3 years ago, a band took to the stage in a tiny upstairs venue in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. The few people in attendance clung self-consciously to the walls as the house music died and amps were switched off standby.
“I remember I had asked the venue to change all the stage lights to pink and we brought along our own smoke machine that Oscar was operating with his foot in between songs…” The band was HOLY HOLY and that night they lurched their way through the first show of their career. “…It was a bit a tragic in retrospect…funny, and tragic.” recalls co-founder and vocalist Timothy Carroll.
Now, 3 years on, HOLY HOLY are about to release Darwinism, the first single from their much anticipated sophomore album. Debut When The Storms Would Come, released in July 2015, debuted at #11 on the ARIA chart & hit the top 10 on iTunes. With 6 songs added to rotation on national broadcaster triple j, HOLY HOLY have sold out tours across the country. They have toured nationally with Vance Joy, The Preatures and Boy & Bear; played coveted spots on national festivals including Splendour In The Grass and Falls Festival; headlined BIGSOUND; received stunning reviews for both their album & their live show; and won the 2015 APRA ‘PDA’. The band have also toured through UK & Europe, selling out London shows and playing festivals such as Dot To Dot, Liverpool Music Week, Primavera Festival (Barcelona), and London Calling (Amsterdam). Europe has welcomed them warmly, with airplay in the UK, The Netherlands, Germany. The band have a third UK/EU tour slated for September/October 2016.
HOLY HOLY work differently from most; From Launceston to Brisbane and Melbourne, songs are sent back and forth. Ideas are captured in different cities, then come together when the members meet up again, be it for a tour, rehearsal, sound-check or show. Their long distance music affair has resulted in a truly unique sound: layers of melodies, evocative storytelling, and passionate rhythms.
They have also continued to evolve since inception. “We were writing new tunes as the album dropped last year…” says Oscar Dawson, guitarist, co-songwriter & co-founder with Carroll. “…we found ourselves diving headlong into more writing and demoing, ahead of more recording. I generally prefer doing things that way. If things slow down I get restless”.
Darwinism got its start in a hotel bathroom, Carroll locking himself in while his band-mates slept following a night out. “I remember the boys were all asleep in the apartment and I was looking for a place to play so I locked myself in the bathroom and was making some recordings on my phone. I felt straight away it could work as a full band track”. Weeks later, Dawson and Carroll explored the idea further, fleshing out Carroll’s initial phone recording in a tiny studio set-up in London in between shows on a UK/EU tour.
Finally, two months ago, the entire band gathered at Head Gap Studios in Preston, Victoria, and invited trumpet and trombone players Ross Irwin and Kieran Conrau to join them for the song’s huge, sweeping horn section. “The horns are a fresh thing for us,” says Dawson of its effusive energy. “We wanted the horns to be textural, using a band like The National or Radiohead as examples.” Pitch shifting effects pedals and other such tools help provide new tones and straddle the balance between authentic and synthetic. They couldn’t resist utilising Head Gap’s grand piano.
“So the track starts really stark and sparse, with that melody from the bathroom. And by the end it is a big orchestral mess: hopefully in a good way. It was a lot of fun to make. The mixing was the real challenge – how to get it to all to work together. We had to work on it for a while but in the end we found it.” says Carroll. “It feels like a fresh approach for us – a new studio and a new city to record in. It’ll be interesting to see what people make of it.”
HOLY HOLY’s music draws you in, urging you to dig deeper. Carroll’s lyrics having a way of cutting through, and “Darwinism” is no different, bringing to life a couple’s relationship juxtaposed against the song’s driving riffs and melodic lines. “The song’s lyrics are about how a relationship evolves over time and one of the lines was inspired by the idea of ‘Seven Types of Ordinary Happiness’ from [cartoonist Michael] Leunig.”
It’s a promise of big things to come; new beginnings and exciting directions that will unveil themselves when the band return to the studio later this year to lay down the rest of the album. Says Dawson, “I want fans to feel like they’re in the band, like they’re in the same room,” he says. “Lifted up and brought along. I don’t want people to feel like they’re outsiders looking in.”
Carroll & Dawson are joined in the studio and on the road with band mates Ryan Strathie, bassist Graham Ritchie, and their producer-turned-band-mate Matt Redlich (Ball Park Music, Emma Louise) on keys.