To paraphrase a spouse of one of CityBeat's editors: There's no place in rock music for the flute. And outside of Jethro Tull, who in my estimation never really rocked per se, I would venture to guess that most music fans wouldn't disagree with the statement.
But no one seems to have told that to Blackout Party frontman Brian Holwerda. Or maybe he just doesn't care. In fact, he thinks the flute is pretty damn cool.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he says, referring to the band's guitarist and flute player, Tim Lowman. “If you make an Anchorman joke, he gets bummed, so you can't say ‘jazz flute.' We want him to put, like, [Bacardi] 151 in there and do the flamethrower trick out of the end of the flute.”
Blackout Party's debut album, Bottom of the Sea, is representative of Holwerda's eccentric musical taste. It's a varied, if not wholly indecisive, collection of songs that range from Queens of the Stone Age-esque hard rock (“Bottom of the Sea”) to forlorn country ballads (“Four Winds”). But that's the way it's always been for him. Just as his taste is all over the place, he's fairly ubiquitous on the music scene, playing in nearly half a dozen bands and being just about every other artist's favorite go-to guy on guitar, including musicians like Joanie Mendenhall and John Meeks.
“I feel like I spent the last year going full circle and becoming the guy for hire,” Holwerda says. “I had to distill it down a bit.”
Meeting him for the first time, his demeanor and—dare I say it—aura give the impression of a self-actualized, content person, and it's easy to see how this could extend to his approach to music. Since first moving to San Diego in the late '90s, he's been in a bunch of bands, including Kimberly Kills and Fine White China—the latter almost blew up on the national scene after being signed to a fairly big label.
“It was kind of a weird deal. It was a metal label, and I think they wanted to use us as, like, a crossover band,” Holwerda says. “We were just young kids. It was the time that emo was about to blow up, but we weren't into that. We were just getting wasted. At the end of the day, I think, Thank God the stars didn't align and we didn't have some video on MTV and don't have to answer questions about that. Or have people asking me why I'm not wearing eyeliner.”
Holwerda says he outgrew the band and that after they broke up he retreated to Ocean Beach and started recording “creepy little bedroom recordings”—a huge departure from the hard-crunching riffs and early-20s angst of Fine White China. Along with a drummer friend, he started slowly, crafting what would eventually become Blackout Party songs. Eventually, he says, he was ready to be in a band again.
“I started to want to collaborate with people again—people who weren't in a rush—something that was beautiful and textured that I feel was missing from the Fine White China music. I just wanted to create something that had mood and substance.”
During a tour in the South last year, they were thrown out of a Nashville bar and drew mean stares during the rather un-conservative song “Cold Bitch's Heart,” but Holwerda describes it, and almost every other unfortunate event that has happened, as a “very positive learning experience.” The album release is exciting for him, but he's comfortable not having an agenda, especially since he's seen so many of his musical projects come and go. These days, he just wants to take things as they come.
“I'm more on that wavelength that I love playing music. I think music is free, and I don't look at it as a commodity just because it's my job. I just love it. I can't stop.”
Blackout Party plays with The Drowning Men and Desert Diamonds on Friday, Sept. 18, at The Casbah. Holwerda also plays with John Meeks at the Adams Avenue Street Fair on Saturday, Sept. 28.
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