Brother, sister

Holiday Flyer has to be one of the area’s more charming pop combos

Do guys sporting fashionable eyewear get more dates? Ask the Holiday Flyer squint squad.

Do guys sporting fashionable eyewear get more dates? Ask the Holiday Flyer squint squad.

Photo by Larry Dalton

John Conley writes pretty, infectious pop songs full of vocal harmonies and bright, catchy guitar. His sister, Katie Conley, sings them and frequently collaborates on the lyrics. The Conley siblings, along with Verna Brock, Michael Yoas and Jim Rivas, make up Holiday Flyer. I Hope, Holiday Flyer’s fourth full-length CD, was recently released by the well-regarded independent label Darla, now based in Sacramento.

Holiday Flyer hasn’t followed what most of us would perceive as the usual path to success in the music industry. Skipping the “try to be louder than the drunken audience, sweat it out in smoky clubs, get stiffed by the promoter, and get back in the van” stage, the Conleys instead cut a four-song demo along with friend Dustin Reske of Sacramento band Rocketship, which they sent out to labels and fanzines. The demo landed them label attention and a showcase for Alias Records almost immediately. The showcase didn’t put them on Alias, but landed them instead with a 7-inch on Fingerpaint Records, which had released one of Beck’s earliest 10-inch LPs.

Following that came several appearances on various compilations, including a spot on spinART Records’ two-volume Lemon Lime compilation. It was when working on a compilation for the Four Letter Words label that Holiday Flyer met Silver Girl label-owner Keith York, for whom the band recorded its first two full-length CDs. Darla served as distributor for these releases, and was impressed enough to sign Holiday Flyer itself, resulting in 1999’s You Make Us Go LP, a single, “Blue Harvest” and, now, I Hope. The band has, for having such an impressive discography, virtually no road time.

It takes Katie Conley one short sentence to sum up their live career thus far. “We’ve played around town, a little in LA, very little, like three times, and one time in New York.”

Katie explains the effect of their being a studio-oriented band: “We’re one of those bands that’s really small everywhere.”

That’s set to change with I Hope. John has been putting in some serious stage time with his other band, California Oranges, which also is signed to Darla, and he’s gained experience and confidence in front of an audience in the process. Holiday Flyer has undergone a strategic restructuring, bringing in two new members—the band recorded its first three albums as a three-piece—rendering the band far better suited to playing live. It plans to head first to such exotic localities as Portland and Seattle, and perhaps will venture as far as Japan, where its recordings have been quite well received. The Flyers should have a fine time of it, too, as they have a delightful album to support.

For recording I Hope, Holiday Flyer enlisted respected indie producer Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, the Go-Betweens), who John and the rest of the band were very excited to be working with. “Larry had a big part in making this album what it is,” says John. “He really pushed us harder than any one else had pushed us.”

The album features 10 soft-spoken, melodic pop songs with thoughtful lyrics, strong arrangements and the professional musicianship you’d expect from such studio veterans as these. John’s guitar playing recalls the Smiths’ Johnny Marr. Along with Katie Conley and Vera Brock, John helps supply the vocals, while newcomers Michael Yoas and Jim Rivas fit in like old pros on bass and drums, respectively. The chemistry isn’t surprising, really—the Conleys have played music off and on with Yoas since they were kids.

If you’re interested in one of this town’s newer treasures, check out I Hope. Once you do, you’ll want to catch Holiday Flyer in its live incarnation. You won’t be sorry.