Musical amateurism is largely the domain of punk rock and bored celebrities. But for British-born, rural Georgia-based singer and songwriter Holly Golightly, not knowing what she's doing is exactly the right thing to do. Recording and performing under the name Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs (the latter mostly comprising partner and one-man band Lawyer Dave), the former vocalist for garage legends Thee Headcoatees grabs the throat of traditional country and blues and squeezes — sometimes tenderly, sometimes viciously — until the rawest, wildest and strangely sweetest sounds and feelings emerge. B-Sides reached Holly Golightly at her homestead in northeastern Georgia to talk about her career and her aptly titled new record, No Help Coming.
B-Sides: You pride yourself on your musical amateurism but, and don't take this the wrong way, the new record sounds really good.
Holly Golightly: Yes. When one half of the equation is very proficient, it's easy to mask the fact that I'm not.
Lawyer Dave doesn't cramp your style?
It's the contrast that makes it interesting, actually. I've worked with proficient musicians over the years, and I enjoy that they know what I'm going after. I can't play it myself, but I know it when I hear it. In a group setting, it's good to surround yourself with people whose reference points you trust. But when it's just two people, that makes it different. It's two very different personalities.
Is that a rooster I hear crowing in the background?
Pet or future dinner?
A bit of both, really. I've had him since he was an egg. He's just doing what he's programmed to do, being a complete shit. His destiny is in question. He killed a duck and attacked the geese. There's actually a picture of the rooster on the album! That's the famous chicken.
Prima donna complex. The arrangements on the new record, especially on a country ballad like "The Only One," can be quite intricate.
That's the most traditional-sounding one. That's not something we usually stick with, having an obvious formula.
It sounds simple, but it's not.
No, it's not. Sometimes less is more. Because it's such a familiar formula, you kind of know it before you hear it. But it's actually quite intricate, the backing tracks certainly.
Can you talk about how you and Dave work together in the studio? Is it hard to stay on the same page?
For the most part, no. Geographically we come from different worlds. Sometimes we have issues with lyrics. What comes naturally to one person doesn't come naturally to the other, lyrically. Sometimes we'll have to change words. That comes up every time, both collectively and individually, so if he does a song or I do a song, we may have to change it. It's not really an issue. That's just the way we work.
Are there songs that you just abandon? Songs that you wish you could have included on the album?
Not really. There are songs that will get regurgitated or worked on at a later date. They're not lost forever. When you're working on an album you have to pick the twelve or fourteen tracks that are representative of a whole or that go together well. I don't like it when too many tracks sound the same. That's something I've always tried to work on. I always try to make the songs sound different, in terms of tempo or key. That's a trick I learned from an old friend whose work I admire immensely. It's a good formula for putting an album together. The ones that go by the wayside might have just sounded too similar to other songs. You know what I mean? You might have three in the same tempo or key, so you pick one.
The cover songs on the record, do those come from you or Dave? For instance the Bill Anderson cover.
A bit of both really, on this album and the last album. "Lord Knows We're Drinking" was pretty apt. We live in a dry county, and I like the idea that one day there will be a bar. Not that I would ever go to it. I just like the thought of it. I like the potential for disaster.