What if the guitar band stops writing with their guitars? What do you hear when you take them out of the pristine studios of their previous releases and put them in a grab-bag of home studios and DIY pop-ups up and down the east coast? What if HOLY HOLY self-produce, whilst collaborating with some of the country’s most exciting and interesting musicians?
‘Faces’, the first taste of the duo’s third album, is unlike anything you’ve heard from HOLY HOLY. From the first listen, the opening vocal hook drags you by the ears through an experimental mini-epic.
“We decided we didn’t want to write any of the songs on guitar,” Tim explains. “Oscar is such a talented guitarist that it can be easy to throw a few chords together, but it can also be a bit of a crutch.”
Despite being one of Australia’s most acclaimed guitarists, Oscar was all for the new challenge. HOLY HOLY are moving away from their trademark solos and riffs in favour of sampled vocal loops and programmed synth bass lines, on top of layers of live and programmed beats. As well as relying on drummer Ryan Strathie’s rhythms to shape songs from the get-go, their music is more collaborative than ever with Melbourne’s Japanese Wallpaper providing his trademark synths and tonal vision, whilst Ainslie Wills and Ali Barter add their vocal colour to the main motif.
Lyrically ‘Faces’ also heads into new terrain. “It’s a snapshot of what it is to be alive at the moment, all these different lives interacting.” Dig a little deeper and there’s a nod to the ‘fake news’ era and internet abuse with lines “beautiful hatred, composed into phrases” and “books set alight in a thousand bright blazes”.
“Island to hide all the nation’s disgraces, I blame the blind with far-off gazes” is another key moment.
“I was a social worker, I used to work in refugee settlement,” Tim says. “It continually shocks me that these people, including children, are still in indefinite detention. When they started separating families at the US/Mexican border, and there was a public outcry, what we’re doing in this country is as bad as that.”
Providing the finishing touches is Rich Costey (Arctic Monkeys, Chvrches, Muse, HAIM, Franz Ferdinand) in the mixing chair, leaving Tim and Oscar free to focus on the overall vision.
“I’m at the computer pushing buttons, tweaking things and nerding out and Tim is like Rick Rubin listening and providing feedback which is super-important,” Oscar says. “It’s a two-layered approach.”
“It’s not really about high fidelity and doing heaps of takes, it’s about capturing vibe and energy,” Tim adds. “It’s fast and free and we’re not really tied to what we’ve done before and that’s pretty liberating.”