A New Direction by Ben Salmon of the Bend Bulletin

The Hollands hang out in their home, a 40-foot bus currently parked in a driveway in Bend. From left are Banjo, Craig, Jana and Graciana.Photos by Andy Tullis / The Bulletin
The Hollands hang out in their home, a 40-foot bus currently parked in a driveway in Bend. From left are Banjo, Craig, Jana and Graciana.
Photos by Andy Tullis / The Bulletin

Lifestyle change leads to music, community and many miles on the road for The Hollands!

By Ben Salmon / The Bulletin / Dec 2012

When The Hollands! — a traveling four-piece family band — drove their 40-foot-long bus into Sisters about 14 months ago, they intended on staying for just a few weeks before setting off on an endless journey.

“We wanted to do Thanksgiving with the parents, and then we just figured that this is the new life,” Craig Holland said in an interview on Christmas Eve. “We were going to go off and start touring.”

One problem: No gigs. The family had been so busy picking up its life in Wisconsin and hitting the road indefinitely, “the business side of being musicians had really gone by the wayside,” he said.

Getting rid of the house and possessions. Buying and working on the bus. Transitioning the kids into online school. Busy, busy, busy.

But, Holland said, “we hadn’t really booked a tour.”

So a few weeks turned into a few months, and the Hollands — Craig and wife Jana, who are in their late 30s, plus daughter Graciana, 16, and son Banjo, 11 — settled into arts-friendly Sisters. They worked with a church. Graciana took art classes. They met their neighbors.

“The bus is a great ice-breaker,” Jana said.

All the while, they worked on preparing the vehicle for its ultimate purpose: To carry this family full-time as they drive around the country to meet people, connect with communities and play their melodic and globally flavored folk music for an ever-growing network of fans.

Eleven months ago, they set out on their journey. More than 27,000 miles and a two-month stay in Australia later, they’re back in Central Oregon, and they’ll perform tonight at McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Bend (see “If you go”).

To the stage, they’ll bring a bond, both familial and musical, tightened by the time they’ve spent together and the experiences they’ve shared.

“We’ve soaked in everywhere we’ve been: the personalities, the culture of the communities we’ve stayed in,” Craig said. “It’s had an effect on all of us.”

Jana calls the family’s lifestyle change “a paradigm shift” and says it would be a challenge to return to a more stationary life.

“It’s funny how once you make that paradigm shift, your brain really does say it’s not even possible to really go back. I would have to relearn life again to go back,” she said. “To have our eyes opened and to begin to see the fruit of a life that’s for us more purposeful and more connected, it feels right.”

Holland history

Jana and Craig Holland met 13 years ago and were married six months later. Craig moved to the United States from Australia in 1997 for a “fresh start” and the opportunity to see American punk bands he loved, such as Warzone, Agnostic Front and Earth Crisis.

He landed in Chicago and began playing in a Celtic punk band.

Jana was living in Wisconsin at the time and was heavily into music, specifically the techno scene. She was a single mom with a corporate job and a big house that she opened to touring bands looking for a place to crash after a gig.

When Craig’s band ended up at her house, he was instantly drawn to the host.

“I guess he was sort of looking around my house, trying to figure out where the guy was in the pictures of me and Grace,” Jana said.

They were married in early 2000 and moved to Australia for a year. Jana had begun making her own folky music, and Craig had essentially stopped playing to focus on earning money, and being a husband and father.

That disappointed Jana.

“I just couldn’t find room to do music,” Craig said. “We just had such very different backgrounds musically, I didn’t know how to move into her world. It was like, ‘How do I play that kind of music when all I’ve known is this?’”

Jana jumps in: “Some couples have money issues or sex issues. We had this music handicap. It was so ridiculous. We’d get in huge fights over it.”

Fast forward several years. Graciana began performing with her mom. Craig brought his guitar out of hiding. And Jana was working on her first album, fighting a nagging feeling that it shouldn’t just be her name on the cover.

“I thought, ‘If I’m going to launch this, I don’t want to launch it as myself. I want it to be the Hollands,’” she said.

And that’s when a family friend, musician Bruce Hecksel, encouraged Craig to not just be a bit player in Jana’s world, but to go all in on the band.

Which he did. And The Hollands! — the ! is part of the name — were born.

Band beginning

The band released its first album in 2009 and began touring outside its home town of Green Bay, Wis.

