite or go-to guitar?
🎸 I definitely play the hollowbody a lot more. It's probably not valued at anything more than three hundred dollars, and it doesn't have a truss rod. It's from an old Sears catalog in like the seventies, so this was produced in Chicago like way back in the day. It was a TrueTone which is kind of like pre-First Act. So, I tried to go get it set up and they're like, oh yeah, there's one problem there's no truss rod!
Since I can't set it up, it gets super out of tune live, which sucks but it's also completely bonkers when you play it with distortion, and I've played some of my favorite shows with it. It sounds a little tinny sometimes, very tight, it's somewhat acoustic sounding so that you can play it without an amp for an easy setup. It feels very woody, very organic. I bought it here at a used guitar shop in Asheville a couple years ago. But yeah, that one's my favorite to play.
I also have a Fender Jazzmaster that's a lot more expensive, but I usually play that live because it's super reliable and sounds great. But I like to write on the hollowbody guitar.
💥 Real quick, can you show us the hollowbody of that TrueTone, it sounds like a fascinating story.
🎸 Of course, yeah. So, it’s definitely busted here and there. It's got some really awesome humbuckers and it's kind of a rhythm or a jazz rhythm guitar. At least that's what it's supposed to be, right?
One of the pickups is barely thin enough for it to match our style, but sometimes if we're playing a very intimate song, I can shift it down to something very warm and kind of like, ‘humid’. It’s really awesome with some reverb and some slapback, it can sound very swampy. For our first show, I put a thin rope on here because I didn't have a strap, but it snapped eventually. I kept it on there to remember my roots, you know.
💥 That guitar has got a cool story man, that's awesome. Definitely a big part of guitar fascination is the story behind them, not just the tone.
🎸 Yeah, yeah.
On the same tour in which we played the Daytrotter session I played this rogue Strat, which is another very cheap guitar, but I swear to god, it is completely crazy to play. It's just very visceral, choppy, and it's just very rude. Sound guys hated it … but it sounds awesome, so crazy.
💥 You described your hollowbody, your Fender, and the Rogue Strat. When it comes to your tone, first of all, how do you describe your tone? What kind of tools do you try to use to get the sound you hear in your head?
🎸 Totally! A big part of the tone I'd say is from a Blues Junior I have. That's what I use for live shows, and I used to have a Marshall JCM 2000 combo. But this Blues Junior is louder and more insane than I could ever want in a big amp. And also, it's much better for touring and for lugging around the city, you know? Because, before we got a van I had to carry it all in my sedan and it just barely fit.
I like being able to have a very wiry and angular sounding tone. I was really into the 60s guitar bands like the Zombies, how they're very eclectic, and also had very geometric arrangements with one another. And I really like that kind of ornamental guitar style, even though I play rhythm guitar, I still do a lot of higher pitch, very minimal guitar parts. Even for my rhythm parts, I still like to maintain something very thin.
I like a lot of high-end, but if I'm going for something more powerful, I want to have like a certain dryness to it. I haven't gone full reverb in a while. I feel like I've started to get into very upfront, kind of lucid guitar tones. With that being said, I like topping out. I like using the dry channel but topping that out quite often on the Blues Junior.
I keep it kind of primitive with my instruments, but it's also just how you play it. We have some songs where I'm just trying to be incredibly tender on the strings, and on other songs I tried to just play it as if as if I'm slapping the guitar with a two by four. The style is very much in your approach, kind of like picking a paintbrush. You can't determine what the painting is gonna look like by the paintbrush really, it's how you use it.
My first big game-changer pedal was that MemoryMan Deluxe mostly for its looping features, but also there are many back doors where it gets weird. I could create all these weird loops and that would help me write with myself, you know, so I could play a rhythm guitar part, and then I would try and write a part on top of it and that's how most of the early Pool Holograph came to be.
I have some other cheap pedals. I have this really great Archer overdrive pedal, that's a local company. I think, or a Midwest company. For sure the best overdrive I've ever had in my life. It's very mature, very high quality, very analog sounding. It’s very natural, it doesn't sound cartoonish you know. Some overdrives just sound too digital or too effect-y.
I was into the Line6 pedals when I was in middle school and high school and those were still like completely insane. I think it's a DB4?
💥 Oh yeah, the green one? DL4?
🎸 I went through two of those, I broke them!
💥 Wow that's expensive.
🎸 Yeah, I definitely had to get a second one used. That was awesome, paid for gear by walking dogs in high school.
I was in thrash bands and stuff and didn't even have a pedal board, so I just lugged them around. Wherever I was, I got known for having basically like a spaghetti of cables tossed around. I still haven't gotten much better.
💥 Is that when you started playing?
🎸 I had been making music by myself in middle school and stuff and just kind of playing around and recording on the first version of Garage Band. The first band I was in was just a was just a thrash band so there was no technique involved.
💥 For the last few years, you’ve been playing as Pool Holograph, which started as a solo project and then fused into a full band. What’s the dynamic with your band-mates, and what’s your guitar role?
🎸 Our lead guitar player is extremely talented and musically-trained, so if I play a riff for him, he can transcribe it immediately. He can know exactly what I’m doing and help figure things out. I’m not from the technical end of things, but more like outsider or un-trained artist. It’s just all through the ear, which has its pros and cons.
