Initially founded as the bedroom-recorded brain child of Wyatt Grant, the now four-piece band Pool Holograph has been making waves in Chicago over the last few years with their carefully crafted mix of lo-fi, art rock, and post-punk elements.
After releasing their second full length album, Transparent World, in October 2017 and touring the east coast, the band has been consistently booked at Chicago staples like Schubas, Lincoln Hall, and The Empty Bottle, but this weekend they’ll be hitting the road to play Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo, MI. Ahead of the festival’s kick off on Saturday, September, 22nd I met up with Wyatt Grant, Zach Stuckman and Paul and Jake Stolz of Pool Holograph. Get to know the band better as they discuss their creative process, 2008 Urban Outfitters, DJing a party with Kevin Parker and more.
Loyola University Brought Them Together
Long before the current day lineup of Pool Holograph came to be, brothers Jake and Paul Stolz grew up listening and playing music together from a young age. “Paul showed me everything music-wise growing up. We grew up playing guitar together and listening to like Creed and all those legendary bands of the early 2000s, late 90’s,” Jake says, adding that they also played drums a lot as kids. “We both grew up playing other instruments that our parents would force us to play and then when I got into middle school, I started hanging out with kids who knew how to play guitar and I wanted to do that,” Paul says, explaining how they got into multiple different instruments early on. “Then I was too embarrassed to play guitar because my cousin played guitar and I didn’t wanna copy him. Then my friend Derrick played drums, so I didn’t wanna play drums either. So I learned how to play bass. We just learned how to play together.”
Paul says after that, he and Jake continued playing with bands in high school, both together and separately, but it wasn’t until Jake started attending college at Loyola University that they met the rest of Pool Holograph. “I met Wyatt [Grant] and Zach [Stuckman] cause they were both living in Rogers Park. We had mutual interests and started playing,” Jake says. From there, Jake invited Paul to join the lineup.
Unlike the Stolz siblings, Stuckman got into playing music later in life. “I played piano for two years when I was younger and then never touched music until Wyatt and I started living together, and I picked up bass through some friends I lived with one summer between years in college,” he says. Stuckman brought the bass back with him to Chicago to continue to pursue it, and from there everything just fell into place. “Wyatt taught me a bunch of bass lines to songs he was working on. It was really unexpected…I didn’t really anticipate being in a band or playing music at all. The circumstances were given to me and it was the right time. Now they can’t get rid of me.”
Grant grew up away from Chicago, in a suburb of Memphis, TN, so his path to musical discovery was much different from the other band members. “Music culture is very much dominated by what was on the radio. There was no like musical god at my high school,” he says. Grant recalls being in punk and hardcore bands in high school because he was so eager to get into music, but it wasn’t until he attended a show at The Buccaneer in Memphis that he found clear direction. “My friend Michael Peery (he’s in Ex-Cult) and I went to this garage rock show at the Buccaneer, and saw the Rat Traps and the Final Solutions, and it was the first time I ever stayed up all the night.” After witnessing the sense of community that night, Grant says he had a sense of navigation to pursue his own project. “It wasn’t even necessarily that I could do it, cause I hadn’t had that confidence until well after I met these guys. I was confident knowing Zach and having such a close friend back you up, but having navigation is a different feeling I guess.”
The Band Started as Wyatt’s Solo Project
Prior to the band coming together, Grant had started writing for Pool Holograph as more of a solo project recorded in his bedroom. The project eventually evolved from there to accommodate a full band with a live show in mind. Describing the transition into writing as a band, Grant says, “I would say when we started writing Town Quarry, it was after we had written Mortals. We had started to write songs together from scratch. A lot of those came from jams where we were kind of able to strut or express our own---basically be indulgent in our own musical curiosities.”
