No one in South Florida was making the sort of fuzzy, jangly indie rock that lead singer, guitarist, and founder Jose Perez wanted to hear on the local circuit. So he said, Screw it — I’ll do it myself, and crafted his own indie-rock outfit, Holy Dances, with that sound in mind.
A Cuban immigrant who moved to the States at 10 years old and spoke little English, Perez was drawn to music from a young age. By the time he was 14, he was playing in a punk band. Now in his early 30s, he plays the occasional cover band gig, but with Holy Dances, he seems to have finally found his musical niche.
“After playing reggae for six years, doing the professional-musician thing where you go to the gig and play for three hours or whatever, I [realized] I wasn’t doing what I want to do, which was this,” Perez explains. “That was really the catalyst. I need to do what I really want to do, which is write original music that I want to hear. I wasn’t hearing anyone play what I want to hear or to see live. It’s not right that I have to go to Atlanta or South Carolina to see somebody like Beach Fossils, Divino Niño, or Diiv or whatever.”
Perez’s band is named for one of his favorite songs, “Holy Dances,” by one of his favorite bands, Beach House. The name acted as an “umbrella to cover this conglomerate of tunes I was writing,” he says. However, in the intervening time between taking the project from his bedroom to fleshing it out into a touring three-piece live band, Perez says the name came to mean more.
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“I’m bilingual, so every time my family would ask me: 'What’s your band’s name?' I’d tell them: ‘Holy Dances.’ And they’re like, 'What?'” Perez says, laughing. “So I started translating it for them into Spanish, and I would say, ‘Bailes Sagrados...' It got its own identity on that side. From that point on, I thought the music I was writing is very danceable, but it can also be listened to by yourself, like an experience.”
After addressing his family members' confusion and explaining to them that Holy Dances is, in fact, not a Christian rock band, Perez teamed up with his friend Billy Hand and a Spinal Tap-esque revolving door of drummers to craft the sound he craved to hear locally.
Despite growing up on punk acts such as Operation Ivy, the heroes that inform his current band include Felt, an English jangle-pop outfit with a cult following; and Television, the somber art-punk band from New York founded in the '70s.
Although Holy Dances generally possesses a clear '80s, Talking Heads, Wire, and Smiths vibe, the band also prides itself on being an amalgamation of styles and sounds. For example, the song “Drag Me Down” is stitched together by bluesy guitar riffs à la Cage the Elephant or Jack White, while the hypnotic “Mirage” is an instrumental track focused mostly on atmospherics. It could have been easily lifted from an early Interpol record.
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The band's standout track, “Mad World,” is perhaps the catchiest of its tunes, weaving dreamy pop hooks into an irresistible earworm. It’s a direction Perez and company delve deeper into on their upcoming single, “Dino,” set to be released Friday, September 27. The new track steps up the hand-clapping, toe-tapping jangle-rock grooves the band has hinted at in previous efforts.
Accompanying the new song is a three-month stretch of fall dates throughout South Florida. Holy Dances also plans to release its debut LP in early 2020 with even more shows and holy dancing to follow.
Asked what motivates the busy husband and father of two to continue pushing past soulless cover gigs and a busy roster of tour dates, Perez recalls the reason he started the band: “We are very driven by doing our own thing and playing music we don’t hear in our hometown... It’s a little sentimental, but powerful and energetic."
Holy Dances. 9 p.m. Friday, September 27, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets cost $5 at the door.