Words by / Corinne Bates
Expanding is the joint project of Hank Holmes and Justin Berger-Davis. The two met back in Pasadena while they were both in band during High School. They soon began playing music together jumping from one genre to the next and evolving their music tastes as a pair.The final iteration being Expanding, a psych-rock project that came to fruition when they both returned to Pasadena after their first year at college. Holmes attends St. Edward’s University while Berger-Davis attends Belmont University in Nashville. “It was one of those things where we worked on it a lot while we were both in school. Then finally sat down and were like ‘what are we?’ You know? We had the relationship talk. We DTRed if you will” joked Holmes. The culmination of that year of back and forth was the band’s self titled EP, which they released via bandcamp in September 2017.
The band is definitely a joint effort. Both Berger-Davis and Holmes play guitar, sing, and write on all of the tracks. “The songwriting process is really collaborative. So one of us will have an idea for a song and we will share it with the other and it will naturally morph over time into the final song. There is a lot of good back and forth,” said Berger-Davis. The collaboration seems to be what drives the two musicians. Their voices almost giddy as they talk about sending guitar riffs and song ideas to each other. You can tell that they make music together because it is truly just an enjoyable experience for both parties and is a fundamental part of their friendship.
As you listen to the music is is hard to tell where one person’s contribution ends and the other begins. Even their voices meld together in ambiguity throughout the two albums. “We have been playing together for so long that at this point we know what the other person can bring to an idea. So if I bring something to Justin, I’ll leave holes in it mentally for him to fill in” explained Holmes. This seamless blend is in part due to the intersection of their musical taste. The two cite the bands Spiritualized, Spaceman 3, and The Jesus and Mary Chain as some of their inspirations. Berger-Davis describes their sound as an “intersection of drone music and rock” and explains that the band name comes from their love of big and “expansive” music. It is also a nod to Glenn Branca’s Symphony No. 5 (Describing Planes of an Expanding Hypersphere.) While they don’t resemble each other much sonically, it is more that they want to emulate a similar feeling in their music.
They released their latest album Benediction in January, but this time on all streaming services. “We just felt like this album was a complete musical statement. To me it feels like the first record. We finally tapped into the thing we really enjoy about the music and it’s all there,” said Berger-Davis about their decision to do a wider release. The process for the record took around a year and a half of writing and perfecting the songs, a couple months of demos and practicing, and finally two weeks of recording everyday.
Now that they have two records out, they are looking to play more live shows. Since their recordings are so intricate and created by just Holme’s and Berger-Davis, live shows are a bit of a different beast. “The challenge, which is fun, is figuring out how to turn those songs into a format that you can play with just three or four people. There is also a variable of ways you can see us perform since the permanent structure of the band is just Hank and I. So we have to find other people to fill in the positions we can’t fill live” said Berger-Davis.
There doesn’t seem to be a near future where Expanding doesn’t exist. The two have managed to write and record two projects while living in different states subsisting through summer’s at home and extensive online communication. They are a product of the digital age as much as they are of their sonic influences. When asked what’s next for the band, Holmes chimes in with a simple statement that explains the ethos of their band perfectly, “We just like making music.”
You can listen to the band’s EP on Bandcamp and their album Benediction on all streaming services.