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Meet John Holk & the Sequins: A honky-tonk inspired, psychedelic-country pop band

Jun 29, 2017

It’s might not be a musical genre you’re familiar with,  but "psychedelic country rock" is how front man and founder John Holkeboer likes to describe John Holk & the Sequins.

The honky-tonk inspiration was all about timing. Around the time Holkeboer gathered a group of talented musicians to play together, he was was dabbling in “country-sounding stuff.” But today’s sound emerged organically, he says, over the course of two full-length albums. Their latest is “Where You Going?” released in 2016.

“We thought it was really fun and hilarious to do old fashioned like Hank Williams and Merle Haggard tunes along with just psychedelic rock songs,” Holkeboer said. “We always loved the tension between those town genres.”

Despite the playful combination of genres in his music, Holkeboer’s roots are more traditional. He studied classical music and composition at the University of Michigan, where he played bass in the orchestra. But after graduating, the Ann Arbor native gravitated toward pop music

In 2010, Holkeboer released his first record, “If You See Her.” To his surprise, it was nominated for a Detroit Music Award for Best Country Album that year.

“We got a lot of great reviews and press from the power pop world, which is a different musical genre unto itself,” Holkeboer said. “I was very flattered that these people were responding to the music, and so in a way I gave myself the latitude to be more power poppy on the second record.”

On the second album, Holkeboer dives even deeper into what he calls psychedelic-pop, adding electronic samples for the first time. But the honky-tonk influence is still there.
 
“Everyone in the band loves country music, especially old-fashioned country music,” he said. “When we play a party we’re gonna play some country music, it’s just gonna happen. We have a book of like 60 country songs that we play from, so it cannot but influence us in some way.”
 
John Holk & the Sequins will perform June 29 in Detroit at The Whitney, and Aug. 17 in Ann Arbor at the Nash Bash at the Kerrytown Farmers Market.

This story is part of the ongoing series on Stateside called Songs From Studio East, which features musicians from across the state.

Support for arts and culture coverage comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

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