USW graduates sign their first record deal

Holding Absence, made up of four USW current and former students and another graduate, have signed a record deal with a US label just six months after forming. Neil Gibson, Feb 2017

Just six months after forming, a band made up mostly of University of South Wales graduates have signed to an American record label.

Holding Absence, who play music which fits loosely into the ‘post hardcore’ genre, have agreed a deal with Sharptone Records to record their first album.

BA (Hons) Popular and Commercial Music graduate Lucas Woodland, 22 from Pontypridd, is the band’s lead singer; graduate James Evans, 22, from Pontyclun, is bassist; Feisal El-Khazragi, 22, from Cardiff, who studied the BA (Hons) Creative Music Technologies; and current Popular Music student Giorgio Cantarutti, 23, from Bridgend, are guitarists. Ashley Green, 24, a graduate of Nottingham Trent University, is the band’s drummer.

Lucas explained how they came to make such an immediate impact and secure their record deal.

“We’d all been playing in different bands before, but last summer we decided to get together and start doing some tours and putting out some songs,” he said. “We were touring – we’ve done 33 gigs in the six months up to February and plan another 23 in the next two months – and played Permanent for 10 days on the trot.

“The next thing, we were spotted online, got the message from America, and it has all developed from there.”

With influences from the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, Holding Absence have built up a devoted following and are playing in a wide variety of venues, supporting the farewell tour of rock band We Are The Ocean – including for a sold-out gig at London’s Tuffnell Park Done on March 24. The audiences have ranged in size from from dozens, up to many hundreds.  “I really respect anyone who comes to see us, and I like to be able to thank them all personally, so whatever the size of audience, I’m really glad to see them there,” Lucas said.

As for the future, the band are still considering their next steps.

“The good thing about signing a one-album deal is that it gives us the chance to put all our effort into it, and not think about what’s going to happen next – it’s a do or die album for us,” Lucas said. “We haven’t even thought about where we’re going to record it. If we need to go to the US to do it, we will, or if we can use the money to produce a better album here, we’ll do that.

“Going to uni was a huge help for us. It really helped us find our feet. USW was so, so important, and really gave us the knowledge that we needed to make it this far, and hopefully to go much further.”