You may not know their name. That’s okay — they’ve only had one since March. The important part is recognizing their emergence. All but the most dedicated music lovers failed to pay attention to Nina, though the band itself has been around for years now — a “new-old” band if you will. If the Denver music scene were a fast-fingered radio listener, Nina and The Hold Tight seem to be the overlooked channel. Their fearless aptitude for exploring the soul of music floored this journalist who thought she was past the part of her life where “awestruck” defined every concert. Nina and The Hold Tight took the sentimentality of the folk revival by the horns… and bucked it back into something completely, uniquely their own. “We want the world to know we’re coming for them,” said guitarist Drew Greer.
The band consists of Nina de Freitas on vocals and guitar, Steven De La Roche on bass, Jarrod Gipson on drums, Greer on guitar and Nico Perez on the keyboard. Packed into Syntax Physic Opera’s strange, overly draped basement — rank with such oxymorons as church pews and paintings of half-naked women, fortune teller advertisements and fake plants — Nina and the Hold Tight sat reminiscing about another offbeat setting they’d been placed in.
“One of our first shows in Denver was in an alley, a literal alley,” said De La Roche. Directed by garage sale-like signs into an alley with a plywood stage, storage unit at the end and dumpster to boot, their spirits dropped fatalistically. Feeling sorry about what she’d gotten them into, de Freitas encouraged everyone to put on a better face and play the show. They did. And it was incredible. Put on by Kenzi Everitt, of the band Kinesics and who works for the Underground Music Showcase, The Hold Tight landed the opportunity to play with Wildermiss and other Denver staples after this one, odd show. “Just the support in Denver that we found after that show has been amazing,” Gipson said. Since then, de Freitas has taken up the mantra “Blessings flow from the dumpster show.” They came out of that experience with a better mentality of what being a whole musician means. As Perez put it, “We go hard all the time, that’s just who we are.”
The decision to become an “and The” instead of just “Nina de Freitas” was a turning point for them as a band. “I thought… I can’t do this by myself, I don’t wanna do this by myself,” de Freitas remembers. The next obstacle was figuring out the name. Playing a show with The Still Tide and Wildermiss turned out to be their saving grace as Nate Meese, bassist for The Still Tide, talked to de Freitas after the show. “He was like ‘your band is so good,’” she said. “I’m like yeah I know, they’re amazing. He’s like ‘you better hold on tight to those guys.’ And I was like ‘you’re right… they’re really special.’ Not everybody has people of their caliber just like fall into their laps like that. That just doesn’t happen every day, you know?” To which, three out of five of the band members who had not heard this story responded with big smiles and gratified disbelief.
Another of de Freitas’s mottos is reaffirming their place as a band. Because now, they’re a band, not a singular entity with accompaniment. It is her way of advocating that this whole experience is real now — leaving room for already-well-established friendship and musical expertise to grow. De Freitas’s feelings were mimicked by the back. Gipson said they felt a stark shift and something clicked into place going from one to a unit. De La Roche agreed, saying “I think everyone has a sense of ownership as well now, even more so than before. Before we wanted to play our parts really well and not suck. Well maybe not Drew, Drew’s trashy,” De La Roche remarks jokingly, always rubbing at each other in a playful way that speaks volumes on their collective friendship. “But now, we’re playing our parts, and we’re part of this band with Nina. They’re not just her songs anymore, they’re our songs. And to come into UMS and bring it to a new audience… most of the people there have never heard us before, that’s incredibly exciting.” Greer felt the name change was fortunately timed — just as the band is ramping up for their second year at UMS and gaining more traction in Denver.
Mothers always told us to hold on tight to what we loved, to what we believe in — and The Hold Tight believe in each other. At Syntax, the band sat back, humbled by de Freitas’ solo ballad, obviously floored as the singer-guitarist’s harrowing, heart-wrenching vocals collapsed the house into one singular point — right where the spotlight hit de Freitas. After all, the woman’s got a voice to rival Janis Joplin. Not to be forgotten, the rest of the band drips with talent, enthusiasm and stage presence as well. Alabama Shakes have met their rock ‘n’ roll counterpart in The Hold Tight.
De Freitas, as the sole songwriter, admitted her inspiration is usually “Being sad about boys if I’m going to be honest — or life.” Though she still writes all the lyrics and melodies, writing is quickly becoming a joint process. Currently, the debut song in their set is the first they have written together. They promise more, having barely scratched the surface of their capability in group songwriting. “I know that all of us individually all have a lot of musical depth and knowledge and ideas… about pain and about love and life,” de Freitas said. “And I think as we grow together as friends it’s going to be easier for us to go into that.” New music is close on the horizon, with a single promised by end of the month.
Nina and The Hold Tight, intoxicated in no small amount by their obvious love for music and each other, want to take over the world. Even though music is completely intangible, the feelings it bleeds hangs around the band like a frenzied groupie at all times. “Let’s be honest,” De La Roche said. “We want world domination by Nina and the Hold Tight. Nina’s too humble to say it, but I’ll say it.” One line sums up their upward climb quite well — “Guys. We’re a band.”