Fri, May 09, 2014 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: Lost and found

By Joe Henley  /  Contributing reporter

The Bollands are currently trekking around Taiwan as part of a larger Asian tour.

Photo Courtesy of The Bollands

Exile and the artist. It can be a complicated relationship. Oftentimes a banishment of some kind in terms of physical location or emotion, self-imposed or otherwise, is vital to a musician’s work. But it’s a fine line. The longing and loneliness — the silence, such as it is — that can contribute to one’s most profound work can be the same weighty emotions that lead to the seemingly inevitable downfall that awaits the creative type. So, when an artist does decide to leave all he or she knows behind and strike out for uncharted waters, what is there to keep them on even keel?

For folk duo Joyce and Christian Bolland, the solution has been to take the journey into that creative heart of darkness together. Hailing from New Zealand, Joyce by way of Malaysia, the couple met at a campfire jam on a beach and, according to Christian’s recollection, it became instantly apparent that they would be singing and jamming together a lot. Turning that into an actual band would come later. By that point in his life, Christian was already intimately familiar with the themes of loss, confusion and fragility that drive his songwriting.

“When I was younger I was pretty lost, as most of us are in our late teens,” he says. “I ended up living and working in a Christian cult for about five years. When that spewed me out, I was very broken and confused. Everything I believed had slipped away from me, and I had pretty much given up my brain to someone else for so long that I had lost who I was. Writing about it helped me find my way back, and I think there is still an element of that confusion and searching in the songs we write.”

Christian’s upbringing was not what you might call traditional. In a way, the road is all he’s ever known. So it’s not surprising that he and Joyce upped stakes and took off for Taiwan a few years ago. His parents instilled the wanderlust in him from the time he was in diapers.

“Mom and dad were into alternative ways of living, so dad built a house truck when I was a baby,” he recalls of his childhood. “We grew up living on different beaches and communities around the North Island of New Zealand with poets, artists and outcasts. It has influenced the way I lean towards organic grassroots music.”

Following a stint living in Taiwan a few years back, the Bollands went back to New Zealand for a while, only to leave home again, this time bound for Hong Kong, their home base to this day. Using the smoggy concrete enclave as an easy jump-off point to the rest of Asia, the Bollands now spend a good portion of their time on the road or in the air, traveling to shows around the continent and beyond. The ex-pat lifestyle is one rife with the common pitfall of emotional impermanence. Friends and loved ones here today might not be there tomorrow. Even the good times can have a tinge of sadness to them. You never know who might be filling those seats at the table at the next get-together, or if there will be anyone to fill them at all. The Bollands songs are a mix of foot-stomping sing-along numbers and more heart-wrenching tunes. Even in the former, however, there is that inescapable element of fatalism in play.

“Even in the more upbeat songs, there is often an ‘Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’ element,” Christian admits.

Currently, The Bollands are on tour in Taiwan, gearing up for the release of their second album, Paper Houses, due out next month. Expect the same mix of songs about love, loss and the drink as can be found on their eponymous debut, but with a much bigger sound this time around. One benefit of being constantly on the move is that it exposes you to a wide variety of people with a similar mentality — people driven to create today in absence of a concrete sense of tomorrow. The result is a kind of electricity and chemistry that you can’t get at home. It has to be found elsewhere.

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