Since then, the band agrees that the creative process has remained collaborative. “Sometimes the seed will be planted by Wyatt, like he’ll have an idea and bring it to the group. Sometimes there’s a fully formed song, but there still room to reflect upon it from each of the band members,” Paul says. He adds that they recently had a voice memo recording of them doing a 12-minute long jam that they’ll now work on fine-tuning. “That was just spur of the moment and evolved naturally, so I don’t know what the next step is gonna be. But just to refine it. It depends on what we’re hoping for, what day it is, how we’re all feeling...”
Grant agrees that the current day process totally depends on the day. “There’s some eras when maybe they’re out of town or we go through a process of moving to different places. Where we’re separated geographically and can’t get together that often. If we’re apart for a while or I know we’re really busy, I’ll start writing by myself quite a bit,” he says. No matter where their writing sessions take them, Grant has noticed one common theme in the way the band works together. “What’s been really consistent is a drafting. Like a way of… not reducing necessarily, but just walking through the steps of it. Together. So that when we start it’s really elementary and then new concepts and new ideas start to bleed out from that. The writing process for me collectively has started to call for something more crude almost. Where I make a move that’s maybe more atypical, or outside of myself or outside of all of our comfort zones. Then it’s like I maybe know that it will throw one of us for a curve ball.”
Technology Helps Them Stay Collaborative
Speaking of their writing process, the band is currently writing and recording new material. Although they don’t know what form the follow up to 2017’s Transparent World will take just yet, the band says they continue to push themselves outside of their comfort zones and challenge themselves. Grant says the curveballs he throws out sometimes act as writing prompts for the rest of the band. “It’s a matter of knowing that you have vitality as a group. So it’s like fertilizer or whatever. It’s a matter of how I’ll do something that’s maybe seemingly wrong or uncomfortable but in the long run, digging out of that is a matter of like creating devices that you never had before. Not that I’m omniscient enough to know that. We’re cycling ideas into someone else’s wheelhouses or musical memory. Like Zach might have a bass line that I didn’t think of the song being that way or having this attitude, but it kind of actualizes things.” Pool Holograph songs continue to morph and mold into different places until it reaches a point that sits right with them. “It’s not a peak or a high point like a lot of people think. It’s just a matter of depth,” Grant adds.
Another way that the group maintains a certain level of collaboration is by having a place to pool together their ideas and voice memo demos. “We have this folder on a drive called ‘Revolving Door’ and we just throw them all in there. Sometimes you listen to them sometimes you don’t. It’s a matter of keeping that stream of consciousness, or keeping everyone in the know of our interests and stuff,” Grant says. As far as the subject for most of the new material, the band is trying to pull in more realism, rather than the Sci-Fi elements their last release had. “We like aesthetics and putting yourself in different scenery. That’s a really fun way to make music but I think it’s… recently I’ve been trying to speak from the first person and put words to the things that I’ve kind of struggled to say sometimes. Or even putting myself in someone else’s shoes.”
With this loose framework in mind, the band already has plans to start recording, even before having a solid arrangement of the new material. But they’re ok with that. “The longer it takes to actually nail down what you’re gonna do, the more rules tend to form subconsciously. Like the more conditions tend to pop up,” Grant says. Paul echoes that sentiment and adds, “The more bored you get. Even from a performative aspect… you record a song you’ve played 500 times, it doesn’t feel the same as one of those songs you’ve only played like 15 times before we recorded.”
The band also credits producer Dave Vettraino with guiding their recording process on Transparent World, and will be working with him on the next project. “He’s so patient. The way that he’s able to kind of guide you in the right direction. It’s the best form of musical diplomacy. Even if he knows what you’re doing is wrong, he can sit there with you to get the final project done,” Paul says.
“A lot of people talk about people they like to work with, saying they point us in the right way, like pointing in this solid direction, as in like a dictator. But I think of [Dave] more as like an extractor. Where he’s like a psychologist. He’s a therapist. He knows a lot more about me than I think my parents,” Grant says.
