SONG PREMIERE: Scranton hard rock band The Holtzmann Effect leaves impact with ‘Asteroid’
Ever since they debuted at the NEPA Scene Open Mic in the spring of 2018, The Holtzmann Effect has emerged as a natural force to be reckoned with in the Northeastern Pennsylvania music scene.
The Scranton-based hard rock band – consisting of vocalist/guitarist Tyler “Beef” Zeiss, drummer Cody Sibio, guitarist Tyler Salak, and bassist Grant Williams – developed a distinct sound that feels both classic and new, allowing them to go from an alternative rock bill to a heavy metal show and make new fans at both with the same original songs.
“Our sound is a very approachable style of heavy rock. We certainly draw elements from the bands we grew up listening to. Beef does an awesome job of writing in a style that is unique and recognizable,” Salak described.
“We love that we can hop on different shows all the time. So many of our friends play in a wide range of different genres, and we always seem to fit in where we go.”
Following a handful of singles, they released six more tracks on their first EP, “Semuta,” in 2020 and, while it was well-received, COVID-19 drastically changed the way they would promote it.
“The pandemic took our first release and really dampened the flame on our game plan. The first thing a band wants to do after releasing a group of songs is book shows to support them and get a run of dates together to play. Thankfully, NEPA Scene, The V-Spot [in Scranton], and Ionic Development gave us the opportunity to do so with the beginnings of live stream shows. We had a lot of positive reviews come from that, and it helped a broader audience hear about us and what we were doing,” Salak noted.
“We still get a lot of positive feedback on the EP, although I will admit nine times out of 10 an eyebrow gets raised when people see and try to pronounce the title. Gives me a good chuckle when it happens.”
Now that the world has adjusted and musicians can finally perform for audiences in person, The Holtzmann Effect is ready to make an impact all over again with new songs like “Asteroid,” which is premiering today exclusively on NEPA Scene as it hits all major streaming platforms.
“‘Asteroid’ is about bullies. [There’s] always a character in multiple chapters of my life that just push the envelope, essentially exploding like an asteroid hitting a planet. I wanted to create a song representing walls of maturity and reasoning deteriorating, turning myself into the bully my bully created,” Zeiss explained.
With an EP under their belts and new members strengthening their resolve, the group was hurtling through just the right orbit to create new music.
“We were super comfortable writing this batch of songs,” Salak said. “A few of them were songs we had been playing live but didn’t have 100 percent finished. ‘Asteroid’ is an old riff/tune that Beef had been sitting on since the band started, so we took a few of those ideas and gave them a fresh start.”
Holtzmann began about four years ago when Zeiss and Sibio were working in a cover band called Drive.
“Beef and Cody were doing a lot of writing and had some great songs to offer. I joined later on after they were searching for a new guitarist. From then, we have put out some songs we are very proud of and have had the chance to play venues like the F.M. Kirby Center [in Wilkes-Barre], Sherman Theater [in Stroudsburg], and One Centre Square [in Easton],” Salak recalled. Those gigs including opening up for Dirty Honey in 2019 when they were still an up-and-coming act.
“It is cool to know we got to hang with those guys right as they were hitting it big on rock radio. We hope to get on with them again. … I am most proud of the stages we have played and the music we have released. I listen back to the debut EP and how great we sounded and how mature the songs were for just a few guys writing music. This band is my first at bat for writing originals, so I am just blown away by the fact of how well we have done.”
While their name comes from sci-fi author Frank Herbert’s epic “Dune” saga, Salak hasn’t read any of the books or seen the latest film adaptation that swept the Academy Awards just a few weeks ago.
“At the beginning and with our debut EP, science fiction had a heavy influence on the sound and some of the lyrical content. The name really just stuck and we have held on to it,” the guitarist noted.
“[With these new songs], I think we branched off into a little bit of a new direction. ‘Semuta’s’ tracklist in a way tied in with each other. This next group of songs are unique to themselves and don’t necessarily fit a theme.”
After filling in for a bit, Williams officially became their new bassist in late 2021, rounding out the current lineup.
“Heavy work started on this new batch of songs shortly after Grant came into the picture. It took us a few short months to get the songs complete. Once we got in the studio, it took a week to track everything and have them mastered. We knew our parts really well and just went in and knocked them out. We are planning to release the EP song by song, so a definitive release isn’t scheduled yet, but I believe everything will be out by this fall,” he continued.
“We oftentimes write together. We get together at rehearsals and start hashing out any ideas each of us bring to the table. From there, we may take ideas and tweak them at home to bring to the next rehearsal. Once we think we have a batch of songs ready, we head to the studio and make the magic happen!”
“I personally have to play a song a few dozen times before I know what parts work for it,” Williams added. “That said, there are a few baselines on these songs that were written at home by my lonesome.”
They came together at JL Studios in Olyphant, leaving the past two years of lonely lockdowns behind them.
“The pandemic didn’t necessarily make its way into the lyrical content of these songs. Part of the reason is we wanted to find a way to distract people from that area and give people good songs to enjoy and help them tune out the world for a few minutes,” Salak emphasized.
“Recording at JL was the easiest and most laidback experience. [Owner] Joe Loftus and his team made us feel right at home and really helped us get our axes to the grindstone and record.”
Williams, with his experience in local rock bands like Graces Downfall and his own solo bass work, was well prepared to enter into and enhance this project.
“Grant coming into the group really helped the musical dynamic of the songs. He’ll never admit it, but he is such a creative presence that it is hard to not come up with ideas while he is with us. Besides the songs, he played a major role in new merchandise designs as well as keeping the three of us accountable for the daily tasks we need to keep up on as a group,” Salak shared.
“From very early on, I’ve been a fan of this band. After seeing them perform once or twice, I’d harass the members that if there was ever a bass vacancy that I’d want my phone to ring,” Williams admitted.
“It’s been a very fast ‘plug and play’ situation since, and it feels like I’ve been with this group for years.”
In addition to headlining their own shows, The Holtzmann Effect has started playing outside the area, recently opening for fellow hard rockers Demyze in West Virginia.
“The show with Demyze was a blast. We loved the venue, Bad Habits Bar & Grill, and everyone down there was so welcoming. We can’t wait to get back down for more shows this summer,” Salak enthused.
“We had fine-tuned our set and executed it exactly how we wanted. Lots of good energy came from that experience.”
They’re carrying that into the rest of 2022, putting them back on course and onto a greater trajectory.
“We want to keep releasing songs and booking shows in and out of the area. We already have more studio time booked, so it seems we are on a bit of a roll for inspiration. With this being the first full summer of shows since 2019, I think we intend to play as much as we can, wherever we can,” Salak left off.
“We are super grateful that we stuck together through the pandemic. We also would like to thank our friends and family for supporting us, Axelrad for making our amazing T-shirts, NEPA Scene for helping us get our next single off the ground, JL Studios for a great recording experience, Ord Sign & Vehicle Graphics for getting posters and our banners made up, and Jack Gretz at Northeast Music Center for helping us get a place to rehearse every week!”
Photos by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene