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On first listen, all of Holy Bouncer’s songs sound familiar—you think the Rolling Stones, compare guitar riffs to those of Pink Floyd and The Talking Heads—but my guess is that you’d never pin them as an unruly group of Spanish boys born in 1995. The Barcelona natives have been friends and schoolmates since they were five. Now an EP and an album later, the tightknit band they formed at school is on the rise in Barcelona’s music scene. I met up with them after their show opening the Primavera Sound music festival in Barcelona, when they beamed that “last year we were working here as bartenders, cutting lemons for the gin and tonics, and this year we’re playing!”
Jordi, the long-haired lead singer, is bubbly, smiles the entire show and is unanimously declared the most sensitive. His brightness is balanced by Manu, the funny and quietly mischievous drummer, who is the butt of most jokes (and may or may not look exactly like Blake from Workaholics). Guitarist Miguel plays with a Flea-like (Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist) energy onstage, and offstage is a bit dazed and confused. Pol, the other guitarist, is outgoing with a great mustache and bounces around the stage. And Bernat the bassist is as chill as they come, “chill like a panda,” but he says the band “gives me all the energy I need all day long.”
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As we begin the interview, the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” lands on our ears, blaring from a far-off stage, an echo from the very band that inspires their music and even the band name. Holy Bouncer came from their english teacher who butchered a story about the Rolling Stones hiring Hell’s Angels as security for the disastrous Altamont music festival, where a man was murdered in the crowd. “But he told the story wrong,” Jordi says. Instead of talking about how Hell’s Angels wreaked havoc on the festival and instigated violence, “he said the Hell’s Angels saved Mick Jagger’s life from a gunshot coming from the crowd. We were like yeah sure Hell’s Angels saved Mick Jagger’s life, that’s a holy bouncer.”
Their first album Hippie Girl Lover (released in 2016) recalls their rock ‘n roll ancestors in style and storyline. Popular tracks like Get Higher and Anticipation update Beatles-like harmonies and pysch-rock using familiar elements like children’s’ choirs and bongos. “We kind of wrote the lyrics together—it’s a little bit of fiction,” Jordi says, “we had a lot of sixties and seventies hippie movement influence.” Taking cues from music and culture, Holy Bouncer explores “what we could say about all the feelings people had between them. But not only for girls.” One story Jordi mentions “talks about a man who takes LSD and gets trapped in that sort of time, what it feels like when you do LSD. He is fifty, sixty years old nowadays but totally trapped in the sixties—he is a hippie girl lover. It doesn’t only talk about girls—it’s about the music, the movement, how people were thinking, everything.”
“My Mother is a Yonkie” brings a bit of rockabilly to some curious lyrics: “my mother is a yonkie, and that’s what made me be a yonkie too.” I had to ask who’s got the yonkie mom, and uh, also, what’s a yonkie? “My mama!” It’s Jordi with a huge smile. “It wasn’t gonna be a song—it’s a joke I have with my mom,” he says. A yonkie, as confirmed on Urban Dictionary, is Spanish slang for a person who takes a lot of drugs. Although his mom is far from a druggie, he likes to joke that “old people take pills, and I’m trying to argue with her saying that’s not good for your body, and I’m gonna make a song about my yonkie mother so she’ll stop. But then she was proud of the song! So it was totally the opposite of what I was trying to do,” he laughs.
In the last year, Holy Bouncer has pivoted in a more modern direction with the release of three new singles. “The first album was inspired in sixties music from Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, but now we’re changing,” Miguel says, “I think we are more modern, more digital. Now we are listening to a lot of Daft Punk and Tame Impala.” This stylistic shift is part of their determination to keep evolving as a band. Their early music may be inspired in the past, but Holy Bouncer is decidedly looking forward, making sure they don’t become a relic. They won’t even play songs off the first EP because as Jordi puts it, “we get bored after forty shows playing the same fucking songs. Forget about it, man. Enjoy new music.”
Though the five-piece hails from Barcelona, the UK is the source of a lot of their success and the country that has paid witness to their growth. “We have toured the UK three times,” Pol says, “the first and second times as a support band and the third time playing headline shows. The UK is a hard place to play, but for the first time we saw that people are starting to know the band and singing some songs.” It also helps that despite their roots, every song is in english. “We listen to music in english, so we sing in english. We’re playing what we hear, we’re playing what we feel, “Pol explains. “The sound of the language is a lot different, it’s what we feel—we feel it in english.”
Holy Bouncer’s most recent tour took them through seven cities in the UK, France, Italy, Switzerland, and China. From the moment you meet them, however, you get the sense nothing has changed despite recent success— they’re a lighthearted, unabashed group, constantly laughing and lovingly ragging on each other. And though Holy Bouncer finally made it into the Primavera Sound lineup, they’re still working at the festival bars the next day. As we wandered Parc del Forum for a spot to hold the interview, everyone seemed to be on island time, not worried about where we were going, just content with beers and friends. “Everyone of us knows everything about each other. It’s kind of a family like maybe you weren’t born with these people,” Jordi says, “but I don’t care, I think that you definitely choose your family.”
Bringing their music to world is bringing them even closer as blood brothers, especially after “you’re all day, fifteen hours in the van with the same people” Jordi explains, “you can hear everything, you can smell his farts you know. But it’s totally cool because you’re with your best friends, enjoying every moment.”
While their tour took them all over the world, unfortunately they weren’t able to add Austin to the list despite Holy Bouncer’s invitation to SXSW. “If the Spanish government maybe helps us economically we would definitely go to Austin,” Jordi says. “It’s our goal to play there, and our music would really fit in.”
Show me your favorite songs, and we can be friends.