For a band that began just three years ago, with awkward, pink stage lighting and their own smoke machine in a tiny Brisbane bar, Holy Holy have skyrocketed from an unknown duo to a permanent fixture on the indie circuit.
Fronted by incredibly talented duo Timothy Carroll and Oscar Dawson, the creative collective has encapsulated the true charm of the Australian indie-rock scene.
From the release of their 2014 debut EP, to their first, full-length record ‘When The Storms Would Come’ last year, there’s undoubtedly been something in the air with this pair. Now, just one year on from that debut album and sell-out national tour, Holy Holy have released the powerful ‘Darwinism’, the first cut from their sophomore, thus far unnamed, album.
Depicting a narrative of a relationship’s evolution, ‘Darwinism’ is hearty and edgy, dipping into new territory, and possibly a new era for Holy Holy. “When we released the last record, we sat back and said what we liked about the record and what we wanted to do differently on the next record,” vocalist and guitarist Timothy says.
“What I liked about that record was that it had a certain kind of naturalness to it… but if there was a weakness, I think there was an over-reliance on a nostalgic and familiar sound, and we just wanted to push into more of the contemporary and more exciting sonic landscape.”
Though not dissimilar in sound to their captivating 2015 single ‘You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog’, the aptly named ‘Darwinism’ is bolstered by a distinctive, rough guitar riff, which was first laid out in a hotel bathroom in the Northern Territory’s capital. “We had a bit of wild night before the show and the next day it was super hot. It was like 38 degrees, so the rest of the band were just laying low in their darkened rooms and waiting for the soundcheck time,” Timothy reminisces.
“I set up camp in the bathroom and I was just mucking around with my guitar and came across the opening riff [of 'Darwinism'] and recorded it and a few melody ideas. Then when Oscar woke up, I showed it to him and it just stuck around as something we were going to get around to doing.
“That’s often how we develop songs, I record something kind of dodgy and simple on my phone and I give it to Oscar and he takes it away and fleshes it out into a real production. Then I get his instrumental production back and I put vocals over it… I think that’s the strength of Oscar and I as a songwriting team. I like writing melodies and ideas come to me, but I definitely have limits to my musical knowledge.”
Songwriting and recording is never an easy or streamlined process for time-poor musicians, but with Holy Holy’s touring and recording band being scattered across three states, it makes it difficult to be in the same place at one time. “It’s just calendar juggling and working out when we can get together and write, then demo and record. It’s kind of nice in a way too, because when we get together it's really focused and there’s pressure to make it work now,” Timothy explains.
The band, complemented on tour and in the studio by Ryan Strathie, Graham Ritchie and Matt Redlich, are now three-quarters into recording for the new album.
Though, while the new record has given Holy Holy the opportunity to develop and build on their sound, according to Timothy it certainly won’t be a carbon copy of their debut. “A couple of the tracks in particular are a fairly big departure from the sound of our first record, but I felt really good about that for a range of different reasons.
"Some of the bands I admire most change their sounds a lot record to record and I think that’s a sign of musicians that are interested in pushing themselves,” Timothy says. “I almost always write with an acoustic guitar, and [we realised] that rhythm part, of me just strumming away through the whole song, was making its way onto the final tracks without really being examined as to whether it was actually adding anything.
“We started experimenting with removing the mid-range rhythm parts of the songs, and so there’s much more room for basslines and synth parts.”
Timothy, in parts, even steps completely away from the guitars and pedals, a task more difficult than he’d imagined when playing live. “There’s a lot of new songs where I’m not playing at all, so in the live show I’m just singing, which is new for me. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like because I’ve never just sang, I’ve always had the guitar as this safety blanket around my shoulders to hide behind.”
Though after spending three weeks on a recent European and UK tour that included Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival (think the SXSW of Europe), Holy Holy had a chance to experience firsthand the global reach of their music. “To be in Paris for the first time and have people singing along to the record, and in our first show in Leeds where there was someone in a Holy Holy t-shirt, it was mindblowing. It’s not like we had huge crowds, but it is amazing that we have some fans all over the world and that’s a lot to do with Spotify and the global nature of music now.”
They may be winning hearts across the world, but the overseas tour gave Holy Holy a chance to get a handle on the new tracks before their Australian tour this November. And while Tim may be guitar-less for some of the new music, he promises the old favourites will definitely be on the bill too. “When we first got to Europe and we were staring down the barrel of all these shows with all these new songs, it’d been such a long time since we’d played new songs.
“I was a bit anxious about how it was going to go, but we gave the new songs a bit of a run and they’re feeling pretty comfortable. I’m feeling pretty relaxed about the Australian shows and just looking forward to sharing the new songs.”The ‘Darwinism’ single is out now.
Holy Holy Shows
Thu 3 Nov - Fat Controller (Adelaide)Fri 4 Nov - Prince Of Wales (Bunbury)Sat 5 Nov - Amplifier (Perth)Sun 6 Nov - Mojos (Fremantle)Fri 11 Nov - The Corner Hotel (Melbourne)Sat 12 Nov - The Workers Club (Geelong)Sun 13 Nov - Karova Lounge (Ballarat)Thu 17 Nov - Cambridge Hotel (Newcastle)Fri 18 Nov - Metro Theatre (Sydney)Sat 19 Nov - Uni Bar (Wollongong)Sun 20 Nov - The Basement (Canberra)Thu 24 Nov - Miami Marketta (Gold Coast)Fri 25 Nov - Solbar (Sunshine Coast)Sat 26 Nov - The Triffid (Brisbane)