When Holy Holy guitarist Oscar Dawson picks up the phone, he’s busy noodling away in his Melbourne studio, editing some drums for an artist he’s producing. The self-styled workaholic hates down time, choosing instead to fill his days working with acts such as Ali Barter, handling production work or, at the top of his priority list, writing and touring with Holy Holy. The duo – also featuring vocalist/guitarist Timothy Carroll – have had a big 2015, releasing their debut album, When the Storms Would Come, and touring Australia, Europe and the UK. Their latest stopover in London saw them headlining for the first time, a sure sign that momentum is building. In January the band will hit the road again in support of latest single “A Heroine”, the fourth from their debut. Dawson took some time out to talk to us about the year that was, celebrity encounters, and new Holy Holy music…
You crammed a lot into 2015. What would say were its highlights?
Playing Primavera in Barcelona was pretty special. It was just beautiful, we played as the sun went down overlooking the Mediterranean. It was paradise, really. Also playing in London was pretty cool, we sold out the Lexington when we were last there, and Liam Gallagher came along. That was just weird.
Were you aware he was there?
I didn’t want to be aware, but I became aware right before we went onstage. My manager came down into the dressing room and said, “By the way, Liam Gallagher’s here.” And I said, “Oh for fuck’s sake, thanks for telling me that!” I just got a bit drunker than I normally would. I don’t really like to drink too much before playing because I just get a bit sloppy, but this time I was just like, “Oh goood”. But we met him after the show.
What did he say?
He was great. The impression I got is he’s just a dude and he came to watch a band and it wasn’t anything more than that. He was like, “All right, mate, how are you? That was a great gig, mate.” He didn’t come into the band room, but that’s only because the band room was a little dungeon to the side of the stage. We met downstairs in the pub, and I was outside drinking a beer and just chatting [to him], and of course the bouncer comes over to me and says, “Sorry, mate, you can’t drink that out here.” And in my head I’m going, “Mate, for fuck’s sake, I’m chatting to Liam Gallagher, is this really the time to tell me where I can and can’t [drink]?!” So I said I’ll go inside and just kept chatting, and [a few minutes later] he goes, “Mate, you need to take that drink inside.” So I just gave in. But maybe there was a part of me that sneakily was worried that I’d run out of things to say [to Gallagher].
Have you started to think about a new Holy Holy album?
I have plans in my head, but they don’t always match up to reality. I’d be hoping that by next Autumn we’ll be looking to start some recording. We’ve got a bunch of songs in varying degrees of completion. I’d be hoping we can get a track out next year.
How many songs do you have finished?
Four or five.
How are they sounding?
I’d say there’s a progression. I’ve been working on some demos lately and sending them to Tim and speaking with him on the phone, just trying new ideas out and trying more synthesisers even. Don’t take that as an indication that we’re going to become a dubstep act, but we’re just trying new textures out and seeing where they take us.
When we started working on When the Storms Would Come, which was a few years back now, we were in a different place as a band and as individuals. The sound gradually broadened and deepened over that time, and also we started playing more shows and so started becoming more powerful. By the end of the recording process Tim was singing with a great deal more intensity, and we were trying to get more dynamics into the sound and make it more powerful and make the bigger bits bigger than they were before, and make it loud and stretch the sound out a bit more. So I’m feeling like we keep doing that basically, and write bigger tunes that we can imagine playing on a stage. I don’t like the idea of being in a band where you get to a point and say, “This is what Holy Holy sounds like.” I want the band to not be limited by that and find the right balance between pushing this out further and also keeping consistency.
You’re releasing a new single, “A Heroine”, and taking it on the road in January. What does that song mean to you?
The lyrics are about how history just keeps coming around and around, and its endless cycle of repeating itself and there’s no end point to it, I suppose. That’s the impression I get from the lyrics – it’s almost like historical fiction in a song or something like that. Tim’s always doing that, he’s always looking back or looking at something from a third person perspective and taking a backward step and observing something from a distance.
So, how would you sum up 2015 then?
Heaps of good stuff’s happened, and we got a record out, which is weird. It’s kind of a surreal feeling going, “We finally got a record out, we finally did it.” Not just releasing it, but releasing it in the form it was in. It could have come out two years before in a different form or we could have waited another year or another two years and kept writing. We just had to choose an end point and say, “This is our record, this is how we sound, this is what it is, let’s put it out and tour it, and then do another one.” So putting that out is such a great experience and it’s great to let it go. Even though as soon as we put it out my first thought was, “Fuck, what have I done? Why didn’t we do that, we didn’t we change that, fuck! We should have done that!” But that’s just the first knee jerk reaction, and I no longer act upon it, I just take a step back from myself and go, “Okay cool, that’s fine, I’m going to hate myself for a little while and then get over that.” And now looking back on it from a slightly further distance I’m like, I’m really glad that we released it the way we did and how it was and I can’t wait to do more now.
The A Heroine Tour kicks off early next month. Head here for your chance to win a double pass.
Friday, January 15: Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday, January 16: The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Thursday, January 21: The Rosemount, Perth
Friday, January 22: Fat Controller, Adelaide
Friday, January 29: Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday, January 30: The Triffid, Brisbane