After playing to a Spanish audience as the sun set on the Mediterranean Sea at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival, Tim Carroll and Oscar Dawson released HOLY HOLY’s debut album on July 24. The duo’s first work is called When The Storms Would Come and was released through Sydney-based Wonderlick (Boy & Bear, Paper Kites), in association with Sony. Speaking to Dawson over the phone just prior to the album’s release date, he seemed to be looking at it with a sense of quiet satisfaction, rather than excitement.
“Getting a record out is a bit of a long, involved process,” he begins. “When we finally finished the actual record – when we got the masters done and so on – that was a big moment. It’s the kind of thing where we could keep recording and writing new songs, but you really just have to draw a line somewhere and say ‘no, it’s done now.’”
After mentioning the single ‘You Cannot Call for Love like a Dog’, Dawson said the track is a solid representation of When The Storms Would Come. He was keen to add that the album as a whole is a lot broader, however. “We wanted to make it a record where you could listen to it from start to finish, which could be idealistic or naïve these days… but yeah, it’s got some more dynamic moments and some softer moments…
“We’ve got a new single out now called ‘Sentimental And Monday’, which is a more contemplative tune. We wanted the record to sound natural and expansive. So I think we managed to achieve that.”
When asked whether Holy Holy entered the recording process with a full set of tracks ready to go, Dawson actually alluded to the significant value he places on spontaneity. “I don’t think you would ever wing it completely, but to some extent you’ve got to. Because if you’ve got it planned in your head from start to finish in too precise a way, then it doesn’t leave any room for magic,” he says. “You end up being too controlling over the final product, and the little details or magic moments, or new songs, compositions and developments of your sound just won’t happen.
“And I think when you’re working with other people especially, you have to leave room for chance, because you can’t know what’s possible. Sometimes things happen outside of your control. Seemingly, things happen as though there’s someone else in the room with you, or kind of guiding it. By that, I don’t mean it religiously – I’m an atheist, I’m not religious – I just mean there’s a vibe or an energy, or something like that.”
If the band’s debut album required an element of spontaneity, Dawson says the creation of Holy Holy was the result of serendipity. After graduating from high school, Dawson and Carroll met in Thailand while volunteering to teach English. They stayed in touch while they went their separate ways throughout university. Later down the track, it just so happened that Carroll was living in Stockholm while Dawson was in Berlin. “He [Carroll] just popped up online out of the blue. I was visiting Stockholm and stayed on his couch. We wrote one of the demos that weekend, and then it just slowly filtered over time. He would come to Berlin or I would go to Stockholm and we’d write some more, and then a few years later we started recording this project.”
While Carroll and Dawson remain at the core of Holy Holy, the project has grown to include Ryan Strathie on drums, Graham Ritchie on bass, and Matt Redlich – who doubles as the band’s producer – on synths. The band tours as a five piece and Dawson says he enjoys the additional numbers. “Getting the band together is more fun… that’s kind of our release. When Tim and I do all the background stuff behind-the-scenes, that’s more admin and organisation – which is not as inspiring necessarily – but just has to happen. So I guess when the band’s all together we feel like we should just enjoy ourselves.”
Speaking about the band’s sound, Dawson had a fair bit to say when I told him I thought Holy Holy had an oldschool vibe going. “I guess we’re not under any illusions of what we like listening to and where we stand in the world,” he began. “We love all sorts of music, I suppose… but we’ve always been attracted to nostalgic kinds of sounds and tones. I think that’s just a thing that happens in music now, though. It’s not uncommon for music to come back around in cycles – it’s like a revolving door of sound sometimes.”
According to Dawson, if modern rock music sounds somewhat traditional, it’s only because it has a far stronger human presence than electronic music. “There are so many genres out there which are heavily programmed and sequenced… so I guess by virtue of the fact that we’re a band that plays in a room, it’s gonna give us a sound which – weirdly enough – seems older. But I guess we just try to make it our own. I don’t feel like we’re an oldschool band, I feel like we sound like ‘now’ actually.
“I grew up listening to Neil Young, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen. So it’s really hard to shake off the weight of our heroes, because they’re such a big force in our lives. So definitely, that will come through in our music.”
Holy Holy will bring their debut album to life when they play Transit Bar on Friday September 18. Supported by Fractures. Tickets are $15 + bf through Moshtix.