And they loved it.

“We experienced so much affirmation on the road. We were invited into so many beautiful places and met so many neat people,” Jana said. “We recognized that we traveled well together. We always stayed in host homes so we had a deep sense of community while we were traveling.

“Venues were happy to have us and we made exactly what we needed,” she continued. “When we got back, we had broken even, or maybe even had an extra hundred bucks.”

That experience planted the seed for how the Hollands have spent the past year. But it was what Jana calls “an interpersonal issue” in the family — essentially, Craig’s lingering “what-if?” feelings about an old flame that kept him from fully giving his heart to his wife — that fertilized the idea.

“We had hit a crossroads where it was either our family was going to blow up and we were all going to go our separate ways,” Jana said, “or we were going to have to hunker down and really get into the heart of each other and reconcile.”

You can hear that vibe — betrayal, disconnect, reconciliation — throughout the band’s second album, 2011’s “Ashes to Beauty.” One song is called “Tears in my Heart.” Another: “Bitter Honey, Sin and Bones, Lady Wisdom Lead Me Home.”

On the road

In August of last year, the family was driving to Minnesota and looking on Craigslist for a bus to call home. They stumbled across one for sale right in their path, in Eau Claire, Wis. A man had purchased two buses from the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps in Casper, Wyo., and needed to unload one.

The Hollands swung by, handed over $9,500, and drove off with a new home, which they’ve since named Celu’haven.

It’s relatively cozy for a bus, with well-stocked wooden bookshelves and art hanging on every open swath of wall. In the back are the bedrooms; Banjo keeps a drawer full of Legos near his bed, and Graciana has a picture of actor Taylor Lautner tacked above her pillow.

Celu’haven is not built for a Central Oregon winter, however. During their interview with The Bulletin, the Hollands repeatedly turned on the oven and opened it to warm their hands.

But it gets them where they need to be, and it’s big enough to hold their stuff, including Craig’s tools, so he can help out with their hosts’ projects when given the opportunity. In Bend, the bus is parked at the home of Josh Hart, the man in charge of the Operation Elf Box charity. The Hollands have been assisting Hart’s efforts since they arrived in early December.

“Music’s a part of our lives, but it doesn’t define us,” Craig said. “So the other ways that we can serve … are just as important as playing the music.”

Jana concurs: “We’re community builders. That’s our heart. When you come to our concert, we’re going to invite you to sing along. We’re going to bring out instruments. It’s just about sharing that moment of unity.”

Close quarters

Of course, there is such a thing as too much unity, especially among immediate family. Graciana, a multi-instrumentalist who has written a murder ballad for the band’s next album, says she has enjoyed the past year “in the big picture.” She misses her friends in Wisconsin, but has made others across the country. She is thankful for Facebook and Skype and said Australia was an “amazing” experience.

“There’s definitely ups and downs, like being so close to your family all the time,” she said. “It gets annoying, but it’s also good because we work things out faster.”

Banjo, the band’s percussionist, is a bundle of energy; during the interview he turned a sheet of construction paper into a hat, and then a boat. He called his life “fun” but said he likes “normal school” more than homeschool, “because in homeschool you have to stay with your parents the whole time.”

On the other hand, he’s been known to turn a pile of parts into a flashlight with new buddies in Iowa.

“It’s like the icing on the cake when we’re given the privilege of playing music,” Jana said.

The future

Before the Hollands returned to Central Oregon, they stopped in Portland for three days to record their third album. This time, the theme is not betrayal or reconciliation, but, says Jana, “the story of common man” and the commonalities of us all.

“We’ve met so many amazing people along the way that are just really doing some awesome things,” she said. “They’re just beautiful.”

And Craig believes those people see something beautiful in his family’s lifestyle, too.

“People’s generosity along the way has been mind-blowing,” he said. “I think part of it is that they’re seeing us pursuing a dream that I think is in all of us. Not everyone necessarily wants to go travel in a bus, but this idea of doing something crazy as a family — of setting a goal and doing it — I think that taps into something in a lot of people.”

And if there’s a larger life lesson to be taken from the Hollands’ unconventional ways, it’s that pursuing a dream — or doing something crazy as a family or whatever you want to call it — may be the key to unlocking the day-to-day gridlock we all face, Jana said.

“We’re trying to communicate (the importance of) recognizing whatever system is in your life (that’s keeping you from) connecting. And if that is happening, to recognize that you can do something about that,” she said.