Being with the band is great. We like to throw out ideas and then reverse engineer what we did. It’s cool, because we can find something totally new. If I write a very simple guitar line, my guitar counterpart in the band, Paul, will draw something very ornate. Something that sounds really smooth. Sometimes, we can get used to it all and come up with just straight rhythms, but sometimes we consciously try to trip each other up to come up with something new.
In terms of writing, I usually start with my whole body or acoustic guitar and just kind of spell things out, and once things feel like a song I’ll then go to Garage Band and do a very preliminary sketch and send it to my bandmates. They then get back to me with a thumbs up or thumbs down for the song to keep going forward. I say I have a success rate of like 60 percent.
💥 Hey that's not too bad at all!
🎸 Yeah, but that's kind of my role in the band. I can send them rough sketches and then they pick it up or drop it. If we're in a practice-based scenario, we'll comment on it all together and then we choose what we should definitely make or not. I’m very lucky to have such great, talented, and patient band members.
💥 Your latest record was just released on Friday on vinyl and via streaming.
🎸 Yeah, the record just came out on Friday and yes, our first time on a full-length vinyl, so really excited about that. We’re definitely hoping to be on the road as soon as humanly possible too.
💥 Was this album written/recorded during Covid-19?
🎸 The last recording session we did was in January for this album and then we did some mixing and mastering up until the time I was going to leave for Asheville. I had already planned to leave at the end of April. So, it definitely predated the Covid thing. Between me moving, Covid-19, and everything happening culturally, there were some doubts among us that were like, "is this gonna be a terrible idea to launch?’ In the most significant political climate of our lives, incredibly significant elections, incredibly significant voices and perspectives coming out, is it really the best idea putting our stuff out right now?"
The strange thing is that the album in many ways is about the constant of love and that everlasting force, which sounds really mushy, but it is what it is, you know? It’s really about transcendence in general, traversing a really difficult time. I wrote a lot about my autobiographical stuff in the album, which is kind of the first me. Basically, it's a lot about getting to the other side, being really lucid and not about ignoring a struggle, and focusing on what lasts. With this in mind we found it that it was actually kind of novel to release the album.
💥 You mention moving to Asheville. You’re actually from Memphis and then moved to Chicago for college. Does location have an influence on your art/music?
🎸 Yes for sure. People have an incredible amount of soul and being in Memphis I think it was just a radioactive music scene. There’s something in the water that just makes you jump on board and get busy. Then Gunner Records, pre-58 Elvis, Carl Perkins, are all big references for me. I'm really into Robert Johnson southern blues music too.
In college is where I really thought, "oh my god, I can't believe I was there the whole time and didn't really have as much of an appreciation for it." So, I dug back into that stuff hard core and started record collecting in Chicago, which is a very dangerous hobby because it can really drain your bank account. I started collecting lots of seven inches and getting into music that way in Chicago that formed me quite a bit. It was in Chicago that I started forming bands, playing as many shows as I could, finding my voice in music and art stuff. Likewise, I was doing posters for shows, album covers, t-shirts.
Moving to Asheville after our band is kind of where I reached some form of maturity – it was more about my own pursuits. It’s where I found inspiration. Asheville is a deep well of inspiration, mystery, and magic to me. My surroundings inform my art and music, like being able to go hiking in the mountains, and also have access to a lot of really awesome music.
I think it's becoming more common to acknowledge your mental health, where your inspiration comes from and how much license you give yourself as an artist, so yeah it’s what I just love. Chicago set me on fire as a person because it's just such an uncompromising and staggeringly creative city. I wasn't by any means done with being there, I still hope to be back there sleeping on people's couches very soon!
💥 Covid-19 has struck the music scene pretty hard, and with your new album out, do you guys plan to attempt some new ways of performing?
🎸 According to a lot of sources, 90 percent of the independent music venues will not make it past December, and that's not to say that a lot of people that are gonna come right back or folks will invest in music again. Because music is incredibly vital and it's on everyone's mind, and I'm certain things will pick up again. However, the harm being done to an already underpaid, underappreciated class of people is undeniable. Musicians and service industry workers alike are running independent music venues by the hair. I do think that we're the most resourceful people in the world, so we're gonna figure it out in one way or another.
I think it's important to be sensitive to how the people are traversing this in terms of their audience as well. Seeing a band perform digitally is not really a big important thing for them. There's so many things being said that are so important right now that maybe we should concentrate on shutting up and listening. You know, like four white guys in a band like ‘hmm, I don't know if what we have to say is that important’. A lot of our privileges are being revealed to us, especially that we're even able to keep a practice space, or keep all of our gear.
And so we don't have a solution right now honestly. I don't really know what to say in terms of when we will be able to start touring again, but as soon as it's possible we're gonna jump in and play wherever possible like we played DIY venues - we played in living rooms and basements on our last tour and we're gonna play them on our next tour.
I think we're kind of just focused on listening and waiting right now. A lot of really critical things are happening as we speak. It’s also about your voice and how you are utilizing it. Is it an insular music community? Is it a clique? Is this serving everybody? Or are you interested in everyone's experience? All of these questions must be asked.
💥 That’s good, take time to listen and then think about how you use your voice. Thanks for your time and sharing all these great stories about your creative output. One last question though, where can people find your new album “Love Touched Time and Time Began to Sweat” and your artwork?