The Holy Holy Storm Has Come — An Interview With Oscar Dawson

– by Hannah Nissen

Holy Holy’s debut album When The Storm Would Come has just descended, and despite the duo both hailing from opposite sides of the East Coast, this album has already received such praise for its visionary convictions it’s hard to believe they have only been together for a few years. Either way, miracle or not, it’s damn fantastic. Set to be officially released tomorrow, I had a chance to catch up with Melbournian guitarist/composer from the duo, Oscar last month to talk about the album, their upcoming national tour, and of course, the technologically advanced life and death of the mini disk.


Hey man, really great to chat to you! I really appreciate your time!

No problem at all, I have had to do so many of these in the last few months, and I am usually such a shy person, like in everyday life I try not to speak very much, but now I don’t really have a choice I’m finally warming to it.


Well I talk a lot, so let me know if I start rambling on at any stage but hopefully we can balance it out, because, well yeah, noone wants to hear from me.

That’s perfect! I guess I will probably need to answer a few things, so I will do my best.


So the last 2 years have been pretty crazy for you in terms of success, but you guys joined forces while living in different states, how did that collaboration come together??

We go back quite a long time actually, we basically met of all places in Thailand, ages ago when we had just finished school, we met over there while travelling, during the year after school doing volunteer English teaching work. I use the term work pretty loosely, we were just kids, basically exploring the world, in a way. I think we were pretty useless as teachers, well I probably was but it was a great experience. We met over there and just had guitars and would sit around and jam, play music..

When we were there, those were the days when mini discs were the next best thing in music. One of our friends there had this mini disc playerthat came with a little microphone, so somewhere in the world there are all these mini discs of songs we wrote in that year..


So kind of like the unreleased first glimpse of Holy Holy?

Yeh, but I wouldn’t want to give them the Holy Holy title. They are actual obscene, just like horrible, brutally rude comedy songs. It would be great to find them but even if we did I’m not sure they even have mini-discs anymore that we could play it on, so they will forever be the lost record.

Anyway, we stayed in touch, I went back home and Tim did his own thing, then later on in a moment of serendipity we were both living in Europe. I was heading over to Stockholm and he happened to be over there, so I pretty much just caught him online and hit him up like “Hey, I’m actually heading to Stockholm…can I sleep on your couch?” and he was working on this tune which I demoed on, (which I think is actually featured on the record now) so that happened for a while he’d come over to Berlin with a couple songs and we did that for a while, and that was the starting point for the band


So did you essentially write most of your Debut EP over there?? 

We wrote a lot of songs, not just for the EP but for the album over there, we started recording this album a while back. And as that happened we started playing more shows and developing more. Yeah, we had an albums worth of material but we released an EP instead. Which I am glad we did, A lot of times you speak to artists who are really desperate to release their first album, then someone recommends releasing an EP and a lot artists would just be like “What the fuck, we’ve worked on this forever, we want to release an album,” but it made sense to us and we ended up releasing The Pacific, and I think it was actually a good move. It gave us more time to perform more live shows and develop our sound.

So you saved up a little repertoire of songs that you could work on?

Exactly, a bit more time to do some more touring, and build the live show, and then write a few new songs as well. It’s just important to develop in time. It takes a long time for a band to find their sound and find its feet and it’s an ever changing thing, and I don’t think its something you could do in a rush, and it’s been good having those couple of years there, tomake that happen


So you guys are heading back over to Europe soon, aren’t you?

Yeah yeah, so we just got back about a month ago, and we’ve got another journey on the cards for the spring, we haven’t organized it yet, but its being organized every day behind the scenes, which is exciting.

So obviously, living in Europe, and being forced out of your comfort zone would definitely rouse that creative process and that passion, is that why you heading over so soon? To revisit that holiday frame of mind and creative freedom again?

I actually don’t think so no…it’s a very different mindset,when you are living there, and you’re in it, when you reside in a place it’s a very different feeling to when you are just touring. When we go over for these tours, it’s always a very different vibe. Travelling around, from gig to gig in a van, and playing shows – it’s just a very different feel as opposed to when we were living there.

