Australian two-piece indie rock band Holy Holy released their sophomore album, Paint, earlier this year to critical acclaim, including a 4-star review from Rolling Stone. The lead single ‘Darwinism’ became the #1 most played track on triple j and propelled the album to a #7 debut on the ARIA charts. Paint displays a significant musical progression from their first EP, The Pacific, and album, When The Storms Would Come, showcasing colour and diversity through vibrant synths and resonant hooks. Guitarist Oscar Dawson shared his thoughts on the writing and production process of the album.
Your most recent release, Paint, has a distinctly fresh sound in comparison to your previous works. What inspired the new musical direction?
It’s hard to say exactly. We certainly wanted to write music that went beyond where we began. And we approached it from a different starting point this time. Unlike our first album, when we began this one, we had a fully-functioning band, for example. We would spend time building our music in rehearsal, rather than piecing it together in a singer-songwriter context. And equally, we had been playing a lot of live shows, so we wanted the music to represent us on the stage. There was greater involvement, in all ways, from Ryan Strathie (drummer), Matt Redlich (producer) and Graham Ritchie (bass). As a result we found ourselves making music that we couldn’t have just made as a duo and using sounds and textures that we wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.
What’s your biggest musical inspiration?
I don’t take a great deal of inspiration these days from other music. Occasionally I hear something that will floor me but I won’t then use that as a launching pad to write something fresh. In many ways that will inspire me in the opposite direction; to do something different, if possible. One problem I see with the sheer quantity of content that surrounds us – whether musical or otherwise – is that it leads to musical homogenisation. I enjoy isolation and propose that it is a great way to create new music.
The music videos for ‘That Message’ and ‘Willow Tree’ feature live painting demonstrations. Does music inspire your art or does art inspire your music?
I wouldn’t say either, directly. Indirectly perhaps. The painting demonstrations for these two songs are by two artists – James Drinkwater (That Message) and Lottie Consalvo (Willow Tree). This was a project called ‘Painting To Paint’, whereby four artists each painted a piece, inspired by a song on our album. I feel that both James and Lottie stay true to their individual style and approach, but with a slight inspiration from these songs. It may be that the songs gave them license to approach the canvas/board in a different way to what they normally would.
Do you have a songwriting method?
Not in particular. Mainly circumstances determine the method. Whether we are in the same city, or not, for example. We live in separate states so sometimes we send recordings around and build on them – although this generally isn’t the ideal method. It just helps to get things started. Most good things happen when we are in the room together, and often it is chance that brings them about.
Any foolproof tips for the struggling muso?
We are all fools for doing this, so nothing foolproof. You have to be a little bit foolish to get anywhere. As for the struggling muso… well, if the musician is struggling creatively, just change your method. Learn a different instrument, go to a different location, take a break. If the musician is struggling in any different sense… just take your time. Be patient, don’t obsess, back yourself. Things don’t always happen the way you want them to, but things will happen.
Which song are you most proud of?
Bohemian Rhapsody. Not because I wrote it – I didn’t. I’m just proud to be a human because it was another human that wrote it and that means we are capable of anything.
Do you have any limitations as a duo?
We don’t set any limitations – but certain parameters assert themselves. I think of them as parameters rather than limitations. Parameters help make you more creative; you have to work within them. Limitations implies that you are trapped. Sometimes the parameter is simply that we have only one voice and one guitar when writing – sometimes, it is that when we write as a band, it is just five of us in the room. Lately we have been thinking of new parameters – writing without guitars, for example.
Where to from here? What can we expect from you next?
We are on the road in Australia throughout June and July – and then, beyond that – time will tell!
FRI 23 JUN | THE FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY NSW
SAT 24 JUN | THE SMALL BALLROOM, NEWCASTLE NSW
THU 29 JUN | THE WOOL EXCHANGE, GEELONG VIC
FRI 30 JUN | 170 RUSSELL, MELBOURNE VIC
SAT 01 JUL | REPUBLIC BAR, HOBART TAS
THU 06 JUL | MIAMI MARKETTA, MIAMI QLD
FRI 07 JUL | WHARF TAVERN, MOOLOOLABA QLD
SAT 08 JUL | THE TRIFFID, BRISBANE QLD
THU 13 JULY | MOJOS, FREMANTLE WA
FRI 14 JULY | JACK RABBIT SLIMS, NORTHBRIDGE WA
SAT 15 JUL | PRINCE OF WALES, BUNBURY WA