Holy Holy have always been able to make music that sounds as if it’s come to life. But now, they’ve moved on to building entire worlds.
Their latest LP, Hello My Beautiful World, lives up to its namesake, as a hyperkinetic, introspective, and ethereal mixture of tracks that exist entirely in their own universes. But together, they tell an uplifting story for the ages. A story many of us need to hear right now.
In light of this spectacular release, Happy got the chance to sit down with the dynamic duo of Holy Holy, Timothy Carroll, Oscar Dawson, for a Zoom chat as lockdown struck, about uncontrolled creativity, and how human experience shapes the beautiful world around us.
HAPPY: How are you doing, Oscar?
OSCAR: Hey Mike. How are you?
HAPPY: Good. Good. Locking down. Being quirky. What about you?
OSCAR: (laughs) Yeah, locking down. Are you in Melbourne or Sydney… New South Wales?
HAPPY: Sydney. New South Wales. So, sorry about that, Victoria. Woops.
HAPPY: That was a bad one.
OSCAR: It’s all good. It’s all good, mate. We lockdown with the best of them. I know how to do a fucking lockdown.
OSCAR: Not really. I’ll go for a jog this arvo, I reckon. Helps me shake up my inner turmoil.
HAPPY: Yeah, your government-mandated job.
HAPPY: Yeah, so let’s get into it in that case. I absolutely fucking loved Hello My Beautiful World. I’ve been listening to it on repeat. It’s quite beautiful, I think, and I guess can you give me some insight into how sonically it all sort of came together? Because it’s almost like worlds. You built worlds with each track. And I just want to know how the fuck you did that?
OSCAR: Hello My Beautiful World’s…
TIMOTHY: That’s so nice to hear, Mike, because like you, you are like one of the first people we’ve actually spoken to, you know, really.
TIMOTHY: Outside of our, like, family and our label and stuff. And they’re all really close, you know. So these are the first conversations we’re having with people who have listened to the album, and so on. And it’s so nice to hear that you had listened to it as an album, and have had that experience of it feeling like worlds and so on. I feel like Holy Holy is always like… even the band name Holy Holy is a bit of a reference to, like the way that music can be. Like at its best, music can really touch you in a way that feels a bit like a holy experience. And I like the fact that’s sort of our guiding principle in our live performances, in our writing is like music touches people and reaches people.
OSCAR: I was just thinking about giving you insight. Like I really don’t know. Like one thing that we’re really lucky to, to be able to do I guess is like… I don’t want to like harp on about the way the pandemic affected the making of the album. But we’re lucky that we’ve kind of got our computers and our little home setups, you know, and Tim at home there in Tasmania, me here in Victoria, you know, just working away this record and, you know, like doing it ourselves and not sort of ever feeling beholden in a way to anyone or anything else. You know, obviously the biggest… the only person holding us back maybe was ourselves at any point in time. And so, we tried to let go of much of that, too. And just like let the album kind of be creative. And like being right up to the mixing process, we were still kind of making sections. I personally just wanted to feel like we could just do whatever we wanted. And if we, you know, if we didn’t like it, or decided not to use it, that’s fine. And so, yeah, I guess we tried to be as free as we could within the confines of the way the album was made, with the pandemic and so on.
TIMOTHY: Yeah, that’s a good point, because like with this album, it was so… like we produced it ourselves, like with Oscar producing and me kind of working with Oscar doing sound stuff. And obviously like we wrote it and mixed it ourselves, and you know, mostly did it in pretty basic studios. Like Oscar’s got a little studio in Dandenong. But we also used… like I recorded some of the vocals here in my home. And it was all just like… us and our label was super hands-off, like, ‘Here’s your budget. Let us know when it’s finished.’ So we had, like, ultimate freedom. And then you kind of added in the pandemic where we were collaborating a lot with people online. And so we would like write demos and send them like Toby Alexander, who did the string arrangements in Brisbane, or send them to Japanese Wallpaper and he would send them back and be like, ‘What about this?’ and there’d be new string parts or new kind of bass parts. And it was just this process where we were just kind of working away – occasionally in person, but mostly online – and just pursuing, you know, music that kind of felt right to us, and felt like it would be fun to perform live and kind of meaningful. I was just saying to Oscar, when we were together, that it felt like the record kind of came together… I don’t want to say easily, but maybe naturally. It just sort of… started off as demos, and then it started to coalesce, and when we settled on the band name… sorry the album name, and Oscar started introducing like some of the natural, like, field recordings into the record. And we had those strings like sweeping across the whole thing. It felt really right. So excited for people to hear it.
