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On its new record, Pittsburgh’s Come Holy Spirit provides catharsis for troubled hearts

This is music you can dance to. It’s also music you can cry to

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Gina Favano is feeling disgusted.

“That can be the bold-type quote for the article,” she suggests with a laugh. “‘She’s so disgusted and confused and depressed.’”

Favano, singer and bassist of Pittsburgh-based trio Come Holy Spirit, isn’t alone. It’s the middle of an increasingly terrible news week and, like many, Favano isn’t totally sure what to do with her sadness and anger. She just knows she doesn’t want to stay quiet. “For me as an artist and a performer and a musician, that’s important,” she says over the phone. “Even if you have a really small audience, you kind of have to let people know where you stand and what you’re thinking, even if you’re not sure what that is yet.”

In many ways, Come Holy Spirit’s new record, Grand Island, which was released in May, feels like an expression of this open-book ethos: visceral, full of uncontrived emotion, the kind of music that feels both otherworldly and fully earth-bound. It’s kind of punk, kind of psych, kind of avant-garde. Songs are often either building or bubbling over into controlled chaos. Favano’s powerful vocals swell and boom and crack, bringing to mind Diamanda Galas or maybe Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. But sometimes, like in the aptly titled closer “Benediction,” they sooth. This is music you can dance to. It’s also music you can cry to.

It’s the second full-length for the band, which has existed in its current form — with drummer Sam Pace (Centipede Eest, Gangwish) and guitarist Aaron Limberg (Lungs Face Feet) — for about three-and-a-half years. Before that, Favano performed solo under the name Evil Twin, which “was great … but was also really limiting,” she says. “After a few years of that … I need[ed] to play loud, cathartic music.”

The members manage to juggle potentially tricky sonic power dynamics, and the instrumentation is alternately primal, and complex and full. “I feel like the three of us have different goals musically, and it works together,” Favano says. “We have different areas of expertise, and I trust those guys implicitly. The musicianship in our band is so strong.”

The band — which plays three shows this week — didn’t have any specific goals for the self-financed and self-recorded record, other than actually finishing it: Favano compares the process to “pushing a boulder up a mountain.” Ultimately, for a band that is always tweaking and evolving its material, this recording represents a precise moment in its history. But as with any successful art, Grand Island goes beyond that. The music might not be specifically political, but Favano aims to make sure that whatever she’s struggling with internally is represented in the music in an honest way. “The only thing I’m trying to do,” she says, “is just be real.”


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