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Interview: Tim Carroll From Holy Holy


Interview: Tim Carroll From Holy Holy

Erin Gear

Holy Holy's sophomore album Paint is due for release on the 24th February, so we have previewed it for you, before having a chat with frontman Timothy Carroll. The tracks vary in style, but are extremely complimentary of one another. It's easy listening at its best; Holy Holy has incredible talent and their sound can transport you to another time and place. Be sure to get your hands on a copy of Paint, because it will not disappoint!

How you guys formed is rather unconventional, it was in between travelling - do you think this has had any significant influence on your music?

I don't know really, I guess I've kind of felt like finding people you enjoy creating music with is difficult to do. Because you've got to find people who have a similar taste and have skills and talents that compliment yours, so I guess it was just sort of out of chance that I started working with Oscar and felt like we were a good song writing team. We made it work across interstate and international boundaries, but I don't know whether it's influenced the music to such as significant degree. I spent a lot of time in Sweden hanging out with bands, and could never really connect with the Swedish scene. It was very different from Brisbane where I had grown up with all my friends in bands and music was just everywhere.

I just thought it was really interesting because the first time I'd heard about Holy Holy was from a couple of backpackers, which is such an odd coincidence!

Yeah, I mean we've been lucky because we've done three tours over to Europe and it's been great to see the audience growing over there as well. 

I had a listen to Paint yesterday, and I really liked it. How do you think this album differs from your previous album When The Storms Would Come?

I think it's a pretty different kind of sonic landscape. When The Storms Would Come has a kind of mood and atmosphere that comes across the whole record, that's a little bit more 'Americana-ry'. It's more of folk tradition of song writing, but then with an electric band around it. So with Paint there's less of that nostalgic, pastoral kind of singer-songwriter feel. It sounds more like a full band record. We've done so many shows and tours since we recorded When The Storms Would Come, so all that touring has definitely played into who we are as performers and the kind of music that we like to play.

I guess when we were writing and recording these songs, we were thinking about what they would be like to perform. We wanted to make a record that was going to work really well in the live environment and be fun to play. With this record we also wanted to show off some of the different talents of the band members and revel in some big instrumental sections. That sort of happened naturally in the rooms we were writing in, doing pre-production we were keen to put that down on record as well, to show that side of the band. We wanted to show the live band, live performance side of what Holy Holy really is.

  Holy Holy's New Album: Paint, via Holy Holy

Holy Holy's New Album: Paint, via Holy Holy

My favourite tracks were True Lovers and Elevator - do you have any tracks that you're particularly proud off on this release?

Yeah, lots of them really. I was really pleased with how Send My Regards turned out, the last track on the record, which is a bit of a strange track. It doesn't really have a chorus, or a verse, or a bridge. It's just a series of movements, and I feel like it's a good song because each of the different components are interesting. So the drumming is really varied throughout that track, and Ryan is showing a whole heap of different colours and styles. Oscar's doing some amazing guitar playing and I remember being in the studio watching him lay that down and thinking how unbelievable it was really to see him making that sound live for the first time. It sounds like it's a bunch of different parts, but he's doing it all on one guitar. The vocal approach that I took is a bit different to what I've done before, it's a bit 'shouty' and less of a melodic exploration - more of a textural approach. That was a really fun song to write and record.

I was also really pleased with how That Message, the first track on the record, turned out. I think it's the first track I've ever been involved with that uses an electronic beat as well as a live kit, I feel like that was kind of cool. There's a few other little tricks in that song, because I remember when we wrote the original idea for it we weren't sure how we were going to proceed, or what production approach we were going to take. But then there was this one moment when a whole heap of decisions were made in quick succession and the song really just fell into place, where we found that opening synth sound. Then Graham suggested sleigh bells, so we found a sleigh bell sample and put that in. The other thing was the guitar part, so instead of being one guitar it's two guitars and it's like they're talking back and forth to each other. That combination of sounds was kind of the key to unlock how we would proceed with that song. I always remember that moment in the writing process fondly, because before that we'd been struggling - and it's often like that with song writing. It's not a gradual process, it's more nothing, nothing, then banging your head against a brick wall, before suddenly one thing leads to another and there's a whole heap of progress quickly. 

That's really cool! I did notice that this record was a bit more guitar heavy, which I really liked. 
It's been nearly two years since you released your first album. What have you done in between besides working on Paint?

Oh my God, well I think we did three tours of Europe and I don't know how many Australian tours we did. We must've done three Australian tours, and a few different support gigs. We supported Vance Joy around the country which is pretty amazing, because that was our first time playing stadium. So like Margaret Court Arena and River Stage, which were pretty wild times.

What else have we done? A bunch of song writing and festivals, so it's been a really good couple of years. It's been really different to before we released When The Storms Would Come, because we hadn't toured much at all then and mainly played at half full tiny little venues. So it's been really crazy the last little while, and we've just had to hold on and see where the band takes us.

That's really exciting, climbing your way up. Another thing I noticed was the album cover for Paint, which I think is just great. It's really different to your last one, can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind the cover?

Yeah, we came up with the name for the record quite early in the process. I always have this collection, an ongoing document that is full of words, or phrases, or passages of language that I find could be really useful in song writing. So when I'm writing I can refer back to it for inspiration, and Paint was one of the words I had on there that I thought was really powerful and could be used for something. So when we started talking about what we wanted to do with this record, and how we wanted to be a little bit more experimental and expressive, I felt like Paint could be a good moniker for the project. So we knew that pretty early on, before songs had even been written, that we had the name of the record. That name was sitting there above the work inspiring us as we were proceeding and writing.

