Aussie musicians Tim Carroll and Oscar Dawson formed Holy Holy in 2013, and to describe their transformation and growth as a band over the past four years as anything less than meteoric would be a disservice to the passion and talent of these two incredible songwriters.
Hailing from Brisbane and Melbourne respectively, they met as English teachers in Southeast Asia, reconnected in Europe in 2011, and released Holy Holy’s debut EP The Pacific in 2013.
Fast-forward to 2017, and with a debut album under their belts, Carroll and Dawson are gearing up to release their second full-length record Paint, which is set to be a significant departure from what we’ve come to know as the Holy Holy sound.
For Dawson, the rapid progression of their style up to this point has always just been a naturally flowing process. “It’s hard to say what the key moments were, because when you’re doing it, it’s hard to divide that time up into discrete sections,” he says. “One thing just flows into another. There’s a couple of songs on the record that we were back and forth on, and we weren’t sure whether to record them, or whether they were part of what we could call our sound.”
Although they initially questioned the direction the record was taking, Dawson and Carroll decided to give in to the inevitability that the sound of the new album wouldn’t be completely familiar or comfortable, at least at first. “There were a couple of moments with some of the songs where we were wondering whether we should continue to pursue them, thinking, ‘Is this really something Holy Holy would do?’
“There’s no way to answer that question if you try, because Holy Holy just does what it does,” Dawson says. “Sometimes you just have to try and not be too definitive about that, you just have to let it happen. So in both of those cases we ended up just letting it happen and doing it and we were glad we did it. It was a chance to try something that we weren’t totally comfortable with at first, and now I can’t imagine us not having done those songs now.”
It was always going to be difficult to depart from a sound that had been so well received on their first album, 2015’s When The Storms Would Come, knowing that their fans wouldn’t necessarily embrace the new music straight away. But for Dawson it was a necessary leap of faith. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable about our fans embracing anything really, because I don’t think you can demand that of people – you can’t just expect people to follow your feet,” he says.
“It’s important to me that people listen to our music, and that they feel something when they hear it. We just have to determine whether we feel something ourselves and hope that when you extrapolate that then other people will feel something too. It makes me feel something, and I guess that’s the first step.”
The first two singles from the new record, ‘Darwinism’ and ‘Elevator’, were used to test the waters, and based on their reception it appears that fans are loving what the guys are doing. “As we were finishing these two songs we were writing new ones and exploring the sound more, and they were almost stepping stones in a way, or signposts on the road to where we’re at now,” Dawson says. “Those releases were like throwing a small stone in the water and letting it ripple before throwing a fucking boulder in the water – I don’t know if anything we do will make that big a splash, but at the very least we’re stepping towards the album.”
The release of Paint will be special for another reason too. Dawson and Carroll have curated a series of four paintings from different artists called ‘Painting To Paint’ to be released alongside four songs from the album, time-lapsed into a video. It was an idea that began by approaching revered Australian artist James Drinkwater and asking him to create the album’s cover artwork. “Tim came up with the title for the record before we even finished writing it, which is Paint,” Dawson explains. “For me the title is very visual and I think the music is visual, with its soundscapes and tones creating a visual aspect in your mind.
“So from a visual perspective, Paint as a title almost encouraged that. In a way we wrote for the title a little bit, which might seem backwards but I found it a cool way to approach it,” chuckles Dawson. “And James Drinkwater is an artist we’ve known for a long time. We got to the end of last year and we were exploring ideas for the artwork for the record and he came to mind.
“So we just asked him, ‘Would you be interested in doing the cover art or contributing one of your works?’ I thought it was a bit of a long shot, and he came back with a one-sentence response just saying, ‘Yeah, I’d love to.’ He showed us two different pieces that he’d done over the past year or so, and we tried a few out and one of them just felt like it fit. So that’s the cover art for the record, but he didn’t paint that bespoke, it wasn’t painted for the record. But for me it sums up what I hope the record looks like in the mind of the listener.”