HAPPY: Yeah, I’m excited for people to hear it too, just because it’s fucking gorgeous. I was talking to my housemate about it, actually, and she pointed out something that’s really interesting that I wanted to touch upon, but it seems like an album of juxtapositions, just because it’s with the backdrop of the pandemic, but also it’s bright and alive and fun. And I just wanted to touch upon that. Is that something maybe you were considering, or is that something that just sort of happened by accident?
OSCAR: I’ve got… I don’t know if you call it a spiel, but I do have thoughts on this.
HAPPY: Go, go, go!
OSCAR: I’ve probably said it a bunch of times to him, but also in terms of things coming out by design or just coming out by feel, you know, touching on that, I’m a big believer in things just… This is going to sound so wank, and I hope that it sounds wanky, but I do believe that music is like just an emanation of humans, you know. Like, it’s not like you sit there and think about it and then music happens. It just happens and you can make it happen in different ways. You can set the scene in different ways. You can, you know, learn to play guitar or learn how to use Ableton, or you can just practice singing, and it gets easier or better or different. You can learn how to write music on a page and get drunk, and that changes it. But it’s always an emanation, and I think it’s really important. And this is why it was so much fun to get to make the record by ourselves, as opposed to getting a third party producer, for example, is that we’re able to just let it happen a bit and take a few risks. And, you know, in the earliest writing sessions for the album, I think we just made it happen a bit, and without thinking too hard. And that’s, I think, really important. And I really believe in that as a way to make music.
And I think that because we’ve been working together a while, maybe there’s a good amount of company in the room and we are able to just let it happen a bit without going like, ‘what are we going to write today?’ You know, I just hate it when you do that, you know. I understand it, but I just feel like we were never… like we set some scenes. Some songs we said like, ‘let’s write with a four-on-the-floor kick drum and see what happens.’ But like, we was never like, ‘okay, we are going to write a song about how nice…’ you know what I mean. Because I don’t know, you know, like it wasn’t ‘here’s a concept and write a song about it.’ But in terms of the juxtaposition thing, what I’ve been saying and what I believe is the like, yeah, it has been a really… the world is constantly negative in many ways, both in terms of how it truly is, and also how it can seem to be, you know, when you’re looking at it through this thing and you know, it’s full-on, it’s fucking heavy.
And it’s really, really, really easy to either overlook or not notice or not even care that there is beauty in the world, too. And that’s entirely understandable. And I don’t want to, like, try and sign up to like, you know… it’s a privileged position in a way to say, ‘oh, it’s a beautiful world. Don’t worry.’ I don’t want to be… I don’t think that. But it is a beautiful world, you know, and music is beautiful. You know, even when it’s like dark, it’s still beautiful, I think. And I kind of want to feel that way when we play our live shows. And it’s a moment of beauty in the world, or a moment of letting go, for example. And so for me, the album is like it’s not about sort of getting drunk and forgetting everything. It’s about appreciating, maybe to some degree. But it’s like, yeah, like, ‘Hello, my beautiful world,’ you know, basically. So that’s… there’s a lot of things I’ve said there.
HAPPY: I think that’s beautiful. Like, that’s fucking gorgeous sentiment TBH. That sort of brings me down this avenue, I guess. Let’s say, you know, the world isn’t totally fucked or Australia isn’t totally fucked up by the time it gets to November and December. How does this translate over into a live show? I think that’s another thing that I’m really sort of interested in, both sort of in that… I don’t know, the emotional aspect, but also in the technical aspect as well. How does this translate over into a live performance?
TIMOTHY: Well, one thing we’re doing is… it says on the poster that we bring CLEWS along, but it might not be clear. CLEWS actually are going to be effectively in Holy Holy.
TIMOTHY: So that gives us two really talented extra voices that will allow us to recreate some of the layered stuff. Because a lot of what we do, we have compositions that are like, yeah, layers and layers of vocals and chanted vocals and countermelody and things like that. And it is difficult, you know, because like say for example, like our manager will be like ‘Hey, can you do like an acoustic version of that song?’ and we’re like…
OSCAR: We’re like, ‘Oh fuck.’
