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Dean Haspiel Draws KiKi Holli's Debut Single, More Than This

Comic book artist Dean Haspiel and KiKi Holli created a video for the Kiki Holli cover More Than This originally from Roxy Music. The single was produced by Ethan Allen who was mentored by Daniel Lanios and Brian Eno. It uses artwork from Dean Haspiel's comic book Billy Dogma, dubbed the last Romantic Anti-hero comic

The opening synth waves of KiKi Holli's new take on Roxy Music's "More Than This" wash over listeners eardrums like baptismal seafoam at an oceanfront christening, purifying the sonic palate, washing souls clean—all to make way for her voice. Soon, it enters, in its rich fullness, beckoning to all the grieving souls who've lost a loved one, wrapping their broken hearts in its gauzy strength. If her delivery seems genuine—empathetic even—that's because it is. She's been there. "I had a couple really important people pass in my life recently," Holli says, "and one was pretty devastating. It leaves you baffled, in a way. Especially when it's the first really big death in your life. When somebody's soul passes like that, I think there's a shamanic aspect to it that leaves you half in this world and half in the other. If you're open to it, I think you can connect to that other side, whatever that is for you."

Dean Haspiel & Kirsten Holly Smith

At the height of her grief, Holli—the Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, musician, actress and playwright—was soothing her soul listening to a whole lot of Roxy Music, Avalon in particular. She decided that she really connected with and wanted to record her own version of the album's hit single, Bryan Ferry's More Than This. "Other people have covered it—10,000 Maniacs, Blondie—but it hasn't been in the zeitgeist for a while," Holli says. "I like the idea of a song having a life of its own beyond the original—that it keeps living and being reborn. With my own take, I wanted to remind people that there's always a place to turn when you're in pain. And that's what 'More Than This' was for me. It was healing.

Dean Haspiel & Kirsten Holly Smith

In Roxy Music's video for the song, Holli points out, there is white light shining through a cross, but also fire—Heaven and Hell, yin and yang. "That really resonated with me," she says. "When you're grieving for someone, there's also this really poignant love present. The more grief you experience, the more you loved that person, the deeper your connection to them. You feel so much pain, but you also realize that life goes on, that death is a transition, that there really is more than this—more than this tangible physical world, more that comes after it. The spiritual content of the song was very enticing to me."

Dean Haspiel & Kirsten Holly Smith

Holli recorded "More Than This" with producer Ethan Allen (Throwing Muses, Tricky, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) at his studio in L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood. The involvement of Allen—who was mentored by legends Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno—provides a direct link in the chain back to Roxy Music. "Ethan and I get along like a house on fire," Holli says. "He lives around the corner from me, just a five-minute walk, which is amazing. When I met him a few years ago, he was also going through a challenging time in his life, so we connected in that way. He's super cool, very humble, kind—the type of person you dream of working with. When I have ideas, Ethan always listens carefully, and he really takes the time to explain the recording process, so while you're in the studio you also get an education. Plus, he's got a ton of vintage gear, and he knows what he's doing with it!"

Dean Haspiel & Kirsten Holly Smith

In addition to being a trained vocalist with a powerful, emotive presence and warm, resonant voice, Holli is a songwriter and guitarist with a slew of new singles in the works. She also grew up playing saxophone and viola, has appeared on stage in the plays Of Mice and Men, Three Sisters and Twelfth Night, and also landed the lead role in the Rocky Horror-channeling indie film Isle of Lesbos, celebrated by Swampflix as "a politically angry, deliberately offensive, post-John Waters, queer-as-f*ck movie musical with deep roots in drag & cabaret traditions." Most notably, Holli also co-wrote and starred in Forever Dusty, a stage musical based on the life of British pop star Dusty Springfield. The production started in Los Angeles and opened off-Broadway in 2012 at New World Stages in New York, garnering coverage from The Village Voice, Reuters, The New York Times and Out Magazine. From there, the play went on to run in London, regionally and will open this fall in Toronto.

Dean Haspiel & Kirsten Holly Smith

"After the first performance in Los Angeles, the 300 people in the audience all stood on their feet after the musical ended, and the applause lasted for 7 minutes until I came out for an encore. At that point, I knew I had something—that it moved people. The whole experience I had playing Dusty—studying her music, and performing eight shows a week singing 20 songs a show—made me a much better musician and singer. By the time it was over, it inspired me to get more serious about pursuing my own music." And that's where Holli's focus is these days—on all of the new songs she's been creating with Allen. "You know, Amor fati—love your fate, love whatever is in front of you and embrace the moment," she says. "Right now, I just want to put all of my energy into getting these new singles out there, so I can have an album ready by the end of next year."

Dean Haspiel & Kirsten Holly Smith

KiKi Holli's debut single "More Than This" is available now.


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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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