Caravan Chats: An Interview with Holy Holy
Having had a great start to their career in Australia, Holy Holy are now ready to take on the UK. On the second half of their European tour they arrived from in Liverpool from Bruges early in the morning. And after a show in Liverpool’s own Camp and Furnace and a somewhat confusing manhunt Tim Caroll and Oscar Dawson are sat in a caravan ready to be interviewed by Music Editors, Vivien Duine and Imogen Clyde-Smith.
Vivien: So I saw you guys played Paradiso in Amsterdam last night? It’s quite and iconic venue, how did you like it?
Tim: It was lovely!
Oscar: Yeah, it was amazing, it was one of the best shows on the tour.
Tim: Yeah, we played there for London Calling, a festival. There were a bunch of bands playing and we got to play the big stage in Paradiso. And we had a show in this fun place called Utrecht.
Vivien: That’s where I am from! Did you guys play the Tivoli?
Oscar: No way! No, we played EKKO.
Vivien: Oh that’s even better. It’s actually around the corner from my house.
Oscar: I had never heard of that town before this tour and it was really beautiful.
Tim: Netherlands is the best!
Oscar: We came to Holland a few weeks ago for a festival and that was great as well. Great crowd, the Netherlands are beautiful.
Imogen: So would you guys say touring is your favourite part of what you do then? Playing live?
Tim: I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite bit. Touring and recording and writing are just such different things, it’s like chalk and cheese.
Oscar: And my experience of touring is like, amazing highs and really exciting and beautiful and incredible, but then it’s also hours in the van and waiting around and that kind of thing. But is is fun and it’s only a few months of the year. And in Australia it’s very different as well, because it’s such a big country and we’re playing different kind of rooms. But it’s exciting.
Tim: Yeah and in Australia it’s a bit different, the way we operate on the road, it’s usually on weekends. Whereas here we just kind of come for a few weeks nonstop. So it’s a very different vibe over here, but it’s great.
Vivien: So do you play bigger venues in Australia then? Do you prefer that?
Tim: Yeah, unless were doing festivals, it’s a variation anyway, but yeah in general our own shows are.
Oscar: (Laughs) Well big crowds are nice, but it depends really.
Tim: Big shows are nice, because often the PA is better and you get a bit more time to set up and things like that. But you know sometimes the small shows are really vibey and really fun and we had some really good small shows as well.
Oscar: Yeah, when the crowd is really close to you.
Vivien: So what would you way was your favourite show so far then? Your highlight?
Both: Of this tour or ever?
Vivien: Let’s say ever.
Tim: Last night was definitely up there, Paradiso was definitely amazing. Especially to be so far away from home and have such a full room, with a thousand people there. But the last tour we did, we played a couple of sold out shows in Melbourne and in Sydney, which is exciting. And London. The last time we played in London was a really fun show.
Imogen: So what is your recording process like? Do you both write?
Tim: Yeah we definitely both write. Sometimes one of us will bring an initial idea to the table and then we will flesh it out and do a demo. We do quite a lot of pre production, so we will have multiple versions of the song until we get into the studio. So when we get to the studio we will have a few different ideas in mind. And then we work pretty closely with a producer called Matt Redlich who often records two inch tape and he’s a close friend of ours so it’s been an quite intimate recording process and very enjoyable. The recording for the album took place over a long period of time, we were recording for over a year. And then we released an EP in Australia and we then continued to record and released the album a bit later.
Imogen: So what inspires your writing?
Tim: It changes from song to song, sometimes it may start with a melodic idea. A riff or a chord progression.
Imogen: Before the lyrics?
Tim: Sometimes, and sometimes it’s the opposite and I’ll find a lyrical idea or a concept and then flesh that out into a song. Because the band lives in different cities in Australia we’re all kind of spread out, so it’s quite an interesting kind of process. I live in Tasmania, an Island of the south of Australia and Oscar lives in Melbourne and the rest live in Brisbane, so we’re thousands and thousands of kilometres apart. So whenever we’re together the time is really precious and we do try to write. Oftentimes it’s even fleshing out ideas at soundcheck or in band rooms or whatever time we can get.
Oscar: And usually the life show is kind of a way to try our ideas. It’s a great place to do that because you can see what works and what doesn’t.
Vivien: So do you always play with the same band?
Oscar: With a couple of exceptions early on, going back a couple of years now, yes. Ryan (Strathie), our drummer has been with us for ever now and Graham (Richies), our bass player plays on the road with us and plays on the recordings as well, so we feel like that works really well. It’s pretty locked down now.
Imogen: So was it originally just you guys?
Tim: Yeah, I was living in Stockholm in 2011 and Oscar was in Berlin. And that was when we started working together on like a suite of demos. So it was just Oscar and I.
Imogen: How did you meet then?
Both: We were kind of old friends back in Australia.
Oscar: We actually met while traveling in South East Asia. That was after we both finished high school. And we met there, had some fun and stayed in touch over the years and then by coincidence met back up again in Europe when we were both living there. When we came back to Australia Tim started pushing this project of recording this record and it sort of was just this slow process where things just kind of came together in a natural way.
Tim: It wasn’t until we released a song and it got picked up by radio in Australia and then suddenly there was quite a lot of opportunities for us. And there were labels and managers and festivals and so on. So we’ve just kind of been riding that wave for the past year and a half.
Imogen: How have you been promoting your music? Have you been releasing bits online?
Oscar: The initial release of the single was independent so it was online on Soundcloud and such. And then getting it on the radio. There is one particular radio station in Australia that is nation wide, that is part of the ABC, which is the Australian BBC, and we sent it to them and they picked it up.They are quite an important broadcaster for our style of music and for the youth and they picked it up and from there it kind of progressed further basically.It started out being a really independent release and then gathered momentum.
Imogen: Did your travels inspire your writing at all and your videos? Do you have a lot of say in your videos?
Tim: Yeah we do. Especially in the beginning, the first clip we did was before we had a label and manager and so on, so it was super low budget. But it’s interesting because even now that we’ve got a label I feel like some of those first clips were some of the better ones.
Oscar: Yeah, it is a bit frightening, not necessarily in that you loose control but more voices come into the picture…
Imogen: So is it hard to not lose your identity in the midst of that?
Tim: I think we were very careful with the deals that we struck with our label and we have been careful to ensure that we always have final creative control in all aspects, so the physical art and the songs and the film clips and so on. It can be really exciting. We did this clip down in Tasmania this year and that was a really cool project, we had a little film crew come down and had a couple of different vehicles and we drove around the mountains of Tasmania shooting all this amazing footage.
Oscar: Yeah, It’s fun. I mean the other effect is that you have to bring in a director, and film clip budgets are just enough to get it done. Often when you work with them it’s a bit of give and take and you’re inviting them in and working with them to create something as opposed to just telling them what to do.
Vivien: So we were talking about your identity before, how would you describe your musical identity in a few words?
Oscar: Musical identity?
Vivien: Yeah, your style or…
Tim: There is a few elements to what our band is about, at the core of it is one common theme that repeats itself as these two melodic ideas. So often there will be a vocal melody and a guitar melody and in our songs each part of that is given space and we’ll combine them to a sort of melodic interplay.
Oscar: Yeah, and naturalness is also important in the sense that it would be very easy to get caught up in production process, sequences and all these various backing tracks and shit. It would be very easy for that to happen but we don’t fight against it because it doesn’t really come into the picture, it’s important to us to just be ourselves. So it’s kind of a gut instinct to us.
Tim: And we recorded a lot of the record live, with all the instruments in one room, drum, bass, guitar, all together and hopefully that left an impression on the record.
Imogen: I’ve also read that there are elements of nostalgia in your music. Was that intentional?
Oscar: Yeah I wouldn’t disagree with that. But it wasn’t like we were trying to be a throwback or anything like that.
Tim: It just felt natural when we started recording. And in the studio we recorded on tape and we are a guitar band and we do love bands like Bruce Springsteen, Dire Strait, Neil Young, some of that is kind of there.
Oscar: Yeah, it’s more of a by-product of who we are rather than a conscious decision.
Imogen: So do you have any other influences?
Tim: Yeah, contemporary stuff like The National and Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear. Those are bands where we like the bravery of the production style and the writing and so on, there is a kind of and father john misties
Vivien: So you mentioned influences when it comes to music, are there any band you look up to for performing?
Tim: That’s a good question
Oscar: It is a good question, yeah.