When we were actually writing the record and working on songs, Tim was in Stockholm and I was in Berlin, we were there full time, and as a result of that we weren’t necessarily in a holiday frame of mind, it was almost sort of like a this is our home kind of mindset, yet it also wasn’t quite our home. So it was kind of actually a really interesting headspace to be in.. On the one hand you’re like Wow, this is such a cool city and the other part is like Fuck, how am I going to work, and pay my rent at the same time and it puts you in a pretty interesting place, and I think it worked actually really well, because it meant we were really relaxed with this travelling outlook, but also this discomfort of living in this new place wondering how am I going to find my feet over here, and I think both of those things are really important in writing.


 It said somewhere you recorded in a stairwell, what is the deal with that?

For people that haven’t been to Berlin, all the apartments, especially the apartments I was living in, have no lifts. Like if the rent is really cheap some of the buildings are old and shonky, sometimes you’re living on the fifth floor and every time you get home have to climb, with shopping bags or a backpack. There’s this big reverberant echoey staircase, and I can’t even remember but maybe we used it once to record some vocals or something just to step out the door. But these stairwells actually become a feature of your everyday life, you realize your paying jack shit for rent, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we tried to utilize it for something, as it honestly can become such a daily cultural custom.


And did you try and play around with space and sound, utilize that with anything on this album?

Yeh definitely we did, the record that we worked on was done all in a studio, where our producer Matt Relick works, so its all his studio. We used his spaces, his rooms, and his overall sonic approach, but the building itself is actually a studio, like this big wooden building, so in a sense it has this homely feel to it, and he uses a lot of the hallways and different rooms within that building, and he actually has this big shed out the back that he sometimes uses to record as well, so that was always good to create a suitable diversity in sound and find a space that matches what we were trying to convey in each song.


So did that homely feel impact the style or direction you guys may have taken on in your upcoming record? Whereas yourlast work was done while traveling and from a place of discomfort, has you’re album developed as your environment has?

I actually am not sure this album is particularly different from anything we’ve done before, I think we’ve definitely refined and developed it, if anything it’s just a continuation of that development. As some of the tracks were written over seas anyway they all sort of follow a similar body of work, with the new ones we have been touring last year and this year quite a bit and as a result that always means the sound will develop. There are a few songs on this record that continued to develop our sound a bunch and that’s definitely been improved just from playing together as a band. We wanted to work on portraying that natural, raw feel in our style with a nostalgic kind of essence, without being too trapped in the past, and I think that’s why we’ve stayed on the same page as what we were going for with The Pacific

I always want to know, does the repetition of playing a song sometimes render the meaning to sometimes get hindered a little on tour? Or have you found that the more you play the more it creates a unity and togetherness behind the song?

It can definitely happen when the meaning gets lost through repetition, but I’ve found that you can always uncover new little details and hidden gems with any given piece of music. Plus sometimes in the way we record, its hard to pull that off live because there may be more layers and elements in the recording then there are people to produce those layers in the band, so often I have found we uncover new layers as we try out new things and work with different combinations of layers to find the best way of doing it, and that’s a really good way of keeping the songs fresh. And that way we get to keep uncovering new little details and characteristics of the song, and kept things exciting

 So you guys have kept drummer Ryan (Hungry Kids of Hungary, Andy Bull) as a permanent band member when you guys tour…but otherwise, do you guys try to get a different group of band members wherever you go?

We try not to, we are really happy with the band that we’ve got. Ryan has been playing with us for a while, and has appeared on almost all the recordings, he also does some writing with us too, and we also work with Graham Richie on base who’s been a great addition to the band, and it means a lot to have a team of players that all get along really well, where creating is just easy, you know? And we also have our producer Matt helping out in the band, he covers a lot of vocal harmonies and the synth, so the band we have is a great unit actually, and we don’t want that to change. Touring around with such a tight group is an integral part to conveying ourvision live

 So whats next for Holy Holy?

I’m not too sure beyond 2015. It’s been such a hectic year, and we’ve got so much going on this year with our own tour, but we’re looking to doing another open gig tour in around October and then after that it will be summer so we will see what that brings.


When The Storm Would Come is a refreshing soundscape of organic musicality. Defiant in variety but pronounced in dynamism, it is a sonorous dreamscape and a harsh kick from reality at the same time. With their national tour starting in early August, Holy Holy has cemented their righteous sound and sublime melodies to amplified proportions. Having already collected a devout following that is set to grow, I recommend getting yourself a copy of When The Storm Would Come here, also available on vinyl, there has never been a better time to reconcile your relationship with your record player, and place your faith back into real  music.

Photo Credit: Holy Holy

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