Pool Holograph goes deep on Mortals

Kerri O'Malley

Pool Holograph

Over the past six years, Chicago’s Pool Holograph has transformed from lead singer/guitarist Wyatt Grant’s dreamy solo project to a full-blown four-piece. In the transition from bedroom to living room, the band’s sound has grown, changed, and strengthened, becoming what the band now describes with a bit of a laugh as “street rock” or “surrealist punk.”

Whatever you want to call it, their new self-released album, Mortals, is meditative, fun, and a kick in the gut. It takes the best of Pool Holograph’s more ethereal history and grounds that dreaming in a charged yet solid reality—lyrically and instrumentally. As the songs delve into the magic and tragedy of the everyday, Pool Holograph’s newer rhythm section adds incredible energy, and Wyatt’s voice has never sounded more raw and confident, making the new record pulse and bop intoxicatingly.

We got a chance to hang out with the band—which now includes Wyatt, Zach Stuckmann (bass), Paul Stolz (guitar), and Jake Stolz (drums)—and talk their new album, roommate stress, and collaborating on very personal numbers. You can stream Mortals below, and scroll on for our conversation.

What’s the new album about? How is it different from what you’ve done before?

Wyatt: I think the concept born in the middle of writing the album is a reflection of what we’d already been working on, which is mostly songs that dealt with mortality or more worldly, earthly things. It’s kind of a reflex against a more typical romantic perspective and an effort to get closer to day-to-day experience, even if those everyday experiences sometimes become sort of surreal.

Zach: We’ve talked about how the album’s less about the concept of “mortals” as in dying, and more about the concept as in being alive and experiencing that living moment… when you know that the contrast to that is not existing, whether it be in death or before birth or whatever. Mortals is the living experience.

A lot of the songs on Mortals feel deeply personal. Do you write them alone, Wyatt, and then bring them to the group? How do you collaborate on these emotional songs, especially when Pool Holograph used to be as a solo act?

Wyatt: There are really only a few songs on the album that I wrote just completely by myself. If the album was written as like a solo thing, it would be entirely different. That’s the biggest part of a transition to a full band that’s actually creatively invested. It’s not like Wyatt & the Pool Holographs! [Laughs] It’s a full-on creative collaboration. Working as a group helps me get outside of my head to say things that I wouldn’t usually say. When you’re writing something as a collaborative effort, other people can change any facet of the creative process—dial it up or down—and playing a song together can literally change its content.

Paul: When we first started Mortals, we were learning to play as a four-piece together. The process of writing the album and becoming a four-piece band happened side-by-side. And while a lot of the lyrics are very personal to Wyatt, the album feels really personal to me, too.

Jake: Yeah, I think a lot of us have anxiety and stuff. [All laugh] But whatever we were going through while we made this, we went through it together.

Speaking of going through it together, you all live together! What’s the best and worst part of shacking up as a band?

All: The bathroom! [Laugh]

Paul: The bathroom is the worst.

Zach: The best part is everything. It’s not just like we’re four band members living together. We’re four friends. When we’re not jamming on something, we’re going back and forth with jokes and things we’re dealing with. So the only frustrating thing is that I don’t do my dishes and that the recycling piles up. [All laugh]

Wyatt: Yeah, as much as that’s all true, if you really care about something, you need to make sure that it’s not oversaturated. We make sure that we give each other a break from the concepts as they’re being written. It isn’t, for me, in a way where it makes it not enjoyable anymore. Instead, it’s like, if you’re really going to investigate something, you need to keep it under the hood for a second. Always playing and always sharing ideas…you still need to let yourself have your own headspace. So as much as it is a total joy to engage with your best friends, you need to keep investigating yourself and learning what you’re on to.

Jake: Yeah, I can get really into the concept that we’re working on, and I get burnt out on discussing things too much and and just kind of withdraw. That’s my defense mechanism, I withdraw.

Paul: And watch Mad Men.

Jake: And watch Mad Men for hours and hours. [All laugh] But it’s a real joy, overall. It’s totally unlike any other living situation I’ve ever had. Just being able to bounce random ideas off of everyone around you is pretty remarkable. I feel very lucky… living with three very sensitive men and being sensitive myself, you know. [All laugh]

Wyatt: We’re just four sensitive men!

What’s next for you guys?

Jake: We’re working on potentially a new EP. We have three or four new songs. We’re still flushing it out.

Wyatt: It’s a project that’s based on an allegory we made up about a quarry in a town and the people surrounding it. We had this song that mentioned a quarry, and then this song called “Lone Star”, and the two together created this larger idea about this falling space junk forming a quarry and the quarry being a metaphor for a body or a hole in your mind… a physical representation of these things that could be internal, too. We’re going to start playing that material in our shows and working on it, seeing what it turns out to be, but that’s the premise of it right now. We’re trying to keep it open-ended without any inhibition of trying to close it out or put a dot at the end of it. But hopefully we’ll release it soon because we’re really excited about it!

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