Although Astoria, Oregon is best known to multiple generations of pop-culture observers as the cinematic setting of the ’80s cult classic The Goonies, the rugged riverfront city now has another distinction: as the home of the fab new pop-rock combo known as Holiday Friends.
On its consistently uplifting debut album Major Magic, the spirited quintet—singer-guitarist Scott Fagerland and singer-keyboardist Jesse Wityczak, who share most of the band’s songwriting duties, plus Scott’s brother Jon Fagerland on guitar, keys and vocals, bassist Zack O’Connor and drummer Joey Ficken—deliver ten joyous new tunes that strike a decisive blow for the enduring values of infectious melodic hooks and emotional engaging lyrics. The band’s catchy, playful songs are refreshingly free of hipster cynicism, and has been described as what the Beach Boys might sound like if they’d been raised in the Pacific Northwest on a steady diet of John Hughes film soundtracks, or what The Cars might be doing if they lived at Big Pink.
But such facile comparisons do a disservice to the band’s charismatic performances, and to the sparkling ramshackle songcraft of such unpretentiously artful numbers as “Kayfabe,” “Night Vision Mode, “Spirit Girl” and “Astral Observations.” Those tunes—crafted in the century-old house on a hill that serves as the band’s headquarters, complete with a ’40s-era former mercantile store that’s the musicians’ practice space—manage to synthesize a bottomless well of influences and inspirations into music that’s wholly distinctive and unmistakably personally charged. The effortlessly winsome material reflects the band members’ determination to make music on their own unpretentious terms.
“Sometimes, we feel like we’re a million miles away from whatever is going on in bigger cities and whatever’s considered trendy at the moment,” says Scott. “Astoria has a good vibe and beautiful scenery, so it’s easy to feel happy there, and maybe that comes through in the vibe of the record. But with the internet and all that, you’re never really that remote from the ‘scene.'”
Holiday Friends originally came together in 2009 in the college town of Moscow, Idaho, and relocated to Astoria in 2011. The band’s choice of adopted home—founded on the industries of fishing and logging, but surviving now as an adaptable community of artists and entrepreneurs—has served it well, nurturing the band members’ creative chemistry and contributing to the free-spirited vibe of Major Magic, which was recorded at Portland’s Woodlawn Studios.
“This album has been two years in the making, and it’s been re-recorded at least one and a half times,” Scott explains. “Our first go in the studio was too fast, and the quality of the recordings suffered from it. We had the idea to play live-to-tape, and the result was an album that sounded, well, live. We wanted it to be much more hi-fi and pop-oriented, rather than teetering on the edge of folk-rock, or what Bob Dylan sounded like when he went electric. We re-recorded the album with Kevin Robinson producing, and he helped us capture what we really wanted.”
The result is Major Magic: a pop-rock gem full of psychedelic undertones and meaningful lyrics.
“When we started, we wanted to be famous right out of the gates in an Ed Sullivan-era Beatles kind of way,” Scott asserts. “Since then, we’ve realized the amount of hard work and effort it takes to stand out from the crowd in today’s endless sea of great bands. So now I think we’d all be happy just to sustain ourselves by making music, although our dreams of stardom never really fade.”For tour dates and more visit: www.holidayfriendsmusic.com/