Holy Fuck – The Mothership: February 16, 2024

Holy Fuck are a Canadian four-piece, no strangers to Aotearoa/NZ having been here at least twice before, a friend described them as ‘brilliantly bonkers’ when he experienced them at the 2011 Laneway festival.

Based around drums, bass, occasional guitar and multiple desks of synths, effects and mixers, with five albums under their belt, Holy Fuck create dynamic improvisational electro-dance, sitting somewhere between Severed Heads/LCD Sound System and NEU!/Cabaret Voltaire and are sometimes lumped in with Battles and Hot Chip. You could also describe them as a mathy, noisy electronica colab, with a punk rock ethos.

Speech Act Theory

For some reason I thought it would be the five-piece band version of Pete Hickman’s indie-alt-electronic outfit, I should’ve realised with all the infernal machines Holy Fuck have, there was going to be no room for the rest of the live band. So tonight it’s Speech Act Theory stripped back to a man and his machines, just Hickman and his desk of electronica. Through a half-hour set of instrumentals and pre-recorded vocal tracks, Speech Act Theory evoked memories and comparisons to acts Four Tet, and Zero 7 and drew on electronica house rhythms with occasional trip-hop beats. Sadly, on his own, Speech Act Theory tonight was everything Holy Fuck isn’t as a live act.

Holy Fuck

The stage at Mothership is rammed, Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh facing each other, hunched over their synths orchestrating electro chaos. Bassist Matt “Punchy” Holy FuckMcQuaid has his own tranche of techno-wizardry in addition to his instrument, and drummer Matt Schulz is ensconced at the back loomed over by screens that show b/w live feeds of Brian and Graham’s handy work.

The intimate audience is psyched, many it seems are past attendees, in a room that is disappointingly half full (not half empty) Holy Fuck emerge and gently immerses the crowd with the first tune, Luxe (a collab with Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip), off their 2020 album Deleter, the keyboard hook starts the moving and grooving, Brian Borcherdt gentle, affected vocals transfix and invite.

Holy FuckAs they co-construct, adapt and feed off each other through their set, it is the enthusiastic symbiosis between Brian, Graham and Matt P that is visually/aurally exciting, with drummer Matt Schultz acting as the anchor, the energizer with his tribal and mathematical drumming prowess.

Early on Deleter appears and the audience gets into some serious funking, it is powerful, whilst the third in the introductory trifecta Shivering from their 2016 album Congrats is a much more Kraftwerkian journey with its ups and lows, as tight corners and long stretches are driven.

At the midpoint Matt P’s bass becomes a serious hook, with addictive dance rhythms on songs like Xed Eyes (also on Congrats), Brian’s Guitar has already made an appearance, but it is his using a 35mm film synchronizer as an instrument, feeding film in and out to create a sound, that transfixes, as I try to work what the fuck he is doing.

Holy Fuck

It is the diversity of genres that Holy Fuck bring to the stage that excites. The swings between song genres, that keeps the energy and attention fresh. Sometimes reminiscent of populist electro-disco, then counter-punched by Kraftwerk neo-autobahn journeys, an electro-rock that recreates or mimics 70 ‘s rock anthem pops up, and then a composition that feels straight out of the Throbbing Gristle studios at the birth of electronica. But it is the white boy funk electro-disco songs that madden the crowd, they are here to dance, to revel in Holy Fucks passion as if it were their own.

The Bad Robots Cameth and Conquered.

Simon Coffey

Setlist (as best that can be ascertained on the night)




Super Inuit


Lovely Allen

Xed Eyes

Lost Cool

Tom Tom

Red Lights



Free Gloss