TIMOTHY: ‘That’s going to be fucking weird.’ And tricky. But CLEWS are coming along. And Queen P is going to be on the tour as well. For most of the tour, she’s going to be like the main support with her band. And then some shows where we recently played with Queen P, Haley Mary is going to be supporting, but Queen P is going to come along as our guest. So she’s available to come and sing her parts. And then we’ve got like, various synths and our drummer will be playing live drums and triggering sample drums, and just got our various… And sometimes I use like two microphones. One’s like a normal microphone and one’s like a reverb. And then I’ve got one that runs through a plugin that can do something like pitch shifting and stuff. So we’ve got a little sort of arsenal of tricks to recreate the record. What do you think?
OSCAR: It’s funny that you mention the technical side, Mike, because I’m like… triggered. I’ve got to get back… I never responded to Graham, our bass player. He’s like also like our IT services commander who like, runs a lot of things for us. We’ve got a lot of work to do basically. I’m like ‘FUCK’! (laughs)
TIMOTHY: I sort of, through my own incompetence, I’m often not relied upon to do anything other than, like, sing my parts and dance around. Oscar’s the kind of musical director, and Graham…
OSCAR: Graham’s so important. He’s kind of… just… yeah. Sometimes I think, if he ever leaves the band…
TIMOTHY: We’re fucked.
OSCAR: We’re fucked. He’s our bass player, and a great guy.
HAPPY: Where’s Graham right now?
OSCAR: He’s in Brisbane.
HAPPY: Oh, lucky bastard.
TIMOTHY: Yeah, he’s been lucky the whole pandemic. Our band is so crazy, like moving up the coast, there’s me in Launceston, Oscar in Melbourne, and then our tour manager and front of house guys in Sydney, and our manager. And then in Brisbane, just bass player and drummer. So it kind of means if there’s anything fucked up anywhere, Holy Holy will be ensnared in it.
OSCAR: Yeah, I suppose I feel like in ordinary times, we’ve hedged our bets across multiple states. So, like we can go to Brisbane and there’s a drum kit there, and there’s always gear in all the different cities across the East Coast. But in a pandemic, we’ve actually spread our losses across the board. It’s all good.
TIMOTHY: It was funny yesterday. We announced this big tour, and it was funny watching the comments across social media and of people being like, you know, like one person was like, ‘I’m ready to get hurt again in terms of like buying a ticket and it being cancelled, and Dan being like, you have to be locked down again.’ And it is a pretty funny time. I announced to them… we did the Port Road tour and it was somewhat chaotic and we had to cancel and reschedule, but it was fucking fun. And the crowds were so appreciative. And we hadn’t done a show in full year, but then we were back on stage. And definitely I never appreciated gigs much as I did on that tour. So I think even though we might have to do some rescheduling and it’ll probably be stressful and crazy, I still think it’s worth it for those times when it does… when the stars align and you find yourself playing to, you know, amazing crowd.
OSCAR: It’s definitely worth it.
TIMOTHY: For the sublime…
OSCAR: Yeah, it’s definitely worth it. And someone was messaging me… because when you announce a tour, it’s like we want to go to everywhere, you know, but it’s hard because it has to work for all these different reasons, like there’s so many factors. And obviously, the pandemic is one factor. It’s not the only one, but it’s a big one. But like to try to like make sure we can get to as many places as we can, and like the scheduling and life. And someone was like, ‘Oh, you must think Darwin’s a joke,’ you know? And I’m like, ‘no, I don’t think Darwin’s a joke…’
TIMOTHY: I fucking love Darwin.
OSCAR: I love Darwin. It’s just like, we’re in a lockdown now. It just started. It might happen again and again. We don’t know, like it’s so hard to plan. And I really feel for the agents and the venue owners and operators. It’s hard, you know. I’d love to go to Darwin. I’d love to go to Broome, I’d love to go to fucking everywhere, you know.
TIMOTHY: We’ll try to do Darwin on the next run, maybe in 2024… there will be another one for next year. I’d love to go to Darwin and Alice and, you know, those kinds of places.
HAPPY: I mean, in your defence, Darwin is like out of the way though. Like out of everywhere in Australia. I mean, you’re going to Canberra, for God’s sakes. Like, I’ll give you credit for that.
TIMOTHY: Yeah, I found out the other day and, you know, you probably don’t want to put this in the interview, but like, we’re doing this whole North Queensland leg, which is like, you know, a fair bit of work and lots of kilometres and flights. And my manager is like, ‘oh, yeah, that leg’s just break even.’
