Holy Holy are Timothy Carroll and Oscar Dawson the best band to come out of Australia in years. Holy Holy have just released their critically acclaimed debut album ‘When The Storms Would Come‘ which received a 9/10 rating from XS Noize. Mark Millar pulled front man Timothy Carroll out of a Berlin bar for a quick chat.
How have the European shows been going so far?
TC: We started in Belgium and had a nice time it was cool, we played in Botanique they had a good vibe with three different rooms and three different bands playing we had a fun time there was a good crowd there. Then we played a couple of shows in Holland, things seem to be going well for the band in Holland I’m not really sure why but I think we had some radio play there so there’s a bit of interest there. Then we did 2 shows in Germany where it’s starting out for us, we are making inroads though we don’t have big crowds there yet. We had some half full venues at the German shows then we are back to Holland, so it’s going well, I’m always thrilled to have the opportunity to play there at all.
Are you looking forward to the UK shows?
TC: Yeah I am, we did a tour in May and I wasn’t really sure what to expect but it was really exciting and fun we played the Dot To Dot run of shows and The Great Escape. My memory is of full rooms, a lot of the venues were small but they sounded good and the audiences were really receptive so if it’s anything like the last time then I’m really looking forward to it.
How did you get the band together with Oscar?
TC: We lived in different cities; I was born and raised in Brisbane the son of Irish migrants. Oscar was born and raised in Melbourne the son of English migrants so we didn’t meet each other until we were about 9-10. We both finished school and we went to Thailand where we were doing a volunteer programme over there. I remember bumping into him he had a guitar and I had a guitar for the next four months we were working together and drinking rum and riding motorbikes and playing music, we formed a strong friendship. Over the next decade we lived in different parts of Australia, Oscar was involved in a few different bands in Melbourne that did quite well.
I did a solo acoustic singer-songwriter project which was cool, I did reasonably well and I did a bit of touring and so on. It was a very different music compared to Holy Holy, it was more acoustic and almost like a dark country thing. In 2011 I moved to Stockholm for a year, where I wanted to write a new batch of songs. At that time Oscar was living in Berlin and he came to Stockholm to do other music work and asked if he could stay on my couch.
We wrote a song together that weekend, I liked it and the direction it went in. I started coming up with ideas and when I had 2-3 ideas together I would jump on a Ryanair flight and go down to Berlin and we would bash out 3-4 tunes, so over the year we wrote about 12 songs and a project started to develop, then we came back to Australia and decided to go to a studio and record them properly. It was during that period of recording that the band formed, so we found the other players and decided to name it as a band and started doing shows that was how it came together.
Is there a reason why you called the band Holy Holy?
TC: The truth is I was taking piano lessons with a friend of mine, I finished the piano lesson and he said ”how about we share a hash cookie and then go to a show”? So I ended up doing that and the hash cookie was extremely strong, it was that night when I was lying in my bed that the name came to me. I always had an affinity with double words there is a certain power with the repetition that appears in the name and in terms of the music we write both with performance and with the audience we create an emotional experience. There’s something about that word and the connotations that it has in the English language it is something close to what music can be at its best.
Were you surprised at how well the Pacific EP was received?
TC: Yes I was, especially as I had been around as an acoustic singer-songwriter ten years before that and I had done a bit of touring and played some shows and so on. I remember thinking “if I ever get a single song played on radio, I will die a happy man”. In Australia we have been really lucky and have had a bunch of songs on radio and we’ve got to play some of the biggest festivals in the country. We got to play the Sydney Opera House last year so it’s definitely come as a surprise to me, especially as it’s happened with an old friend of mine who I met so long ago and who I respect so much as a writer, it’s been a real exciting journey.
Did any of the songs you recorded in Berlin end up on the album ‘When The Storms Would Come’?
TC: Yeah, we had about an albums worth of songs and then we came back to Australia and recorded those, some of them ended up on the ‘Pacific EP‘ then were doing a lot of touring around the country and were always writing new songs, off the top of my head id say half of the album is songs that we developed together in Stockholm and Berlin and the other half we wrote while the band was developing in Australia.
‘You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog’ is a brilliant track, it’s my favorite on the album, what a guitar solo!
TC: ‘You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog’ was an interesting one, I kind of wrote it as an acoustic ballad, the verses were really long and double the length that they currently are and then when the Holy Holy project came together we recorded a version of it, which was halfway to where it ended up. As we were touring around the country playing it live it didn’t feel as if it was quite there so we had another look at it that was when we ended up with the arrangement that’s on the album.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
TC: I really like the last track on the record ‘The Crowd’ it’s a spacey piano, bass track that has a beautiful slide part to it, it’s partly because I remember how it was on the day that we recorded it, it was on a hot Brisbane afternoon. We had done a whole day of recording and we decide to have a look at this other track I sat down at the piano and we recorded bass electric guitar piano and drums all live all in one take all in one room, it felt really right. When I play that song it reminds me of that afternoon.
What music inspired you growing up?
TC: There was a lot of music in my house growing up; my parents were always listening to music. It’s interesting when you look at your parent’s music and think that it’s all really bad and then you get a bit older and you realise your parents had amazing taste in music and you’re really lucky to have been exposed to it all. Growing up I listened to Neil young, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen and Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and Muddy Waters. Then there was the more modern stuff like the National, Band of Horses and Here We Go Magic, they were all influencing us at different times.
Is there a current record that you like that you could recommend?
TC: Yeah there’s an artist called ‘#1 Dad’ he released a record last year, it’s actually a side project for him he’s in a band called ’Big Scary’ back home in Australia that’s really an amazing record he collaborated with a few other vocalists on that and then there’s this great new band from western Australia called ‘Methyl Ethel’ they have just released a record called ‘Oh Inhuman Spectacle’ and that’s a great record, we did a few shows with them they are definitely a band to watch.
What’s beyond the UK shows for Holy Holy?
TC: We have a few shows in Australia close to the festival season, we are doing a few small ones and a pretty big festival on New Year’s Eve which has lots of great artists playing such as Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett so that’s going to be lots of fun. We have just released one of the songs on the album ‘A Heroine’ in Australia it’s been added to radio so we’ve got to tour to support that in January. I run a little music festival in Australia down in Tasmania in February and March I pull out of the band for 2 months and work really hard getting the festival up and running and making sure we don’t drop the ball with that. The festival is what allows me to be in the band because there is no money in music ever! So I’ve got to make sure I do that right. And then after that we will be looking at recording again working up some new songs and making demos, we have some material ready to go.