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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — We tend to think of punk rock as music that calls you to action, pushes you to get angry, get energized, and get involved. We think of it as a genre that exists to hold a mirror up to society and to force its audience to confront violence, poverty, politics, drug use, and a host of other issues and ills that exist far removed from anyone’s comfort zone.

And then a band comes along like OKC’s On Holiday that grabs that mirror and turns it around on themselves. The songs on the punk trio’s newest EP “2am” are all about bad habits, bad decisions, and the bad feelings leftover the next morning.

There’s a level of emotional introspection and blunt honesty that, frankly, you might not ever expect from what on the surface seems like a hard-drinking party punk band with a cast of cartoon alien mascots. On Holiday makes it work, though, and does so without ever feeling heavy-handed or ever falling into the ham-fisted, overly emotional affectations of the 2000’s emo scene that the band openly cites as an influence.

For starters, when you hear lead singer Skyler offering up stories of hard living and alcohol abuse, you’re inclined to believe him just by the sound of his voice. Falling somewhere in between the chain-smoking rasp of Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen (clearly a major influence for On Holiday’s songwriting) and the deep, near-vaudevillian tones of the legendary Jello Biafra, Skyler’s voice is low, striking, and believably pained. In fact, it might be easier to just imagine Tom Waits fronting a 90’s pop-punk outfit. That’ll get you pretty close to the On Holiday sound.

Opening track “AUD” (presumably Alcohol Use Disorder) sets the stage pretty quickly. It’s about a minute and a half of gravel-throated self-loathing, covering the headaches, hangovers, and hallucinations of alcohol dependency. “Kick Myself” retreads similar lyrical ground, though is more focused on marijuana this time than on booze. “H8Teen” and title track “2am” both examine broken promises and unrealized expectations.

All of these songs use persistent drinking and drug references and casual f-bombs in a way that any fan of earlier Blink-182 might mistake for comedy or for some kind of late-teens/early-twenties rebellious party anthems, but even though the hooks fly fast and catchy, there’s a weight here beneath the surface. These songs aren’t trying to be “fun,” or they are, but they want to be deeper than that at the same time. 

These tiny little two-minute, bite-sized tracks each offer a realistic perspective of the kind of late-adolescent behavior that you either identify and address, or you give yourself over to completely and let it drag you under. And the protagonist on these songs seems still very much unsure of which path he’ll end up on.

Closer “Coffee Song” is a different animal, at least at the beginning. The first half-minute or so gives us a shockingly pretty bass-and-synth melody and a decidedly Leonard Cohen-esque vocal before blowing up into a pop-punk singalong. But the lyrics on “Coffee Song” are also something surprising and special. No longer just singing about substance abuse and regret, this one is actually a beautiful and heartbreaking sentiment that feels rarely spoken about so honestly: the decision to keep yourself alive, and even to forego suicide, because of a promise made to a loved one and their dependence on you.

Even the band’s promotion is based firmly around self-loathing, albeit much more for comedy’s sake.

“We hate the songs. They came to us in nightmares,” Skyler said before backtracking and attempting a straight answer about where the songs and lyrics came from. “[Guitarist] Chance and I each wrote words and chords in a mixed bag of very ‘us’ music. We all added our own to each and every song, though.”

On Holiday takes the stage this Saturday, the 23rd, at 89th Street for the official release show and party for the EP. 89th Street has a long history within the punk scene of OKC, and with Drunken Fry gone and Blue Note currently shuttered for remodeling, it’s one of the last remaining places for reliable punk and metal in the city.

“We’re big fans of 89th Street and the building’s rich music history,” said drummer Jon Michael Jackson. “Its owner and staff have been tied with the building for a while, and we love that it’s all-ages. But the decision to make our release party there ultimately came about because of the perfect timing of it all. We had a goal for this EP to be finished by this fall, but we were unsure of when it would actually become a reality.”

The band was originally set to open for surf-punk legends Agent Orange at the venue, but when that tour had to be canceled due to illness, On Holiday was able to ready the EP in time to salvage the date for their release party.

The band has been touring around the country over the last few months, making up for time lost during the lockdowns and closures of last year. It’s clear from their palpable excitement and their relentless work ethic that they love being on stage. Even if they like to cover it all up with constant self-deprecating jokes, they couldn’t be happier to know that the many layers in their songwriting are coming through.

“We’re dark, little emo onions,” Jackson says, “but we sound like a drunken good time.”

On Holiday will be releasing the “2am EP” this Saturday, October 23rd at 89th Street in OKC before dropping it online on November 5th. Find loads of videos, links, and more from the band at onholiday405.com, and check out the full upcoming slate of shows at 89th Street online at 89thstreetokc.com.

Last Updated October 19, 2021, 8:25 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor