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Words + Interview by Kaysei Galea

After the explosive release of their powerful fourth studio album ‘Hello My Beautiful World’ in August 2021, Holy Holy have finally made the first few stops on their rescheduled 18-date national tour, celebrating and sharing the beauty of their newest body of work live with their devotees. So, I sat down with Oscar Dawson from HH to get the inside goss on the tour so far, navigating in the world of COVID and re-discovering the magic of live shows.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to have a chat to you about your new album and the tour you’ve finally been able to embark on! The new album was released in August last year and the tour began in March, then there was a reschedule thrown in the mix too! I always say things happen for a reason, so I wonder have you been able to find anything good or positive that’s come out of these reschedules?

I mean reschedules are the best thing that can happen in a way, when you don’t have a choice. You know, the gigs are going ahead. So I mean that’s a massive positive, you know? And we’re playing them now and I mean it is a gnarly time to tour, just with all the COVID stuff that’s happening, and there’s a bit of a wave happening I suppose or at least there has been for a few weeks now. And that impacts your touring and then obviously when you get Covid in your touring party, you have to cancel and so on. And COVID itself sucks to get. But on the whole I think we’re all really grateful to be playing and touring around and it’s a lot of fun and it’s like, glad to be able to finally fuckin’ do it, you know?

Absolutely! I think with the easing of restrictions that are happening as the time goes along, that would probably feel a bit better for you guys, a little bit of a relief?

I mean I’m in Victoria and it has felt for some time now that the restrictions have been pretty chilled and I do notice some other states have more intensive restrictions but as far as concerts go the main thing that we’ve been excited about is that people are allowed to stand and dance and sing cause I tend to think if that wasn’t allowed I’d postpone the gigs again, you know?

Absolutely. So speaking of the tour, how’s it been going?

Good yeah yeah! We’ve only had to cancel one weekend due to COVID but yes it’s felt weird making an album and then releasing it last year and not being able to play any shows at the time. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how people receive the music and how it’s being perceived. And even actually it’s kind of hard to tell exactly how the music even feels in a way when you’re just listening to it in your own little bedroom or whatever. But now that we’re able to play shows, we can kind of see how the songs resonate. And that’s really great ‘cause it’s nerve-wracking, you know, I wasn’t sure – we stepped out on stage ‘cause the first time you play some of these songs we just weren’t sure how it was all gonna come across in a live setting. But it feels like it’s been really good, it’s been really fun playing live, definitely a bit of a learning curve, like had try and remember how to play gigs again after such a long time off, because again I’m in Victoria and we’ve had these big lockdowns so it wasn’t even as though we could get together to have a rehearsal or anything. It felt like we were really diving back in the deep end again.

So, when was the first time you were all able to be in the same room together and start really preparing for these shows?

It was a couple of months ago now. And so yeah, we sort of had to like, kinda switch on that side of the brain again in a way. I just spent so much time at home and I thought, “what even is a gig?” But now that we’ve done a bunch of them it’s like it’s almost back to normal again, you know?

Very good to hear! Just going back to the creation of the album, do you write with the intention of writing an album, or do you write a whole bunch of demos and have that ‘a-ha!’ moment, like these are all tied together, and on top of that, do you also write with the intention of performing it live and what that experience would be like live?

All of those 3 things that you said, it’s like a balanced amount of all of them, I would say. I mean, it’s almost like with writing, in the back of one’s head, you might be thinking to yourself, “I wonder if we’ll make another album,” and so going to the studio, you gotta sort of just, start, you know, and see what happens. And we did that and we were lucky in a way, that we felt after writing some songs, we felt like, “Okay yep! We think we can do a record.” And so then it becomes a circular approach. Once you start building the confidence that you’ve got the creative kinda flow, then it feeds back into itself and you create more and then your confidence grows more that you’ve got an album on the way. And then further to the last thing that you mentioned about the live show, I mean lately, and by lately I mean the last few years, I’ve felt like we want the songs to express themselves really well live. It just feels good. I feel like music is a shared thing, you know, and it’s great sharing it with people in a room together. Obviously with COVID, that was really difficult so, I dunno, maybe in a subconscious way, we wanted that even more throughout that time. And so now we’re finally able to do that. But yeah I think definitely we think a bit about how they’re gonna come across in a live setting and if you’re writing music in your bedroom, you have to take a bit of a mental jump to go, “Okay, what’s this going to feel like on a stage?” because it can be very easy to just write really chill songs in your bedroom all the time, because maybe it’s like your relaxed place to be. So sometimes you have to fight to push yourself out of that headspace.

During the creation of ‘Hello My Beautiful World’, was there a particular instrument that you felt yourselves gravitating towards and then does it get the same limelight in the live shows as well?

I wouldn’t say there was a particular instrument that we keep coming back to, other than the computer. I almost consider that an instrument – creating sounds in the computer. Obviously the voice, Tim’s voice as well. But I wouldn’t say aside from that there was any instrument that was like a focus. It was more just we wanted to create said feelings and create a set of songs that would impact people. And whatever means necessary, you know?

Beautiful! In terms of feelings and emotions, if you can, list the top 3 emotions that you expect, or you have seen your audiences feeling as you’ve been playing the album live.

I mean that’s a hard question! I hate to guess what emotions they’re feeling. I think people feel joy though, at gigs. The feelings in the rooms have been so joyous because maybe it’s been a while and people are kind of almost, and this is more a general thing, people are almost surprised at how great it is to see music again. I’m not even talking about our band, I’m talking about just people in general and us included. So I think joy is one and I think that’s a great emotion. Underrated. What else? I’m not sure. To be perfectly honest, when we’re playing a show, there’s so much stuff going through our minds and engaging with the crowd is so important to us that sometimes I don’t stop to analyse the situation there in the moment.

Which show has given you the best vibe overall so far?

Honestly I’m not going to put any show above any others. They’ve all been so great in different ways. You know, going all the way up to Cairns in Far North Queensland where we had just this awesome energy from the crowd, and you get a different energy in different parts of the country and the capital cities so like Sydney, I actually love Sydney crowds, but they’ve all got their own unique kinda flavour. Gosford obviously Central Coast that was a bit more raucous, and it was great as well. It’s sort of like, there’s a different zest or something in every crowd, you know?

That’s awesome that they’re distinguishable as well, like you can say “This one sounded like this,” or “This one felt like this,” but they all equally feel as good. That’s really cool.

Yeah, yeah, it’s just like a different flavour sachet!

Talking not just about this tour, but just in general, what’s your most memorable memory, for lack of a better word, of touring?

I mean, that question is hard because I hear that question every now and then and I think to myself “I’m going to have to make up an answer.” I remember lots of touring but I forget a lot as well. Playing music and touring around the place, I sort of don’t see it as though I’m collecting memories. I sort of see it like trying to create experiences with people that then are gone. You know, they’re in the moment, but then they’re gone. And then you come back again the next year and do it again, and it’s a different experience and it’s gone again. I rarely come home after the weekend and try to preserve the memory of it. It’s like a fleeting thing, that’s what I love about live music, is it’s fleeting and it’s gone and that’s it. Often, really, people capture it on their phone and preserve a memory on their phone, and I mean I do that too, but it’s never the same and it’s never as good as being there, you know? So to be honest, my answer is, I don’t want the memory to be preserved.

There you go. That’s actually a really good exercise in mindfulness and being right there and being present in the moment, which is something that escapes us quite often now.

But also there’s another side of it, which is that music sounds better when you’re there and then you listen back to it, and sometimes it’s disappointing and you can ruin the memory, you know? You start going “Oh shit the vocal’s a bit iffy,” “My guitar’s out of tune,” or whatever the hell it is. It probably is because it’s a live show! It’s intended to be experienced then and there and not later.

That’s some awesome insight. That’s actually some really good thinking on my behalf that I can do, like, some good reflection! I’ve got one more question to ask you, Oscar – give me your best 20 second elevator pitch for why people should come and see Holy Holy on tour.

*Laughs* Elevator pitch. Come and dance the night away with us.

Holy Holy are currently touring ‘Hello My Beautiful World’ nationally through to early June.
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