Courtesy Andy Stavropolis
Feb 9, 2021
The Knocks’ Ben Ruttner on his new side-hustle, Holiday87
Expect a 'moodier and weirder' sound on the debut album by producer-DJ Holiday87
Although the moniker Holiday87 might conjure images of lazy vacations, it’s hardly the product of a slacking off: A side project of Ben Ruttner of the electronic duo The Knocks, Holiday87 is a new self-titled first full album, a somewhat dreamier, softer sound than fans of the Knocks might expect.
The newer vibe was influenced by time spent in the wilderness of upstate New York during the early months of quarantine, says Ruttner, who also goes by B-Roc.
“I was originally making songs for the new Knocks album. It was December 2019, right before the pandemic broke,” he tells Brooklyn Magazine. “It was moodier and weirder. I knew it really wouldn’t work with the Knocks stuff.”
The duo first broke through when they were featured on Sofi Tukker’s 2017 hit “Best Friend.” That song was featured in Apple’s iPhone’s X commercial and subsequently popped up in ads and movies all over the place.
As the Knocks, New Hampshire-born Ruttner and his other half, college roommate James Patterson, enjoyed continued success in 2020 with the singles “Ride or Die” and “All About You,” both with pop group Foster the People.
Now, as Holiday87, Ruttner releases his self-titled, 13-track debut album on his newly launched label, Black Clay. Brooklyn Magazine caught up with Holiday87 to discuss the work. This interview has been edited for clarity and flow.
You were upstate in the woods when you thought of the concept of this record. How did your physical surroundings affect your music?
Quite a bit. I’d go on jogs in the woods everyday. I never sit in the studio and listen to and critique my songs. It’s much different from the urban environment. I want the listener to experience what I saw. It’s a good place to test the music to have it where you want it to be appreciated.
It’s a different sounding record. What did you do differently in the studio?
I played a lot more piano and practiced my piano chops. It was a big exploration of writing musical parts that I wouldn’t be able to do before. I wanted the sounds to feel warm and real. I challenged my producer side.
What does this mean for the Knocks?
We have another LP coming out. Our second song with Foster the People is out on radio right now, “All About You.” We got lucky that we finished it. We were producing and working with a few people before the world got shut down. This new album is kind of return to form.
How does that fit in with what you’re doing as Holiday87?
I didn’t have any expectations with this project. I just want the people to hear it. I want the public to listen to it in its entirety. Knocks is still number one for me. James is making his own solo stuff too during quarantine. We have the time to do this now, might as well take advantage of it and make music while we can.
How do you build a fan base without touring or playing live during the pandemic?
Right now, something that goes viral or a TikTok thing. It’s interesting to see where things go. I feel for the musicians who were ready to release a single or were ready to go on tour. I’m grateful where we are with the Knocks stuff and that we are able to go tour after this pandemic is up. It feels like the rug was pulled from underneath our feet a little as performers.
You mentioned TikTok. What’s your social media diet?
I use Instagram and Twitter is my favorite right now. You really have to dig for some good stuff on the apps to find what you are looking for.
You have a knack for spotting and fostering young talent. What exactly do you look for?
I look for something I really like and listen to. That intangible thing. That vibe. On top of that the hard work—people who are ready to do the work and do it for the right reasons.
Favorite soul cuts to play at a party?
“I Forgot To Be Your Lover” is my jam by William Bell, and “Strawberry Letter 23” by The Brothers Johnson.
What’s your favorite record store in Brooklyn?
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