“You don’t have to keep swimming that way.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0377, bsalmon@bendbulletin.com

You can link to the article in the Bend Bulletin HERE

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Operation Elf Box

Josh Hart

We are in Bend, OR and our host is Josh Hart, of Operation Elf Box. We met Josh via Facebook three years ago. Josh is a fellow muso, connected in the blues and jam band scene.  He’s a mover and has the energy and drive of a team of people. Inspired by his giving spirit and fortitude to care for his community we reached out and asked if we could be involved, share in life and help however needed. He welcomed us and put us to work! What a joy to be able to roll into a community and dive in.

The story as told by Josh;

Operation Elf BoxAbout Operation Elf Box

A few years have passed since my idea of having a Christmas party began shaping “Operation Elf Box”. Asking each guest to bring a toy, the mission was simple, a brighter Christmas for children less fortunate. A singer songwriter, I began using the stage to get the word out and the promise of toys became significant. Sharing my vision with a friend he offered me a vacant downtown Bend Oregon commercial location, (free of charge) a place he said I could “store toys”.

It didn’t take long to establish, “Elf Store”, a few dozen “Elf Boxes” making their way into local businesses collecting new unwrapped toys. Those toys make their way back to “Elf Store”, stocking the shELVES.

Partnering with area non-profits, schools and Churches, 153 families were referred that first December, meeting with each one mysELF. The second year, 405 families shopped Elf Store, 1045 children receive gifts, the community coming together supplying nearly 6,000 toys, stockings and stuffers. We serve our neighboring cities and counties with nearly 100 volunteers helping out.

“Good Faith” is our policy. Writing with color crayons, we record the first name and age of a child. No applications, we visit with each family by appointment only. Choices empower those who have few to make at this time of year; stockings, stuffers, gifts, wrapping paper, bows and gift labels in their own handwriting! Dignifying, uplifting and lots of FUN, that’s Operation Elf Box!

Operation Elf Box is a grassroots effort, making Christmas brighter for those children disadvantaged in our community. We exist by the kindness of individuals like yoursELF contributing children’s gifts and supplies. Thanks for keeping the party going.

~ Josh Hart, Resident Elf

So here we are parked in his driveway for three weeks, excited to be with our global/local neighbor. This week we’ll attend the Operation Elf Bash, 12/12/12. And, on 12/19 in Bend, and 12/20 in Salem, we’ll be sharing through song and merrymaking at the Elf Box “Celebrate” event just for women, many affected by domestic violence. These are private intimate evenings of just women “celebrating” women. Dinner, dance, Christmas gifts galore, crafts, chocolate, conversation, laughter and tears, we are so honored to be apart of these evenings.

Sun Room Sessions

Our first recording sessions with David Fuller at Sun Room Studios in Portland, Oregon was quite fruitful.

It was a first for our drummer and youngest Holland. With over 200 shows this year under his belt, our eleven yr old has become quite accomplished on the cajon (box drum). However, a strong live performance doesn’t always transfer to the studio and at an early age he has come face to face with his own inadequacies. And, through much perseverance he has overcome them. In fact, we all have. When you take away the energy that we offer during a live performance and break it down to just instrument or voice and the microphone, the truth of talent really comes out. That is when we really see what we’re all made of. Oh sure, we could auto tune, cut and paste, fabricate but we’re folkies and our hope is to create something genuinely us.

The process of recording really taps into all sorts of emotion from criticalness, insecurity, joy, laughter and delight. Half of our songs have a solid base, disciplined intent and a flavor of energy that comes from the excitement and anticipation of the final product.

Now, we take three weeks to write, refine and rest. Back to the studio early January.

New Album in the Works

The life changes we have made over this past year have been so mind altering and soul stretching. It’s been a process to digest it all but over the last few weeks we have put our minds and efforts into writing songs. We hope to record these new songs this December in Portland, OR with David Fuller. Looking to have it available Spring 2013.

Crux of the Album:

There is a great love and purpose for us that is worked out in the messes, storms, blue skies, daily work, and dreams of our common lives.  This album gives narrative shape to actual people and circumstances in their dealings with God, each other and the inner workings within themselves.

Themes: Community, Common Lives, Storms, Injustice, Faithfulness, Long-Suffering, Circle, History, Pastoral, Poetry, Kingdom, Voyage.