They Describe Their Sound as an Urban Outfitters Store Circa 2008
When discussing bands that they’re excited to see at Audiotree Music Festival next weekend, Grant brought up the band Lushh. “It kind of reminds me of the bath bomb store [Lush]! It’s soothing. They seem like it’s not in an aged way where it’s like ‘oh you know in decades from now it’s gonna sound like a bath bomb’.”
So if Pool Holograph’s music was to be compared to a store or an inanimate object (besides a bath bomb), what would the band members say? Jake says their music reminds him of a bowl of oil, while Stuckman picks an old, favorite t-shirt. “I don’t want to make a stupid pun, but it has the potential to get worn but not like worn on your body. But worn out over time. It has a sentimental value to it. I think through Wyatt’s lyrics there’s these sort of introspective narratives that happen. With a t-shirt you live out these narratives and have connections to it.”
Grant elaborates on that metaphor, adding “The narratives are kind of graphic elements on top of the song and it’s kind of like ‘oh shit I accidentally washed this on hot’ and it’s gone.”
“You can spill oil on it. And then that stain is there the whole time. Like when I joined the band, I poured my oil on it,” Jake jokes.
Grant goes one step further and paints a full picture of the band’s sound, combining the oil and old t-shirt. “Pool Holograph is an Urban Outfitters. A closed Urban Outfitters at night, in 2008. 2007. And the janitor is wearing a Rolling Stones distressed t-shirt and slips on some oil… and I feel bad now.”
The band jokes that they might start selling oil-stained t-shirts at the merch table to go along with this; “Wait this is covered in oil! Want your money back? Too bad… all of them have oil.”
They’re Fans of Visual Artists Who Also Make Music
While you most likely won’t actually be picking up an oil-stained, homemade t-shirt from Pool Holograph’s merch table any time soon, Grant does design and print their band shirts (they’ll be selling ‘em at ATMF). Naturally, Grant mentions other bands who are also into visual art when talking about some of his other favorite Chicago artists. “We really like Bunny. As artists making music, Courtesy is another example of that. My friend Drew is a really inspiring graphic designer. I think those bands give me a lot of motivation to continue as an artist/musician. Sonnenzimmer is a really good example of like an art/musician duo. They make posters and they make art all over the place. They’re legendary poster-makers and also musicians inherently.”
Without getting specific, Stuckman agrees that they’re fortunate to be surrounded by great friends and artists; “The people that we play with already I think are great, and in my mind, we only have room to encounter newer people along the way. We’ve been really fortunate to have a solid group of friends and bands that we’ve played with.” The Stolz brothers also give shout outs to the likes of Pixel Grip, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, The Hecks, Deeper, and Charlie Reed- just to name a few.
After reflecting on some of their favorite creative Chicagoans, Grant adds that being a part of “the scene” isn’t something that they necessarily strive to do as an end goal. “I don’t like to paint a static image of what ‘a scene’ is. I know there are like cumulations or like things kind of congeal in a certain shape for a little bit. Chicago has been a good example of that for all forms of music. I think it’s significant, historically speaking, to notice that like ‘now it’s this’ or ‘now it’s that’, I think at best Chicago has been a place where bands you don’t know about or people that you don’t get to hear from get to step forward and contribute to the conversation. There are a lot of ears and a lot of eyes and people listening and people breaking the mold constantly.”
Kevin Parker Attended One of Their DJ Sets
Imagine having the Kevin Parker of Tame Impala attend one of your DJ sets and not even knowing he was in attendance until weeks later. Well, that’s what happened when I brought up the fact that Parker had been in the crowd for the Pitchfork Music Festival after show in July that included DJ sets from Pool Holograph, Knox Fortune, Whitney, and NE-HI.
While Grant may not have noticed that members of Tame Impala had been present that night (in his defense, the place was packed), he says he’s got big plans for any future Pool Holograph DJ sets. “The thing is it’s about dictating the consciousness of the club,” he says, mentioning he just added some Bo Diddley and Rolling Stones albums to his collection. Pool Holograph has also recently DJed events at Crown Liquors and The Whistler, but be sure to keep your eye on their social media for future events.