A little chat with Tim Carroll from Holy Holy
Only days before leaving for the Australian tour of their newest album, I was able to grab Holy Holy front man Tim Carroll to have a chat about all things building up to When The Storms Would Come and what’s to come after its release.
Jordan: I know you’ve doing some traveling in Europe, mostly by road. Do you think this influenced the album?
Tim: I’ve been kind of lucky in my life to kind of be around music a lot. When I was younger, I used to be a part of this night at The Alley bar in Milton that was a spot where a lot of up-and-coming bands and songwriters would come down and play. Then I got a job at the Troubadour right in Brisbane, and saw a lot of bands for years, night in and night out, then worked at Black Bear as a booking agent. I was just spending my days clicking on links, listening to bands and being at the venue, and doing the door. It’s been nice to kind of be surrounded by music. Every now and again you see a band that’s really inspiring. Since I was a high schooler, I’ve done a trip over to Europe and worked over there for a while and lived over there, and a little bit of travel in southeast Asia and Africa and North America. I was living over there when Oscar and I got together for this project. I didn’t consciously think that the traveling influences the music, but I guess traveling influences me, and in that way influences the music. But it’s not a direct relationship I wouldn’t say.
I didn’t consciously think that the traveling influences the music. But I guess traveling influences me, and in that way influences the music.
Jordan: Your latest single from the album, You Can Not Beg For Love Like A Dog, features very 70s-sounding guitar vibes. We’ve heard you cover a variety of different sounds throughout your past tracks – do you know how this is explored further on the album, this variety of different sounds?
Tim: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. We’ve all got different backgrounds in the band; we all bring different things. We all also have a love of the classic song-writing styles from the 60s and 70s as well. It’s funny, sometimes in a rehearsal studio sometimes we’d jam; we can play one style of music and then drop into another style. There are a lot of different possibilities with a band. It can be interesting to try and tame that into an album. I like the idea of dipping in and out of different styles. Sentimental Mondays I think is quite contemporary in its approach, but then it obviously has this 70s/80s feel to it. A song like Wanderer is almost a reference to old R&B sounds. I think this ties it all together with some of the aesthetics, the instruments, and our voices. Not our literal voices, but Oscar has a voice on the guitar and Ryan has a voice on the drums. We tie it together through that. I like the idea of being quite varied in approach from song to song.
Jordan: Do you have different favourites from the album, in terms of listening to or recording the album live, or playing in front of an audience?
Tim: Yeah, those are interesting for us, because some of the songs were recorded years ago and some we recorded months ago. That also influences how I feel about them. And it’s true what you say that some songs translate really well live – usually the upbeat ones are a bit more rocking on a Friday night, with a full venue or something like that. I think You Can Not Beg For Love is probably still a song that when we get to it in the set list, it’s fun to play. It’s kind of easier to play as well, which can be nice. We have a couple songs off our first EP, like House of Cards – that’s just a bitch of a song to play; it’s complicated and there are lots of different parts. You have to really be thinking about what you’re playing. It’s nice to not have to do that and kind of be more present in the song, and give more of yourself.
[With complicated songs] you have to really be thinking about what you’re playing. It’s nice to not have to do that and kind of be more present in the song, and give more of yourself.
Jordan: While we’re on the topic of You Can Not Beg For Love, it’s probably the most unique song on the album – I thought so, anyway. It really pops out from the rest of the songs. Is that something that you feel was measured?
Tim: Yeah, it does stand out a bit. I think, to some degree, that’s kind of the direction we’ll probably go in the future. It was recorded relatively recently in terms of all the songs on that album. That song having a long time to develop was another thing; we actually recorded another version of it earlier and then continued to develop the song. Then it changed so much that we were like, “we need to re-record it.” We did, and we took some risks with the song, like deciding to allow it to be as long as it is – it’s five minutes and forty seconds long. A lot of people I guess would have advised us not to have a song that long for a single. But we decided to trust ourselves and believe that the song was better at that length. It was very satisfying when we did release it, and that song did do we well, and people got behind it and so on. It was good to take that risk and we can do that again in the future potentially.
Jordan: I heard that Holy Gin was written while on the road.
Tim: Yeah, Holy Gin was like a lot of our songs: it started off as a little fragment of an idea and was sitting around in the background while we were doing a lot of other stuff. We were all pretty busy with other projects and we all live in different cities – sometimes a song can sit there on pause until we’re ready to get back to it. Towards the end of the recording process, we decided that we wanted another couple songs and we went to Melbourne. Oscar, Ryan and I hired a studio, and we worked on three demos and recorded two of those as the last two songs on the record. The two were Outside Of The Heart Of It, which was the second track on the album, and Holy Gin, which we took a different production approach for. We did the drums separately, and miked them a specific way, and we ran the vocals through a synthesiser chorus effect, so it does pop out on the record as a different track.
Jordan: You have a very visual lyricism in all of our songs. What is the writing process?
Tim: I write all the lyrics. I usually write them by myself independently of the band and then I bring the lyrics to a session; I’ll have them taped to the mic stand so I can remember what they are. I usually just sit down with a pen and paper and an acoustic guitar and just work. I think it’s good to write things down. I think it’s better to use a pen and paper than a computer, because with pen and paper, you can scratch and add things and have multiple lines. Sometimes I’ll use that technique where I’ll be like, “the line can be this, or this.” Write them all and see which one is going to flow. Another good technique I find is if they have a song that is going to end up with two verses, ideally try and write six verses, then pick the best two, or smash the best lines of all six into two. It’s good to not go with the first thing that comes to mind. Do more, and then cut it back. I’ve been enjoying writing lyrics lately.
Jordan: You’ve described the rehearsal times when you’re all together as the most important factor. How do they influence production?
Tim: It kind of depends – we often send demos back and forth. I often record something on my mobile phone in basic or on my laptop, with garage band, put down this rough melodic idea, and then send it to Oscar. Oscar’s got a more developed studio. He’s a producer as well and often puts down a more developed idea with drums and bass and some guitar parts and synth. He’ll send it back to me, and if I like it as it is, I can put vocals on it or I’ll go back to him and he can tweak it. Then Ryan, our drummer up in Brisbane, we’ll send things to him once we’re happy and then he’ll put a drum track over it. This is what we call pre-production. The goal is not really to finish the song per se or to lock everything in. It’s more just to get a vibe and colour and the key arrangement down and then leave some room for the exact sound for when we’re in the studio.
The goal is not really to finish the song per se or to lock everything in. It’s more just to get a vibe and colour and the key arrangement down and then leave some room for the exact sound for when we’re in the studio.
I don’t think it’s good to be too married to certain decisions before you’re in the studio. You don’t want to be writing in the studio, ideally; there’s not really the time for it and you don’t want to be writing under time pressure. But I think it is good to have the freedom to go with different sounds, depending on what you’re feeling right in the moment.