The country band that musician Evan Holm formed after landing a residency at Syntax Physic Opera to throw a weekly honky-tonk night has now become his life — and he’s happy with that. Named after the cheap beer Holm was drinking one night at the hi-dive, Extra Gold successfully captures the magical feeling that briefly comes with attempting to shove off sorrows in the form of a beer and a dance partner.
Holm has been performing under the Extra Gold name for nearly two years, and the band's first release, High & Lonesome, which dropped November 26, is an impressive debut. It's the rare case in which the band sounds as good on the recording as it does during live performances.
High & Lonesome, which took roughly a year and a half to complete, was born of the band's near-constant stream of live performances, a rotating cast of bandmembers, scrapped recording sessions and Holm stretching himself as a musician and frontman.
“[In the beginning], I was playing with people that, musically, were a lot better than me, and I was learning from them every night,” says Holm. “I would also say that I was leading a band, for the most part, for the first time. I had to listen and learn a lot from those people.”
It’s safe to say that Holm’s experience early on has paid off. He comfortably bounces between beautiful and wry storytelling on songs such as “Kansas City Man” and “I Can’t Help But Cry” and barn-burners like “When the Matches Meet the Wood” and “Where Ya Been?.”
With well over a hundred concerts as Extra Gold under his belt before High & Lonesome was released — including a stellar performance over the summer during the 2018 Underground Music Showcase — it isn’t difficult to figure out how Holm had such clear creative vision and precise execution on his debut record.
Initially, the Kansas City native was interested in having as much fun as possible with a band while paying homage to the old country tunes near and dear to his heart. He'd been known for delivering some unusual numbers with his psychedelic country-Western act, Evan Holm and the Restless Ones, but he was tired of seeing audiences do little more than stand and stare during shows. Instead, he wanted to get people out on the dance floor while he played with some of the finest fiddle and pedal-steel musicians he could find.
“Instead of playing that old stuff in the dark in front of people with their arms crossed, people just started dancing and partying at our shows," he says. "That’s what made me want to do some of the high-energy stuff. I had wanted to start a country band, and was actually doing both at the same time for a little while. Eventually, it seemed like I wanted to put all my effort into one thing and get a debut out.
“I think above anything, I wanted to make a straight-country band," Holms adds. "I didn’t want to do an alternative version of it or a modernized version of it. I wanted to almost pay homage to all these artists I was listening to [while living in the mountains] and had come to love. I just started writing songs that, when listening to a country record, I’d want to hear.”
As the band continued to play out, the quality of the music improved, and Extra Gold eventually became much more than a fun new project that Holm used to pay the bills. He also improved as a bandleader and found himself settling into the role of telling musicians what he needed from them for a performance.
“Playing the long sets got me better at guitar and at playing these songs and telling better jokes between songs," he says. "It’s been a progression leading up to it. [The rest of the band] show up and know their part; I just direct traffic. Like, 'All right, you solo; now you solo.’ I’m lucky to be playing with people that can do that.”
As Evan Holm and the Restless Ones came to a natural stopping point, Holm simply pivoted to focusing on Extra Gold full-time and never stopped running with it.
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“Not that Evan Holm and the Restless Ones wasn’t fun," he notes. "It was just that playing in Extra Gold was a hell of a time, and I could do it all the time. When you’re doing an indie project, you can’t go out and play for four hours every weekend.”
Now that he’s dug his heels into the project and moved to Conifer in hopes of starting production on the next record, Holm has found the country band he’s been looking for.
“I think there’s a really cool thing happening with the old-school country scene in Denver right now, where there's about six bands, and everybody’s good friends and everybody supports each other," he says. "It’s a tight-knit community, but everybody’s good and pushing each other to make good stuff. My goal for this band is to constantly be releasing music and constantly be playing, as opposed to the alternative, which is you play once every two months and you have a release once every year, year and a half, or two years.”