Holly Golightly Talks Country Living, Snake Handling, Old Gospel And Soul

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Troy Martin

Holly Golightly may have unplugged, but the former member of Billy Childish's '90s UK garage-rockers Thee Headcoatees hasn't mellowed out. On 2008's Dirt Don't Hurt and the brand-new Medicine County, she and the Brokeoffs - aka Texas-born drumming companion Lawyer Dave - have been getting their fingernails dirty with their skewed slant on old-time gospel, hillbilly murder ballads and roller-disco come-ons that allow Golightly to indulge her longtime love of vintage soul. She's especially fond of "clattery percussion," she told Rocks Off while she and Dave made their way through Mississippi earlier this week.

Rocks Off: Are you the sort that likes to travel anyway?

Holly Golightly: No, I've only ever traveled because of playing. I didn't used to go on holiday as a kid very much. I've been on a few holidays, but I never went backpacking in Thailand. It's not my style, really.

RO: Are you comfortable on tour?

HG: Yeah. It's really easy to do it, just two people. You're not like a band on tour, you're like a couple of old fogeys traveling around, finding the best places to eat and sleep. We have a vehicle that's big enough for us and the gear, and we don't need a huge van or anything. So yeah, I'd say it's very easy to do like this.

Sometimes when you're with one band, or three bands even, and you're doing a whole lot of dates together, sometimes that turns into a bit of a circus. That's not quite so fun. It's fun in some respects, but not in others - too many people to round up.

RO: How did a London girl like yourself wind up in rural Madison County, Georgia?

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HG (laughs): My parents lived in London, but I grew up with my grandparents out of London in the middle of nowhere. It's the only bit of the country not serviced by a freeway, so it was actually quite remote by British standards. I grew up out in the country with animals and dirt bikes, so it's not that far of a stretch, really, to find me where I am now. It's the same thing, but transplanted. I'm not a city slicker, really.

RO: How did you get interested in country, cowboy songs, bluegrass - that kind of music?

HG: That was actually Dave's forte. It's not my thing at all, really. I don't know anything about country music. I don't have any country records. I've had some rare soul 45s since I was about 18 and found out about all this great '60s soul, and then went backwards and got really into gospel stuff.

I come from a slightly different angle than Dave does - he grew up on country radio. It's all country blues - it's all just folk music. We're not purist anything, we're not authentic anything. We just take a bit of the elements of the things that we enjoy and share a lot of similar reference points.

RO: Tell me about "Gettin' High for Jesus" [from Dirt].

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HG: I sent Dave some excerpts from a snake-handling church, because they made this amazing music. By church-music standards it's actually quite free and expressive, because an awful lot of church music isn't. I said, "I want to do something like this," and that's what we came up with (laughs). It's crashing drums and an out-of-time tambourine.

RO: There's another gospel one on the new one.

HG: That's "When He Comes." That's just exploring the same thing again, really. Very near to where we live is a sort of camp that we don't quite know what it's about, but that's our song for them. That's what we think is going on there. It's probably just a summer camp or something like that. It doesn't look sinister so much as private. Whatever's going on in there is private - we just think they're getting ready. Any day now.

RO: Would you say you're a reformed punk rocker?

HG: Oh no, I'm still a punk rocker. Very much so. My ethos has never changed. Absolutely not. It's not compulsory to be in a band just because you're a punk rocker, but I do think there's an outlet for everybody.

RO: Is Lawyer Dave a real lawyer?

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HG: Oh no. He once drank from a mug that had a picture of a lawyer on it. I had two Daves in a band, and one of them was drinking from a mug with a picture of a bear on it, so he got to be Bear Dave. This guy right here got to be Lawyer Dave. He got the better name of the two, really.

RO: It seems like you've been through Houston a lot in the past few years. What do you like about playing here?

HG: Mannnnny times in the last 10 years. Always Rudyard's (laughs). I'm more inclined to tell you what I don't like, because that's what sticks in my mind about anywhere.

RO: Go for it.

HG: I don't like that it's such a late night, I will say that. I think there's a point where if you're getting onstage at one o'clock in the morning, people have sort of spent their best energy by then. Not just you, but the audience as well. I think it would be great if we could do a tour where we play at seven o'clock and everyone was in bed by nine.

With Wife and Duncan, Johnson and the Gentleman, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 10 at Mango's, 403 Westheimer, 713-522-8903 or www.mangoscafehouston.com.

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