Artists are always finding new ways to express themselves. This can take many shapes, but for Ben "B-Roc" Ruttner of the mega-popular band The Knocks, this came to fruition in the form of a new project called Holiday87. The sound of Holiday87 can best be described as cozy and nostalgic with DIY lo-fi vibes, inspired by the music Ben made growing up in New Hampshire. Although not too dissimilar to his collabs with SOFI Tukker and The Knocks, Holiday87 is a bit more understated and grooving. We were extremely interested to see how his new single, which also happens to be the first on The Knocks' new label, came to be, and as such invited him to break it down for How It Was Made.
Words by Holiday87
1. Los Yesterdays Tell Me I'm Dreaming Sample
The main vocal you hear in the song is a sample from the band Los Yesterdays. They are actually a more contemporary group that specializes in making soul and R&B that pays homage to the classic era. I got my hands on the acapella of their song "I can’t feel," which instantly struck a chord with me. It says, "I can’t feel nothing, since I lost you." It felt like such a classic line and something that is very relatable and can resonate with a lot of people that have been through love/loss. I think I had to pitch it up a couple of half steps but it was one of those eureka moments when it just worked perfectly over the chord loop I was working on.
2. Roland SH-101
The Roland SH-101 is probably my favorite synth to use. The filters and tones are pretty unbeatable even with some of the best virtual versions. Around 2:11 in the song, you will hear a blippy little arpeggiated synth part that I made with this beauty. I use a Max for Live sequencer & send out patterns to the analog synths to find little parts I like. It takes a lot of trial and error and cutting and pasting but when you get the perfect part it's super satisfying. I’ll sit and tweak the portamento and other controls on the synth while it’s playing to get the perfect part that feels weirdly human while also programmed.
3. Roland Juno 106
The Roland Juno 106 is another staple for me. This is what I used for some of the lush synth pads you hear. I look at the Juno kinda like a slice of bread. There’s a lot you can do with it, but if you put nothing on it it can be a little stale/dull. I always end up putting a lot of effects/plugins on it to make it feel a little more multi-dimensional and lush, but it’s a great starting point and is always there as a rock for me.
4. Korg MS-20
The 3rd member of my starting 3 is the Korg MS-20, which I used on “Lost” for the long bass notes you hear. This synth is a classic and has been used on so many legendary electronic records from the ‘90s to now. It takes some serious taming and finagling to get it the way you want it, but once you know your way around it, it’s really powerful and has a sound that you can’t beat. In this song, I kept it pretty simple, but it played its part well.
5. U-He Repro-5
The U-He Repro-5 is one of my favorite new VST synths to use. It's definitely the best "fake" prophet 5 out there and is super versatile and fun to use. I used this for the little arp you hear going at the end of the song. I like to use this synth the same way I would an actual hardware synth - I send midi to it from a sequencer and kinda play with it until I find something that feels right. I like to print it straight to audio too so I'm forced to commit to whatever feels good. A theme I used while making this record was committing to sounds the second I like them and they feel right. Sometimes with midi/VSTs you get overwhelmed by the ability to be able to change/tweak everything always. If you print audio you really trust your gut/ears and make calls in the moment, which I’m enjoying lately.