They may call Australia home, but for musicians Timothy Carroll and Oscar Dawson, it was a few fateful creative collisions in Stockholm and Berlin that became the truly defining moments for their future careers.
Singer-songwriter Timothy and guitarist Oscar joined forces in 2011 to form indie band Holy Holy and what was then a writing project to pass time and enjoy the art of creating, has evolved into something quite unlike its small beginnings: the duo have since carried their musical ventures from the stairwells of Stockholm onto stages in Australia and the UK.
Their album When the Storms Would Come, released in July 2015 debuted at #11 on the ARIA chart and hit the top 10 on iTunes. Having toured nationally with Vance Joy, Boy & Bear and The Preatures, the ensemble, now combined with drummer Ryan Strathie, bassist Graham Richie and producer-turned-band-mate Matt Redlich on the keys, are taking on stages around Australia for the Darwinism Tour in November. Here’s how they’ve created a unique sound, made sure to manage their management and what they consider the best advice for aspiring musicians.
How was the Holy Holy sound created?
Each of the players have a bit of their own voice in the song, so Oscar has a really signature guitar playing style which is made up of a few different sort of hallmarks or a few different trademark kind of moods. Ryan Strathie, our drummer, is a very inventive player and the drums parts are quite detailed. If you listen a lot, you kind of find that he is often building these patterns as the song progresses, and me [Tim] coming from a songwriter background where it was always about the lyrics and the melodies and trying to reach people through voice [is] something that I have tried to continue to do. And there’s also Matt Redlich, our producer, who plays a particular synth which has a certain sound. I guess it’s just a combination of all those different people that come together and when we play together it sounds like Holy Holy.
What was your approach to choosing the right record label?
The real key there was finding a manager. We tried a few different people and then we found our manager currently now, who’s a woman called Jess Beston and she’s been great. I guess you just have to take a risk on someone. One thing about Jess is she works really f**king hard on the band and that’s something that can be hard to find in a manager, and it is also a lot to expect in a manager because in the Australian scene, it can be a pretty loveless task. There is very little money involved until the band is quite successful, so they’re kind of investing in you as well.
One nice thing about Wonderlick, which is a Sydney-based label, [is] they were just really upfront from the start. They weren’t playing games with us – they came to the show and they showed an interest. Pretty much the first time I met them they were really open and they were like, ‘We love the band and we’re definitely going to be making an offer’ and that was nice, rather than some other labels which can be a bit like, you …have to prove yourself. They just put it out on the table that they connected with the music and thought we had potential and it’s what felt good from the start.
What was the breakout point for the band?
Things definitely changed when we got our first song on the radio, Impossible Like You on rotation on Triple J. That I think was a bit of a key turning point for the band. Suddenly, there were more doors open, like agents and labels and venues and support. We had this idea that we’d release the EP, do a bunch of touring and build our audience and then release the album. So each of those tours, like the Boy & Bear tour was a really special one, I feel like a lot of our current fans were people who saw us on that run.
What advice would you give aspiring musicians?
Sometimes there’s this stereotype that exists like musicians are hopeless and that musicians are always late or they’re always unreliable, like ‘he’s a typical musician’. I don’t think that’s [the] truth – just like anything in life like hard work, good communication and striving for excellence is kind of really where you want to have your head at… surrounding yourself with good people. Being in a band is kind of like running a business and it can be as intimate as being someone’s lover in a way, so you want to find people who you trust and who you respect musically and from the start and kind of build a team like that.
Whenever you’re thinking about whether or not a show is a good idea, think about if you would go to that show – if you heard about that line up and that venue on that night for that price, would you think, ‘Yeah, that’s something I would want to be involved in’. Never do a show that seems like not the kind of thing you want to be at. Never get people coming to shows out of guilt or because they’re trying to support you. You want to make art be what draws people in.