When it came time to start thinking about the album art, there were a few different ideas floating around. It was Oscar who suggested that a collaboration with James Drinkwater might be a cool thing to do. James is a contemporary abstract painter from Newcastle, and he was actually in Berlin when Oscar and I were in Berlin when we first started working together. In the years since then he's become quite a successful painter in Australia, and has won a bunch of awards. So it was exciting to have Holy Holy sort of growing his career as an artist. We reached out to him and he was keen to collaborate. He gave us a bunch of different works to have a look at, and if we saw anything that we thought would work for the record, we could use it. The one we chose just seemed to resonate, and suited what we had in mind for the work. Holy Holy has always had a thing with pink and green, so there's a little bit of those colours in the piece, which is another reason why we picked it. 

  The lads, via Holy Holy's Facebook

The lads, via Holy Holy's Facebook

I recently saw on your Instagram a teaser that you're 'cooking up something fresh' with some great Aussie artists for this year. Any chance I can get you to elaborate a little bit on what that might be?

Yeah we're doing this project called Painting to Paint, and there are a few different purposes to it. One is to reach out to the art world and do a collaboration between contemporary Australian music and contemporary Australian art, which although they're similar sort of fields and mediums, there's actually - well at least in my experience - very little crossover there. So it's really exciting to be able to draw those two worlds together and see what each one is like. We're doing a series of four videos, and each one will be a song off the forthcoming record accompanied by the artwork of one of the artists inspired by that track. So we'll be documenting that process, and I'm looking forward to seeing the clips.

That sounds really exciting, I like that idea. So you've already released two singles from Paint - Elevator and Darwinism - what made you pick these two tracks to release first?

Well partly it was because we've recorded the album in three sessions over the last nine months in Head Gap Studios, and they were the ones that were ready to go. But also because those were the songs that we thought would work on radio and suited what singles are aimed to achieve generally. It's been nice having those ones out. We did a tour for Darwinism last year and it was fun to be performing that, and the crowd sang along. It makes a big difference when songs get on the radio people can connect with them a bit more. I'm looking forward to getting the full work out, because I feel like singles are really only just one side of what the band is. A record is such a nice way to get a deeper experience of a period in time for a band.

Yeah, I definitely think it does that. I really loved listening to PaintI've also checked out the music videos for both of the singles as well, and am really interested in the creative process behind collaborating the music with video. Is that difficult?

Yes it is difficult. Film clips are hard. Making movies is really expensive and technical, and requires a lot of people. I guess that's one thing that being in a band I've learnt a lot about - how complex and amazing the world of film making and photography is. I definitely have a bigger appreciation for all the things that you never think of when you're watching movies or a TV show. It's something that I never had any experience with before, but our label and our management have been really supportive. They provide us with the resources to be able to explore whatever ideas we have. A lot of what we've done has been about finding good people to work with, and people that we trust. Once you've got a good team, it's easier to get results you feel good about. It's always weird seeing yourself on screen as well, it's a bit uncomfortable really. So I always prefer film clips I'm not in! 


What song are you most looking forward to performing live off Paint once it's been released?

We are already playing some, like That Message, Willow Tree, Shadow and Darwinism. We've been playing them in Europe and they're all sounding good, and then by the time we came to Australia they were pretty smooth and felt pretty natural within the band. There are a few that we recorded later in the piece that we had not yet workshopped into the live setting, because the recording process can be a bit different. We don't restrict ourselves by saying we have to do something that is possible for us to do live. We treat the recording as it's own kind of work and make it sound as good as possible, and then we will sit down and figure out how to translate it into the live setting. I think Send My Regards will be really fun to work out a live version of, and Gilded Age and Amateur as well could be a fun one for a bit of a late night gig. I'm actually, to be honest, looking forward to playing all of the tracks live. We were playing tracks off When The Storms Would Come for a good couple of years, so it's nice to have a whole catalogue of new stuff.

Yeah that's fair enough, it'll be good to see you guys live again. Hopefully you'll come to Adelaide!

Yeah, we're working all that out now. On the next record I'm playing way less guitar, I've got a couple of small things I pick the guitar up for, but I'm mainly just singing. So it's a really different sort of performance style than I've done before for this record, which is liberating and fun and exciting. I can just sing and move about a bit more, I don't have to be thinking about guitar tuning and pedals and amplifiers and stuff. But I'll still have the guitar there so I'll be able to play some stuff off the last record too. 

And just quickly before we have to wrap up, what did you do for Australia Day? How did you celebrate?

Well, my wife is from Sweden and she's been living out here for quite a long time now, and she became a citizen on Australia Day. 

Oh congratulations, how exciting!

It was kind of hilarious and fun, because they had this local brass band playing Waltzing Matilda, and then they started playing Star Wars, which made me really start noticing the band, and they played the theme from Titanic. I guess they had a pretty limited repertoire, and they just played everything that they knew.

But yeah, we went up and stood in front of the flag and shook the hand of the Mayor and she became and Australian citizen. They had all these tables set up for lunch, and whipped out a classic 1950s style Australian snack smorgasbord full of scones, lamingtons and meat pies. I just thought it was really hilarious, very old fashioned. But then by the same token the people that were becoming citizens were an incredible collection of people from all over the world, so like Burmese people, Sudanese people, English and Swedish. It was a nice way to spend the day, celebrating multiculturalism and what Australia can be at its best. 

Thank you so much for chatting with me, I'll have to let you go now because I've been told we're out of time.

Yeah that's cool, good luck making sense of all that rambling. Bye Erin, it was nice chatting with you!

Holy Holy's new album Paint will be released on the 24th February, featuring both hit singles Elevator and Darwinism. So be sure to get your hands on a copy this month! You can pre-order a copy here.

Header image via Holy Holy Facebook.