Dance

Doom, Drugs & '2050s Dubstep': Holly Breaks Down His 'Dark Skies & Holy Grail' Mixtape Track By Track

Holly
Pedro Leote

Holly

Rising Portuguese bass producer Holly may trade in heavy sounds, but he's got lightness on his mind. On his new mixtape, Dark Skies and Holy Grail, the producer considers themes like death and drug use, but ultimately says the music is about "fighting the darkness that extinguishes our dreams."

Out via Hard Records, the hip-hop-leaning mixtape features a strong crew of collaborators including Baauer, UnoTheActivist, OG Maco and the late Mac P Dawg, with some production assistance from scene heroes Jimmy Edgar and Tokimonsta.

Made between the United States and Holly's coastal hometown in Portugal, the mixtape is the latest in a run of strong releases that have made Holly one of the more interesting and exciting young producers in the bass realm. Here, in his own words, he shares the story behind each track on Dark Skies & Holy Grail.

"Amusement" (feat. UnoTheActivist)

The instrumental for "Amusement'" was originally a remix I made that didn't get approved. I always liked the energy of the track because it is a cool combination of rap and bass music without being too ordinary. I sent the record to my friend Buster who helped me get some features for the project, and he recommended UnoTheActivist.

We sent him the beat and a couple of days later he sent the vocals back. I worked on it a little more then sent it to Jimmy Edgar, who helped me get the mix right. I'm really happy with this one and can't wait to drop this at a festival in 2021.

"Angel Fire" Feat. Sebastian Reynoso

I made the instrumental for "Angel Fire’ last year and I knew I wanted to use it on my next project. I felt this one was special and I kept thinking about finishing it but I always felt something was missing until I met Sebastian Reynoso. I showed him the idea and he loved it. We got it to an amazing space and then I sent it once again to Jimmy Edgar to do his magic!

This is one of those songs that you can play in a club, in your house while chilling with your friends or just by yourself.

"Just Enough" (feat. Baauer)

I met Baauer last year in NYC. He gave me a couple of demos that he was working on, and "Just Enough" was one of them. The demo had an intro and the first drop already, and I really liked the record because it reminded me of the type of dubstep that I listened to back in 2012. My idea was to make a song that mixed 2010s dubstep versus 2050s dubstep, and that's what was going on my mind while creating it. The song is a really wild journey so I added the ambient outro so you can have your own thoughts and reflect on what you heard.

Harry and I made 10-plus demos in the months after we met, and some of them ended up on his new album, Planet's Mad. "Just Enough" didn't make it onto the record, but when I was putting my mixtape together I realized that "Just Enough" would be a great fit for it so I decided to include it. Much love to Baauer for letting me put this one on the project. We got some new stuff that sounds incredible too!

"5AM CDR Jam"

This was probably the last song that I put together for the project. It’s the result of a jam that I did for fun at 5:00 a.m. in my hometown Caldas da Rainha. There's no crazy concept here, just me having fun and making beats at 5:00 a.m. in my attic.

"Immune"

I made "Immune" around Christmas of 2019. I was in my living room with my family making beats on my laptop, and I thought about making a crazy bass beat with afro/drill/Brazilian percussion.

I wasn't thinking about putting this one out at first, but after seeing other DJs playing it out and having other producers asking me to work on it made me realize that it actually could go somewhere and here it is!

"Devotion" (feat. OG Maco)

I've been trying to work with OG Maco for ages. Not only because his music is great but also because he's a living legend and his energy influenced a lot of the rap sound that we listen to nowadays. I almost worked with him two times in the past but this time -- once again through Buster -- we found the right timing to make this happen. For the instrumental, I made it at the beginning of the year when I found this techno lead synths pack where I basically added an 808, snare, and hi-hats.

Jimmy Edgar helped with this one as well. Shout out Jimmy Edgar who also dropped the first singles from his new project this month -- that is so wild!

"Safety" (feat. RahRah)

Have you heard about RahRah? If not, you should definitely check her music. I sent her a couple of tracks that I was working on and she sent me a demo called "Safety" which was the original track title, and she ran with it. I did some work with her vocals but I wasn't totally sure about the structure so I sent it to Kyle Edwards to help me with it.

Then I sent the song to Tokimonsta to mix it, and she ended up adding some production that helped take the song to another level. This one was a very collaborative record that wasn't planned at all. I am really glad for the opportunity to work with RahRah, Kyle Edwards and Tokimonsta on this one.

"Pill Ride" Feat. Tearz, Ugly Duck

Tearz and I have been working together for a year now and when I was putting together the track list for the mixtape I found "Pill Ride" and I thought it would fit the rap side of the project.

Dark Skies & Holy Grail represents the struggles to achieve the dreams that we all have, and I know a lot of cases where drugs get in the way of achieving those dreams, so I thought it would make sense to bring a song into the record that could have a relation with that. I wanted to have another perspective on this topic so I invited Ugly Duck to jump on it. Ugly Duck and I met when I went to Korea in September 2019 and I always wanted to work with him so I felt this would be the right moment to do it.

"Fridays Night" (feat. Mac P Dawg, Suffer Grim)

Before the pandemic, I was in L.A. and I was working sometimes with Neal Suva. Neal is an amazing A&R and one night he invited me to come to the studio to work with his homies Mac P Dawg, Suffer Grim, and kb3ach. I played some beats to the guys and Mac P Dawg really liked "Fridays Night." I was too tired that night and had to wake up early in the morning, so I ended up leaving the studio session after they chose the beat. I got the song the next day through Neal with Mac and GRiM verses on it, and I loved how vibey it was and how natural it was sounding.

COVID started hitting really bad in the U.S., so I came back to Portugal and a few weeks after I got home I received the devastating news that Mac P Dawg passed away. It hit me really hard because Mac P Dawg still had a long way to go in this world. His energy, flow, charisma and attitude were and will always be unmatched.

Neal expressed to me how important it was to share his legacy with the world and keep his energy alive, so I thought it would make sense to put our song on Dark Skies & Holy Grail. I'm really grateful to the universe for the beautiful experience that it was to meet and work with Mac P Dawg and to be around is energy. RIP Mac P Dawg.

Thanks to Neal Suva for making this record happen and being more than an A&R on this one. Thanks to Grim for blessing us with his energy in this record as well. All the revenue from this song will be donated to Mac P’s Family.

"All Star"

"All Star" is an instrumental that I did a few months ago that I've been working on with three rapper friends from Portugal -- but unfortunately we couldn't get the song done in time, so I decided to release the instrumental instead. Hopefully I can do a version with their verses on it very soon.

"Sunrise"

When I got to Portugal from the U.S.A. in March, my sleep schedule was all over the place and would go to sleep at 6 or 7 a.m. On one of those nights, I was making some ambient music and thought about an outro with some crazy classic breaks.

I named that track "Sunrise" because I was working on it during the magical sunrise hour, but it also fits as the last song of the tape, since one of the concepts is how important it is to fight the darkness that extinguishes our dreams. "Sunrise" ends up representing that in the end. We have to trust that everything will be alright; the light will rise and our dreams will come true.