HOLY HOLY The X-Press Interview

Indie Rock outfit Holy Holy have broken the mould of what it means to be a rock band. Their new record My Own Pool Of Light is explosive and daring; it follows a shift in their creative process as well as the bold decision to self-produce. Guitarist Oscar Dawson spoke to CAITLIN NORRIS about their unique recording process and empathy amongst the arts. Holy Holy are currently touring the country in support of the exciting new record with special guest Carla Geneve, hitting Perth on Saturday, September 28 at The Astor Theatre. 

The new record is amazing and the recording process sounded extremely freeing – recording whenever and wherever with whatever gear you had available. How did you come to decide that that was how you were going to make this record and what was that experience like?

In a way the decision was made for us by all of our lives just being where they are. We live in different parts of Australia so Tim’s down in Launceston – although when we were making the record he was living out in the country in rural Tasmania – and I live in Melbourne and Ryan our drummer lives in Hobart. When we got together to make some music or even just when we were rehearsing we just made the most of the time that we had. We’d get together and we’d make some music and it would be like, well we could now make a big plan and book a recording studio and all try and congregate there but it just sounds like a pain in the bum, let’s just use what we’ve just recorded – so it was that kind of vibe.

It’s such a cohesive piece of work. How long did it take for My Own Pool Of Light to come together? 

Sometimes processes that are spread out can be more cohesive because you have a chance to sit back and listen and recalibrate your approach every month or whatever. It’s sort of hard to know when it started, the sense that like, we wrote some songs and didn’t think much of them for months and then we came back to them and we were like, oh maybe these are actually kind of fun and maybe something we can release. So we got started and then probably a year goes by and then we’ve finished it but when we’re actually working on it the time feels much quicker than that.

Did you guys have any experience with self producing before this record?

I work as a producer for other artists so I guess I feel like by doing that I like, get around it. I spend so much time with my guitar or in front of a computer recording demos or other people or whatever it may be, that you kinda get used to sitting there recording yourself. I kinda like it that way and I get really frustrated working with other producers – I don’t want to get frustrated but I do [laughs].

This would be the first time that you have self produced, so you’ve worked with other producers in the past right?

Yeah, so our previous two albums we’ve worked with a friend of ours and producer, Matt Redlich, who’s great and we’ve got a lot of love for. But y’know, I think the third album is the one we just thought, let’s try something new.

Was that a conscious decision like, “we’re gonna self produce this album,” or did happen naturally as you began creating?

Yeah, it was like that. Similar to what I said about how we just started making the record and it sort of was thrust upon us. We’d started making these songs and recording them in these funny ways that are different for us and it’s fun and now it would be annoying to rope in another producer and go to a fancy studio, it would sort of slow the process down. And possibly even sabotage it as well, so we thought it was feeling good so we should just keep going.

Lyrically, it sounds like these songs are tackling a lot of topics that haven’t been so expressly covered before in your past work. Issues such as depression and suicide. Do you feel like this record houses more vulnerability? Was it different to step back and write from other people’s perspectives?

Tim, who’s the lyricist, all the things that he’s writing about and we’re writing about here are things that he thinks about a lot and has been the whole time – I think back on our other albums and some of the singles there’s a few more love songs and some more cliched song ideas, which I think are all meaningful because we all have these feelings. I mean, Tim and I are both married and Tim’s got kids so it’s like how many more songs about heartbreak can you write when that’s your headspace? There are certain songs that are about people around us who have mental illness or suffer from depression and people we’ve lost and there are some really recent memories as to that, so some of that stuff is really present. It’s kind of hard to ignore. We’d get together and write a song and sometimes some of this stuff would just be stuff we’d been talking about anyway in the room and sometimes it feels weird to be talking about all this stuff and then write a love song. Some of the stuff that Tim’s writing about I think he feels a bit uncomfortable writing about too, because we’re a couple of white cis males, and what do we know about some stories of people who are marginalised or other. But I think that’s the great thing and I think one thing that it’s really important to not lose in our arts is the ability to empathise and understand other peoples points of view. And even if you don’t understand, but to try to. So sometimes that’s what it’s about, trying to understand what other people feel and go through. I think that’s really important in our society. These lyrics are an attempt at that.

How have the new songs been translating live?

There’s a few songs off the new record that people know which is great, that’s working. Every now and then you do one which is sort of buried in the album and maybe not that many people are across it and it sort of dies in the ass a bit, but that’s all good!

Did you have to switch up the way that you’re presenting these new songs live now that there’s been a shift socially?

We definitely have changed it up a bit and we’ve got some more technology involved. I’ve got this new keyboard and I’m using that as well as playing guitar so I’ve had this steep learning curve of how to use this machine. There’s a a few more toys on stage which is heaps of fun, I’m really happy about it.

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