Two years bouncing around Los Angeles was enough for Arkansas drummer Joe Holland. He headed back home in 2012 with any Hollywood illusions packed away and a passel of tunes just looking for a band.
“I had a guitar and was playing around and starting writing songs. I got tired of that West Coast lifestyle and came back home with a batch of songs,” Holland, 28, says.
By late summer 2012, Holland, who grew up in Bryant, had formed a new group, the hard-rocking and melodic Mad Nomad, with lead guitarist Jesse Bell, bassist Chris Honea, keyboardist/vocalist Adam Hogg and drummer Jacob Mahan.
The band plays Friday night at White Water Tavern in Little Rock to kick off the release of its debut album, Black Out.
Holland’s time out West is documented on the album’s ferocious lead off track, “The Crowd,” with its sparkling opening guitar lines that come crashing like a Pacific wave as the raspy-voiced Holland revels in his anonymity in a land where everyone wants to be noticed.
They don’t know my name
They don’t know my face
And I like it that way.
- “The Crowd”
“I moved to California to get away from everything,” he says, “and I enjoyed living there for the first year. But you’re sitting in traffic and everybody’s got a Mercedes or a Bentley and they’re giving you condescending looks. … Being out there just made me love this way of life [in Arkansas] so much more.”
Holland had drummed in bands with Mahan and Honea for years, playing hardcore, metal and math rock.
“We always played in instrumentally complex bands that had a lot to do with sitting in rooms and writing together,” he says. “I didn’t really start writing [on my own] until just before I moved to California.”
Most members of Mad Nomad - graduates of Bryant High School - have switched from their chosen instruments, with Holland now moved from behind the drum kit to out front on lead vocals and rhythm guitar.
“I just kinda beat the guitar and break a lot of strings,” he says with a laugh.
Black Out is a cohesive mix of hard rock, punk, screamo metal, ’90s pop rock and even twinges of ’80s metal, all held together with an accessible and undeniable sense of melody. These are songs for the mosh pit and for fist-pumping singalongs.
“I’ve played in a lot of metal bands, but I always have had a pop influence,” says Holland, who will tell you straight up that his favorite album is Third Eye Blind’s catchy eponymous debut. “That’s where I wanted to go with this band. Chris is into [progressive metal band] Opeth. Jacob runs the gamut. I didn’t think Jesse was going to be into the happier chord structures, but he is just the perfect fit on lead guitar.”
There’s not much happy about Black Out’s fourth track, the haunting “Into the Night,” with its eerie, calliope-like opening and menacing tone. In the song, Holland tells the story of an 8-yearold boy being dragged by his junkie mother to a creepy drug house.
It’s based on events from Holland’s life.
“My mom was real involved with the drug world,” he says, adding that she disappeared when he was 12 and he has never heard from her since.
I knew back then
I would not let that
Be my life.
- “Into the Night”
Black Out, which was recorded at the band’s practice space at Verse 8 Studios in Bryant and mixed by Jason Tedford at Wolfman Studio, builds steam as it approaches its end. The last four songs, starting with the oddly titled but awesome power ballad “Me Tarzan, You Jane,” and including the instrumental “When You Were Here” and the anthemic “The Room Mate,” almost work together as a suite, blending into each other seamlessly.
Though Mad Nomad has been together less than a year, Holland is happy with the group’s progress.
“It’s crazy that we finished an album already. We’re really focused on the CD release and we’ve been working our butts off to get this record done.”
9:30 p.m. Friday, White Water Tavern, 2500 W. 7th St., Little Rock
Weekend, Pages 36 on 05/23/2013
Print Headline: Mad Nomad keeps moving on melodic metal-punk-pop