Holiday Sidewinder is in control. A prime example of a uniquely feminine, multitiered power, Holiday is the real deal. As towering male figures like R. Kelly and Ryan Adams experience a massive fall from grace (to say the least), women like Holiday are rising—riding their own dreams to fruition and guarding them against the vampiric reaches of industry baddies. A femme-fatale at the helm of her own luxury wheels, Holiday is in charge of every aspect of her persona—from image, to merchandise (sealed, worn panties—HELL YES), to the analog warmth present in her sound, and the ridiculously contagious energy of her live shows. It all goes to show, Holiday Sidewinder isn’t just riding this femme-forward wave of change, she’s at its helm.
Jumping right in, what can one expect from a Holiday Sidewinder live show?
Holiday Sidewinder: You can expect every show to be different.
Smoke, mirrors, heart, soul, floor work, limbs, diamanté’s, shredding, spinning *shrugs* I’m fairly consumed by the moment during my shows, I feel like I’ve been set on fire. I fucking love it. I look out at the audience and I enjoy a lot of deer-in-headlight-type eye contact.
You’ve expressed belief in the unifying power of pop, and I totally agree—pop music does often act as a catalyst of social change. What transformations would you most like to promote with your particular brand of sex/body positive, feminist-driven pop, especially as displayed in the “Leo” video?
HS: I hope to use whatever cultural influence I have to create a world where women feel total freedom (or “no fear” as Nina Simone defines Freedom); strength, power and independence -personally, financially, physically. Every facet of our lives is interconnected and in a patriarchal society built on rape culture, I believe imbuing at least the feeling of sexual agency, can be the seeds to bloom into other interpersonal growth and freedom. Women carry a lot of sexual guilt, fear and shame that isn’t ours to carry. I’ll start rambling if we go down this rabbit hole of my mind… but I feel grateful for the responsibility and privilege of contributing my voice to the cultural legacy of our times. More importantly, we use art to communicate, empathize and connect and the more female stories and figures, the better for society as a whole.
You tour a lot, whether solo or with Alex Cameron—what are some things about the road that you love/hate? And since stories of women on the road are still few and far between, could you share some ways that being a woman affects and informs your relationship with touring?
HS: I love feeling like I belong no place in particular, but everywhere at once. The feeling of perpetual motion becomes not just your physical reality but a metaphor for your whole life. The camaraderie of a touring party is very unique and special. Gets a bit hunter/gatherer. Something you miss when you’re stationary in a big city. It’s physically taxing, you often feel like a zombie; like life has been put on hold, but a Hall & Oates song is playing on repeat. I love getting familiar with all the quirks and customs of the cities we visit, meeting the people after shows.
Being a woman on tour. Here goes nothing. Safety is a big one. Where a male tour manager might feel safe packing gear alone in a dark back alley in a foreign city late at night, their female counterpart does not have the same freedom without a very real threat of potential male violence or harassment. We know this from recent experience unfortunately. It feels safer and more comfortable for us not to be sharing hotel rooms with Male colleagues, and not to be left on our own with men outside the touring party in car or a venue etc. These things sadly pose questions to employers about the potential extra “difficulty” or “expense” of hiring female crew and talent that we become paranoid about. I wish I was exaggerating, but after 150+ shows, I know. I’ve found myself one of a small handful of women on an entire ship full of men staring and gawking. Similarly, backstage in a stadium full of 300 male crew. You feel a little like a lamb to the slaughter/a sight for sore eyes/an oasis in a desert of men who have been on the road for god knows how long. It’s intimidating sometimes!! Especially when I’m wearing my stage outfits.
The other thing I’ll get is people commenting on my appearance rather than my performance or musicality. Costume is a big part of showbiz for me but I wonder if it’s gender/sexism informed feedback or if they genuinely felt that my musical skills where less impressive or noteworthy than my appearance (which is totally possible). I hope not.
Your music and videos have a cinematic quality—what are some films that have most influenced your overall aesthetic and sound?
HS: Most of my family is in the film industry so it’s definitely a big part of my world. Bollywood is a treasure trove for me. Mystic Pizza, The Deer Hunter, The Birdcage, Saturday Night Fever, Priscilla Queen of The Desert, anything by Pedro Almodovar. My favorite TV shows as a kid were Murder She Wrote and the original Charlie’s Angels.
Your latest singles, from “Trash Can Luv” to “Whispers”, seem to be 80s-informed—what about that decade so captures your attention as a musician? And why do you think the 80s are particularly ripe for revisiting as a pop artist?
HS: I think what is interesting about 70s/80s Disco/Dance music is the analogue feel. The last era of analogue synths and drum machines. There is a lot more warmth and frailty in that, it’s more human, and I connect to it better than plug-ins. There is more actual depth of information being emitted and received in an analogue performance/recording than a digital one and we can feel that. I have real live guitar and drum takes on my album, something you actually won’t hear on a lot of new pop music. We play synth parts across a whole song rather than cut and paste, so there are tiny variations. Those eras of the past were mostly recorded to tape with live performances. I think it was a time of huge innovation (similar to now); a race to who could come up with the weirdest and newest sounds rather than the most familiar or homogenized. I’m very excited by what is happening in pop music right now. Pop 2.0 they call it. Although I’m informed by music history, like we all are, I hope to bring something new to the table. I want to be a unique voice. I’m personally more interested in hearing non white female perspectives in music right now, but I hope my perspective can be of some comfort or inspiration to people.
I read that you started your own fitness company called Lovercise—from starting the company to fashioning a retro exercise aesthetic on stage and in your videos, what are your thoughts on the ways that music and fitness cross over and connect?
HS: Obsessed with the Jane Fonda workouts, Jazzercise, Prancercise, the Jamie Lee Curtis film -Perfect. In true Madonna style, I dated my personal trainer and we ran a gym in London together and created Lovercise. Exercise and sports doesn’t come naturally to me. My mother has never owned a pair of trainers and neither had I until I realized I needed to get my heart rate up. Mostly for my mental health. It just didn’t seem appealing to me unless there were cute outfits and pop songs to go with it. They totally go hand in hand. I love dancing and always have. I still do jazz ballet, bollywood, vogueing, salsa…. it’s a big part of who I am. I love how movement and music compliment and enhance each other.
How does the current near-requirement of self-branding on social media affect your relationship with creation and image?
HS: If I’m going to give the people what they want/what gets the likes -sexy pictures of myself, it has to be related to a body of work or an achievement. That’s my rule. I want young people (women especially) to know that a sense of achievement and worth should come from from things they’ve made, done or thought rather than just their physical appearance. I know I can use my appearance to sell my music and I’m fine with that if it brings people to my actual work. I feel like we have a responsibility to buck against this narcissistic machine that makes everyone insecure. I also notice that male pop stars tend to emphasize wealth, status and skills through their posts (eg. on stage, in the studio, with a famous person, portrait wearing chains/watches). Female popstars post a lot of thirst pics and selfies. Supply and demand? I wonder what that says about how we value ourselves and what society expects/needs from us and is it another double standard. I love that meme or Ed Sheehan and Beyonce on stage together. Sums it up perfectly.
What was your favourite album of last year?
HS: Cardi B & Robyn probably
HS: I’ve already started writing the second record! I’ve made a country covers album in Nashville. There’s some acting offers on the table I’m thinking about… but I’m concentrating on Forever or Whatever right now, touring and meeting my fan base.