For the past five years, singer-guitarist Holly Golightly (yes, she's named after the character in Truman Capote's novel Breakfast at Tiffany's) and multi-instrumentalist Lawyer Dave have released an album a year as a duo they cheekily call Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs. Evoking the rural music of the American South, Golightly and Lawyer Dave play garage rock and old-time country that shows off Golightly's encyclopedic knowledge of early rock 'n' roll.
Prior to working with Lawyer Dave, Golightly was equally prolific, putting out an album a year as a solo artist. Golightly, who was born in England but now calls Athens, Ga. home, attributes her work ethic to her punk rock past.
"I suppose my culture in as much as there is any, comes from having a punk rock ethos toward the whole thing," she says via phone from her home. "It's instant, and a record is just a moment in time. I think that's where it comes from. Most of the people I worked with in the past are of the same mindset."
She says working with labels like Transdreamer Records, the indie imprint that has just released her terrific new album, Sunday Run Me Over, has something to do with it, too.
"They're not bound by some ridiculous strategy," she says of the label. "If you think about being a musician as a job and holding down a full-time job, I have to split time and make it work in a short amount of time anyway. I think you ought to be able to do that. That's respectable. That's not flooding the market, certainly by comparison to most people who put out an album every five years. You have to wonder what else they were doing. I like it to be more instant. I'm prolific not by design; it's just by default."
That punk rock ethos to which Golightly refers was instilled her back in the UK, where she joined outsider artist and poet Billy Childish in his garage rocking act The Del Monas, which then became Thee Headcoatees. Her association with Childish, in turn, helped her establish herself in the indie rock world and subsequently led to collaborations with critically acclaimed acts such as the White Stripes, Mudhoney and Rocket from the Crypt. Hooking up with Lawyer Dave five years ago spawned the Brokeoffs, the misnamed one-man backing band that currently supports her in the studio and on the road.
"Dave played bass in my touring band for years, and that might have been the first time he was playing stuff like that," she says of her bandmate, who plays everything from bass to percussion. "He didn't know who I was. When somebody said this girl from England needs a bass player, he was the only guy there, and he got slung into it. He just got on with it. There are places here and there where our taste runs closely parallel. And then he veers off into a land of absolute shite. He can stomach a lot more than I can. He's musically more open than I am. We cultivate what we share rather than think about what we don't share."
Golightly stresses she didn't move to the rural South in order to get closer to the old blues, country and R&B music she so dearly loves.
"The same music that influenced me then is the same music I'm listening to now," she says. "Some of it comes from the South. I didn't come here to absorb the music. I don't spent any time in Athens at all. We live outside the town. The Athens scene is of no interest to me. I would have been interested in about 1958. That's the extent of my fascination with it is. I'd be curious to go around the chitlin circuit. That would be appealing to me. Everything that happened since is pop music, and that isn't of much interest to me. The problem with people in bands is that they want to be where the other bands are. They want to live in L.A. or New York or London. They work their tits off to pay their rent, and they have a ton of competition. That doesn't make any sense. It's better to live cheap and have time to do what you want to do."
Golightly and Lawyer Dave "live cheap" on an old Athens farm, where they rescue horses and other animals. Lawyer Dave converted the home's den into a primitive recording studio.
"The word 'studio' conjures up this image of this amazing room with all this equipment," she says. "It's a den that has loads of stuff and it doesn't have any windows. I don't even like to spend a whole lot of time in there unless the door is open."
And yet the studio space was exactly the right room to record Sunday Run Me Over. The album, which commences with the twangy rave-up "Goddamn Holy Roll" and then segues into the Black Keys-meets-Gillian Welch garage blues of "They Say," gathers up a good head of steam before simmering down for a somber rendition of the Davis Sisters' "I Forgot More" that Golightly and Lawyer Dave rearranged.
"I got asked a little while back to do a Skeeter Davis song for an advert that I didn't end up doing, and this song reminded me of that one," says Golightly. "Wanda Jackson did a version of the song, too. The combination of having to listen to Skeeter Davis songs, which I wouldn't ordinarily do, and having opened for Wanda Jackson made it a nice homage. It's just a good song."
She doesn't share the same enthusiasm for their cover of the Mac Davis tune "Hard to be Humble." Lawyer Dave provides the woozy lead vocals, and the duo also provided their own arrangement of the track.
"Dave picked that one," she says. "That wouldn't have been my choice. It's one of his favorite songs, and he always wanted to do it. When we came to looking at covers, it's nice that one of us gets to pick one and he wanted to do it. It's just a song he knew really well and had fun playing."
You can't hear any of that tension in the song, which the two deliver with gusto. In fact, Golightly says that she and Lawyer Dave have a bit of an opposites-attract approach to recording and writing.
"I've managed to work well with him," she says, "But there's no concession on his part. I have worked out that there is a way of doing things so that there can be an end result. Otherwise, there would be months and months of procrastination. We don't really have tight deadlines. Everybody we work with is very understanding, but there is an outline from the inception. Deadlines are something he never had to work to. Having the studio next to the house does help. You're not paying for studio time. I had my own band in the UK. I've always played and recorded with them. It's ultimately been all my opinion and when you do something like this it can slow things down if you have to agree on something that you can't agree on."
The two apparently agree that providing a refuge for horses and other wayward animals is a worthy pursuit. Golightly says she rescued horses when she was growing up in the UK and has kept at it over the years with the same dogged determination she applies to her musical career.
"It never occurred to me that I would be in the position to buy land; I would have never been in that position in the UK," she says. "Being here has enabled that to happen on a regular basis. Now, it's more of a regular thing, and there's a steady stream of strays, and they get rehomed, and then another one comes. We can do it officially, and we're justified in asking for donations. It's such a tiny thing in the grand scheme of things, but it's a big thing to each horse. We can't make a huge difference, but we can do what we can do."