HAPPY: (laughs) Well, I guess I’m going to sort of wrap it up from here. But I do have one final question of, I guess what was the most sort of challenging part of this album that when you pursued and sort of like persevered, it just came to fruition, I guess? What was sort of like the watershed moment for this album?
OSCAR: That’s hard, actually. Yeah. What do you think, Timmo?
TIMOTHY: Watershed moment. I mean, I felt like this album was a really incremental record. You know, started with a few demos and we were excited about them. And I kind of loved these songs as soon as they came into existence. Like the first day we wrote Believe Anything, and the first time we wrote, like, How You Been? And like, How You Been, I remember Oscar just brought this synth thing, and I picked up my mic and just started singing, ‘how are you doing since I broke your heart?’ It just was there, you know, like in that first time with Oscar being like, ‘oh, that’s a good lyric.’ And, you know, these songs sort of came into existence from the beginning, and then we just chipped away. So I don’t feel like… but actually, weirdly, the most challenging moments were like right at the end, when we were kind of mixing and taking it from being… And also, we did have these experiences with some songs, like we’d sit around and they’d have these big, long outros. And we were like, ‘how do we actually fit this on vinyl and how are we going to do it?’ Like did you notice there was like the codas where the song finishes, and then there’s like these extended parts.
TIMOTHY: It was like, ‘all right, we still want those to be on the record.’ And we came up with that idea of creating coda tracks and mixing and so on. But I felt like it was toward the end when Oscar was doing the transitions and adding in the field recordings and like, he was writing coders and so on, that I was like, seeing this with the identity of an album rather than just a collection of songs.
OSCAR: It was pretty good, actually, but borderline stressful. And I was like, ‘I got this album. I’ve got these codas. I love these, you know, these new sections and it’s coming together.’ And then it’s like… Stu, our label goes like, how long is it? Like, ‘Oh, this is how long it is. Each side is like…’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, well that’s not going to fit on his vinyl.’ And then we had all these emails going with the vinyl people. It’s like, ‘how much can you fit?’ And then they’re like, no, ‘it’s not really going to work’. So I was like, we were cutting the album into bits! But I think the start of the album, when we were working on Port Rd last year, I found that was actually quite like… I felt a bit on edge because Port Rd, which is the song we released last year, which is on the album and features Queen P, is pushing the boat out a bit for us. It’s because it’s got this sort of rap verse, and I felt on edge there for a number of reasons.
Firstly, we were in the States before lockdown in Melbourne. So that was getting a bit crunchy. And like we’re finishing this song, and I was like, ‘In my heart of heart, it feels good.’ But when I start thinking about the outer world, which is probably the last thing one should do, it’s like, ‘’oh, you know, are people going to hate it? Are they going to love it? What’s going to happen?’ And then mixing it, and like even like the process of getting Queen P onboard, like where we were messaging on Instagram, we hadn’t met at this point of this kind of process. I was just finding out really, like… Sometimes, one thinks, ‘what are we doing here?’ And it’s not like you actually answer that question, and go, ‘I know exactly what we’re doing, this, this, this, this, for all these different reasons.’ I just buried the question like, ‘No, not thinking about that.’ You know, ‘OK, I can say what we’re doing. I don’t fucking know.’ I mean, I still feel like I don’t know… you know, sometimes you have to wait for two years until you know what you’ve done. You know, I feel that way, at least, like I heard a song about third album, My Own Pool of Light recently. And I think maybe kind of what it was, anyway, because Tim listens to our records when they’re finished but I don’t. And I think maybe Tim was playing backstage on tour recently, and I was like, ‘oh, that sounds pretty cool.’ You know, it took a two-year recovery…
HAPPY: A readjustment. Is there anything that I haven’t touched upon just lastly, or anything that you want to add in that you think is important, by the way? Anything?
OSCAR: Oh, I just sort of ramble. I’ll probably ramble if I say too much more.
HAPPY: You’re welcome to ramble!
OSCAR: I hope you can comb through what we said and find something to write about.
HAPPY: I’ll do my best.
TIMOTHY: I feel good. Thank you, Mike.
HAPPY: No, thank you so much for talking to me. Be safe, make good choices. Slapping album and just like, thank you.
OSCAR: Thanks Mike!
HAPPY: And thank you so much for setting this up. You’re all legends.
HAPPY: Stay safe. Bye!
Hello My Beautiful World is out now on all streaming services! Give is a listen!
Interview by Mike Hitch