We’ve decided to redo Old Man’s Town from our latest album, ‘Ashes to Beauty’ and feature it on this upcoming album. It’s a song that has aged well and our hope is to really allow the energy that has been building in that song to have a second chance to impact.

We’ve also been working to incorporate the unified sound that has developed in us as a family, not just a duo. Over the last two years we’ve performed as a family 355 times. There is a solidity that has developed and we are looking to incorporate that into this album. So, although we will still have room for guest appearance’s, on this recording we will feature “The Hollands!” as a band and as a family, including musical parts and songs that have been written by our children, songs like “Lanie Done Did” written by Graciana Holland.

Here is an excerpt from that song:

“Just about 26 seconds ago/Lanie done something bad/That time that time that time/Was all it took to make him mad/And the waves came down/Like an earthquake ready to rumble/Rolling round, Lanie, done did stumble”

Zigzag

2/9/12-2/11/-12                                                                                                          Zigzag, OR

The clouds were thick and a peaceful calm rested on us as we spent our last weekend in our beloved Oregon. What a joy to experience the blues and greens as we enjoyed quality time with family, sharing in song at the Skyway and meeting new friends at the River Ridge House Concert Series.

Learning to Swim Upstream

What a whirlwind of a year! 2011 was a year of new birth. Not just in the movement of becoming mobile but in all aspects of our lives; our marriage, our family, our finances, our music, our purpose. We went into this thinking that we had to have our ducks in a row but have found that the more we try to control the process the more we get in the way.

We don’t doubt that 2012 will continue to be a journey of learning to swim upstream and we embrace it fully. Our desire to encourage folks to engage in genuine, creative and committed community is stronger than ever.  We have been blessed dearly by the ministry of reconciliation and our longing is to continue to bring that blessing where ever we go.

Our hope is to continue to be productive members of the International Folk Alliance, sharing our music in venues and homes across the US and beyond. We’ve begun writing a new album with songs that reflect our journey and the stories of folks we continue to meet along the way. Stories of those downtrodden and tired, those in the margin, those who feel betrayed and those who have found new life. And, we’ve also begun to seek out partnerships with groups along the way who need an extra set of hands; to be available to serve and share.

Everyday Craig gets a little bit more finished on Celu’haven. Our hope is to have a place to lay our heads by Feb. 1, 2011. Until then we have been cared for and loved by The Golden’s. (family friends) They have blessed us beyond measure with their quiet faith and kind hearts. They are living proof of the good news and we are so thankful for their example.

UPDATE PHOTO’S:

                                                         

The PNW is Our Soft Spot

After a whirlwind summer and all of the community and individual effort it took to get us on our way, we find ourselves in a similar situation to a new born baby that fought her way into the world only to find she’s helpless. We had a vauge plan when we left, knowing that tilling and traveling was our call, but not knowing the how or where we would find ourselves. I think they call that “faith.” 🙂

Honestly, we could not have planned a better first stop on our journey of mobility. The Pacific Northwest has become our soft spot. We were ready for the hard road but the gentle hand and Author of our journey had a different idea. A better idea. And so, we are fixed in central Oregon in a little town called Sisters until mid-Feb.

While we are here we are finding a valid place in community. We have been welcomed with open arms. The feeling is remarkable and some days a bit surreal. Even the mountains cry out with joy and the stars sing down upon us. Folks are eager and ready for us to share our gifts and talents. They are hospitable and open to growth. There is no doubt that we are suppose to be here for this time.

On a practical level, we named our bus. Calling it Celu’ Haven which means, “safe place of wholeness.”  It is not livable yet and so, we have been staying with a gracious and kind host couple appropriately named, “The Goldens” and they are golden. They live in a log cabin on a beautiful plot with gardens and a little tree hut that their grown son built when he was Banjo’s age. The kids have enjoyed the stability offered by staying with them and are starting to make friends through youth group at VAST and Young Life. They are also enrolled for an elective class at the local school. Graciana picked art and Banjo picked Gym. There is also a fantastic program through the parks and rec that offers kids the opportunity to learn to snow board at Hoodo. Banjo is stoked!

We are still trying to figure out the balance between working for a living and living to serve. We have nothing but we have everything and some how we make it through each day amazed and baffled at how God provides and keeps us on our way. For now, we are safe in His arms and for that we are thankful.

Here are some photo updates: