Ryan Holladay keeps busy. One half of the electronic music duo Bluebrain, Holladay is a fixture in the local music scene, a survivor of the Brooklyn indietronic explosion of the past decade, part of the team behind the recently-opened Artisphere in Rosslyn and a one-time political operative.
Holladay, 28, and his younger brother Hays came home to the DMV and formed Bluebrain after a critically successful but emotionally frustrating stint as The Epochs, a band The Boston Globe once said “might be to rock critics what Jessica Biel is to teenaged boys.”
As The Epochs, Ryan Holladay told me, making music was about giving up control to outside forces, something he and his brother don’t have to do nearly as much with Bluebrain.
“It was all about trying to get the right A&R person; the right manager,” he said. “And at some point we realized it was sucking the life out of what we were doing.”
Still, the critical adoration wasn’t enough to compensate for record-label meddling and being crammed into five-act lineups at venues like the Mercury Lounge. With Bluebrain, the Holladays get total creative control over their songs and live performances, which often include a heavy video component. It’s a bigger personal lift to curate this kind of show but, as Ryan said, it means they’re “never doing a single show that doesn’t spark our excitement.”
Between putting The Epochs on extended hiatus and starting Bluebrain, Holladay spent a few months in 2008 working for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign as a field organizer in Nevada. (Disclosure: I also worked for the campaign.) After the election, the Holladays relocated to Washington—Ryan lives near Dupont Circle and Hays in Petworth—and Bluebrain began in earnest. Their debut LP Soft Power was released on Lujo Records last February, and the album’s gloomy, but still very danceable beats caught on.
It wasn’t just the critics who responded. (City Paper Arts Editor Jonathan L. Fischer did call Bluebrain the best band that left Brooklyn for Washington in this year’s Best of D.C. issue.) The Holladays’ brand of electropop attracted the attention of the Florida-based production company FCTN (sounds like “fiction”) and resulted in a gig to score an upcoming ESPN documentary on the Denver Broncos’ third-string quarterback Tim Tebow.
By days, Ryan Holladay is now one of the curators of the Artisphere, where Bluebrain will play on Saturday joined by Geologist of Animal Collective and the percussion group Batala, and Holladay couldn’t be more excited about his new venue.
“This place is going to be a gamechanger,” he told me, emphasizing the Artisphere’s ballroom that features two projectors surrounding a Murphy stage that folds into the wall.[audio:http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/files/2010/10/Restriction-8.05.10-close-vox.mp3]
Saturday, Oct. 16. 1101 Wilson Boulevard, Rosslyn. (705) 875-1100. $15