TRACK PREMIERE: HOLANDER – “SMOKE”
Photos / Adrien Ordorica
Story / Chloe Robinson
At the young age of 21, electro-pop artist Holander is really making a name of herself in more ways than one. Holander centers her music on not only empowering herself, but also many others. From supporting the LGBTQ as well as other groups to priding herself on being a feminist, she’s definitely a strong force for change, which shows throughout her music.
Her new single “Smoke,” features sleek synths and shimmering soundscapes. Her delicate vocals flowing effortlessly, act as a beautiful complement to the song’s lyrical metaphor. Holander puts it best when she says, “When you’re overtaken by someone, it’s like smoke in your lungs.” “Smoke,” illustrates love in your youth and choosing to surrender fully and completely to that experience.
I had the chance to interview Holander and uncover how’s she’s able to create such stunning music while also championing the inspiring causes that drive her.
In you’re new single “Smoke,” you compare young love to the feeling of having smoke in your lungs. What inspired the idea behind the song and what was your writing process like?
Smoke is a young love anthem. It’s about that moment when you start to fall for someone, but you’re holding on tightly and don’t want to let yourself fall. It’s that moment when you say “fuck it” and dive in. I think especially with milennial dating and hookup culture, a lot of people try to protect themselves and don’t allow themselves to fully fall for someone. Nowadays, it’s cool not to care. It’s cool to play games with people. This song is about the opposite of that, it’s about standing on the edge and fully surrendering. When you’re overtaken by someone, like smoke in your lungs. I believe when two people love each other, they start to tap in to the universal love— this love that is bigger, and connects us all.
The song was inspired by a moment that I had with my boyfriend at the time when we were on a balcony overlooking downtown Los Angeles with some friends. We were passing a joint around in a circle. He took a hit and blew the smoke into my mouth, and it was this euphoric moment where I felt so connected to him. There was something so intimate about the whole thing. That’s where the line repeated at the end comes from. “When you’re smoking me out” refers to that moment, that action. “Smoke me out” usually refers to when someone shares their weed with you, but in this song, I am referring to someone blowing smoke into my mouth.
The song is a reflection on that moment on the balcony as well as the beginning of our relationship, when I was holding on tightly and not letting him, or anyone, in. And then saying “fuck it” and letting go of control.
The song was produced by Steve Pagano in North Hollywood at his studio on Colfax. The song started as just a title, “Smoke,” taken from a lyric from a piece that I had written previously and recorded in my voice memos. We wanted to let the song breathe and not have a traditional “pop” structure like some of my other tracks. We cycled through several ideas for the hook, and landed on this magical guitar lick that you now hear as the “chorus” of the song. It was intentional to leave the chorus without words, because for me, there came a point where words could not describe the feeling. And that’s where music is so powerful to me, communicating things that words sometimes can’t. The pre-chorus ends with “tried to play it cool; I think I’ve had enough” and then we let the music just take over. Love just hits you in the face and we wanted to capture the intensity of the feeling.
How has studying social change at USC influenced the type of music you create?
I tend to write from a place of power. In social change studies, a lot of it is about learning the current and past realities of marginalized groups. Whether it’s someone in a position similar to me or something I’ll never personally experience, I want them to be able to listen to my music and feel recharged. My music is meant to empower young womxn, to encourage them to own their personal agency. Studying social change helped me to investigate the importance of using one’s platform and voice to encourage others.
I hear you play many festivals and shows throughout LA that support a cause, what has it been like advocating for the LGBTQ community and other minority groups?
Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate to participate in meaningful events like “Women Fuck Shit Up Fest” and I’ll be playing at Girls Rock Camp for young female musicians in August. It’s always incredibly gratifying when you get to come together with people and create a space where everyone can live their truth. Whether it’s a show at The Satellite or a festival around a cause, when music fills the venue, there’s a common connection that people find. There’s a common thread. I don’t think music has to explicitly address those issues for an artist to speak on them. I stand for any community yearning for equality and I sing for any person who feels alone or disheartened, and I’m not afraid to speak up for those communities.
I also understand you identify as a feminist, what does being a feminist mean to you?
That’s a word, even in 2018, that’s still almost a bad word. The fact that there are still public figures out there who refuse to claim the word is shocking. I’ve worked in tech, I was a lighting director, and I would have people address their questions to male techs under my supervision because it didn’t occur to them that I’d be the one in charge and have the most knowledge on site. Feminism to me is not being disregarded because you’re a womxn, or anyone for that matter.
In our society, womxn are forced into a narrative of being competitive with each other (for men?). I’m tired of that narrative. I want womxn to support other womxn HOWEVER they want to dress, be, and live, and I’m ready to show by example.
What first got you into the electro-pop genre and who are some artists you have on your own personal playlist?
It’s funny because I was actually pretty against electro-pop originally because I came from a classic rock background— I was so used to raw instruments and voices that this polished “computer music” didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. The first song I remember loving really hard in the genre was actually “Roses” by the Chainsmokers funny enough. But there was something about the size of the kick drum that had been manipulated by whatever program they used— it was huge. I felt it in my veins. I wanted to make more music that felt big like that. There’s so much space in the genre to create sounds that have never been heard before, and that is incredibly exciting for an artist.
I’m always listening to Lorde and The 1975, I’m also into Billie Eilish, Kiiara, Charli XCX and Sizzy Rocket right now. Off genre I love Pinegrove and The Wombats intensely.
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