Tim: For me the performance is about letting go of any pretence and try to forget about the audience. At it’s best musical performances are like experiencing something with the band and the audience together and I often feel like in our shows it comes together and you can experience it for that moment and it’s kind of about trying to create that moment for as long as we can and have a genuine musical experience. And our band name is in some way about that, about trying to create a performance that is in some way moving and makes you feel something as a performer and as the audience.
Imogen: How do you hope the audience reacts to your music, to have that connection and be absorbed by it in a form of escapism?
Oscar: We do try to extend sections and grow and develop and weave it into songs and have dynamic sections where it drops and grows to take them on that journey with us.
Tim: And there is improvisations in the shows, like it’s not always the same and it goes to a place where we’re not quite sure where it’s going to end, kind of scary but ultimately also satisfying.
Oscar: We get certain crowds, we have done theatre shows in Australia where people sat down and just listened intently but we also have done shows where people are jumping up and down and so it can be quite different. But both of those we’re comfortable with and they’re great for different reasons. It’s great to be able to go from one to the other.
Vivien: Is that the kind of thing you like when going to a gig yourself?
Oscar: I never really go to a gig with an idea of what I want.
Tim: Yeah, but definitely feeling something, I definitely know when I’m watching a band and I have that sensation of not thinking about the mix or anything other than the experience.
Vivien: Having a connection with the music?
Tim: Yeah, it’s quite a rare thing and it’s nice to see when a band is really playing and not… There’s a difference between playing and reciting, just going through the process instead of feeling something in their performance. So when that happens I think it’s quite clear, when you have that experience with a band, it’s like a connection.
Imogen: You’ve supported a few big bands in Australia, The Preachers and Boy and Bear. Do you enjoy supporting other bands?
Tim: Yeah, it was good for us, I think it’s really important for new bands to do that kind of thing, just getting shows under their belt and just getting comfortable with the audiences and so on. With the Boy and Bear tour we got to play some amazing rooms, we got to play the Sidney Opera House and this beautiful venue in Melbourne called the Palais(?) and the Tivoli in Brisbane, those kind of rooms are really beautiful to play and it’s a real pleasure. But also like I said it’s important for the band to just get shows under their belt and become comfortable.
Oscar: If you get along too. Sometimes when you play with another band which is bigger than you they’ll be a pleasure, they’ll be great and just generous and open and kind and you’ll form friendships and it’s just a lot of fun as well. And we’ve definitely had that experience which has been nice.
Imogen: Is there a band you want to tour with or collaborate with even?
Oscar: Yeah definitely, there is lots of bands.
Tim: We love War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and Father John Misty and Sharon van Etten and they’re all bands that we love. I love Future Islands as well.
Oscar: I mean there is also the big massive names like Radiohead.
Vivien: If you could pick any band to take with you on tour, to be your support act, who would that be?
Oscar: Support us? Oh god. That’s a hard one.
Tim: Yeah, because you would have to pick a new band. We are going on tour so we have been picking our supports at the moment. We’ve been talking with a band in Australia called Methyl Ethel who are a great new band that we’ve played with before and there is another great band from Brisbane called Airling, who are doing well, they’re a female fronted slightly electronic project.
Oscar: I think often it’s cool to have a band support you that is slightly different as well. To get a bit of contrast.
Imogen: So what is your plan for the future? Keep touring? Or are you writing at the moment?
Oscar: We’re constantly coming up with ideas, like I said earlier, even when we’re on the road. On this tour we have been kind of fleshing out ideas, so we have a whole bunch of songs just bubbling beneath the surface at this moment. So were doing another tour in Australia next year and slowly planning some studio time to get some stuff out during next year and then back over here during first half of the year, probably in spring or summer
Tim: And we have a few great festivals to play as well over there. We’re playing a festival in New Zealand, which is a great one which has Kurt Vile and Leon Bridges, Blockparty and Falls, yeah some really good artists. But yeah I feel like we’re writing very intently and there’s a lot of ideas coming up at the moment and we’re trying to capture them and record them and head towards some demos.
Imogen: So are you happy with your sound now?
Oscar: I am an inherently dissatisfied person so…
Imogen: I think a lot of creative people are though.
Oscar: I mean, I like being that way, so I am happy with the sound but I want it to go further and to develop and change as well.
Tim: I feel like we’ve come a long way but I feel like the next record will be different than the first one.