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Interview: Oscar from ‘Holy Holy’

HolyHoly 2015 AAA

In little over 10 months Australian duo Holy Holy have gone from relatively unknown to become Liam Gallagher’s favourite new band. The incredible reception for their debut album “When The Storms Would Come” has seen the band play sold-out shows both here in Oz and throughout Europe and the UK. We caught up with the group’s guitarist Oscar Dawson to chat about Holy Holy’s upcoming tour plans and why he’s not into “acrobatic” guitar playing.

Holy Holy has finally come home after two European tours off the back of your debut album “When The Storms Would Come”. When you were recording the album did you ever think you’d be playing sold-out shows in London?

Umm no I didn’t, but I hoped I would! Most of the processes we did when recording the album was to just have fun with it, y’know having a great time creating sound. I didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas of where it would go and how or when it was going to be released! Selling out shows in Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane is one thing, and actually going over to London and selling-out [shows] over there was pretty surreal but a wonderful thing!

After one of your sold-out London shows The Huffington Post said “Holy Holy could well be the next band to conquer the UK and the northern hemisphere, and be the biggest deal since Kylie Minogue”. Do you think Holy Holy will one day be a national treasure?

Ahh well I couldn’t imagine us being a national treasure, like I think I’m too cynical to be a national treasure! It would be great to do a duet with Nick Cave actually so if being as big as Kylie Minogue meant we could do a song with Nick Cave then I’m all for it really! I feel though that a treasure is something that you hide away and have to stay the same for a long period of time…that would frighten me a little bit.

I first saw Holy Holy back when you supported Ball Park Music at The Tivoli a couple of years ago, what’s it been like going from relatively unknown to touring the world and getting praise from Liam Gallagher? 

Because we’re in it ourselves it hasn’t really been something huge. It’s like when your puppy gets older, you don’t know it’s getting bigger unless you don’t see it for six months…it happens bit by bit with little things happening and before you know it you’re overseas playing shows and Liam’s [Gallagher] there and that’s bizarre! So at certain points along the line you stop and go “wow that’s really good it happened!”. but when you’re in it some times you don’t notice [the growth of the band] so much. However, we definitely notice more people coming to our shows and with each tour we get better [as a band], and there’s improvements in our songwriting as we’re getting bigger.  All these [happenings to the band] feel quite natural and it’s a great process to be a part of!

Are you looking forward to potential stardom, like do you embrace die-hard fans holding “We Love You Oscar!” posters?

I kind of don’t understand that [kind of behaviour] in many ways, all the bands that I’m a die-hard fan of are all either dead or broken up so I can’t understand what it feels like to worship [a band]! I just feel like we’re playing good songs and I hope people like them so I hope that’s enough! It always feels like there’s a pressure, now more in social media than other places, where we’ll see people pop up on our feed and then they come to the show and you put a face to the name or to the Instagram name. But there are a few people that keep popping up and it’s actually a wonderful thing really and I often asking myself “why do you like us so much for Christ’s sake? What are we doing that makes us worthy?”. It’s wonderful [that we have such a great fan base] and I’m happy about it, I just don’t understand what it is [about us]!

Your guitar solo in You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog is one of my favourites of the year and many people say your solo in Pretty Strays For Hopeless Lovers when you play it live is incredible. What’s your favourite Holy Holy guitar part to play and which guitarists do you look up to?

Well there’s been so many over the years that it’s pretty hard for me to put it down to any one guitarist but I guess Pretty Strays For Hopeless Lovers draws heavily from Neil Young’s playing in Crazy Horse. [Young] however wasn’t that influential when I was younger, like as a teenager his sound was too messy for me, almost schizophrenic, so I listened a lot more to Brian May from Queen and all the old classics like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. So I guess all the different [Holy Holy guitar] parts bring out different heroes. I’m not ever sure what was behind You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog but that solo started out in a different place. We used to play it in the rehearsal room just jamming around with ridiculous wigs on, which was both kind of ironic but I always had a smile on my face, before we started playing [the song] live just for fun! Then we got to this point of where I was like we can’t keep doing this, it’s ridiculous! But the other guys wanted it so I said “alright f*ck it then, if you want it lets go there!” so it kind of started as this epic thing, like we used to call it the “Dirty Dancing Car Crash solo” because it had all these 80’s things wrapped up into one guitar solo. I just love it because it’s a f*cking ball to play and I don’t normally get to play guitar like that, like it’s the thing I can only play in my bedroom…and it seems people like it too which is weird but kind of cool!

Who do you think would win in a guitar-shredding battle between yourself and Harts?

Ahh well I’ve heard about this guy! Look I’ll be happy to give it a shot and see what happens if it is up for grabs…

Can you play behind you back like Harts? 

Look I think that’s just stagecraft, that’s got nothing to do with playing the guitar well and that’s my honest opinion…that’s just acrobatics not music y’know? So I wouldn’t be doing that but, not because I can’t but because it doesn’t make sense, like it’s just showing off and it’s not really that hard to do…

Wow shots fired! Let’s see if we can actually get this battle organised!

Haha! Oh no, I haven’t started anything have I? 

Ok we’ll move on then I guess…

Do I need to say something more inflammatory!? I don’t know his music that well so I’m worried I’m going to say the wrong thing right now…

Both yourself and Tim [lead singer] were nominated for this years’ APRA PDA Songwriting Awards. I personal listen to Holy Holy for your amazing guitar work, while others swoon over Tim’s vocals and lyrics. What is it about Holy Holy’s music do you think resonates so strongly with fans worldwide?

I think because it’s honest and it’s genuine. Tim’s great with storytelling and he also means the story, like there’s meaning behind [our songs]…his [lyrics] never just fill up a page. So I think people can smell that and tell when it actually means something. With the music we just try be as true to ourselves as we can be, and that’s all you can do really…as soon as you try to do more you’re not…people can sniff it, so I hope [our honesty] shines through!

Considering what you’ve just said, how will Holy Holy approach supporting Vance Joy on his upcoming huge headline shows?

Yeah they’re pretty big shows! We actually played at the Sydney Opera House last year with Boy & Bear and that was awesome, such a beautiful room! We’ve got mellow-er tunes on the record so if it feels right we’ll pull them out, that’s the juggling act of playing shows like these where if it doesn’t feel right to go out with a sledgehammer approach then it wouldn’t be right for us to play these shows. I think we always find the right balance…

So I guess you’ll be figuring out if you’ll open with Sentimental and Monday or something a little more energetic?

That song’s actually quite a good opener for us as it helps us almost ease into the set. But we’ll see how we go as to what we play first. 

What are you most looking forward to on your national tour in January?

We’ve got a couple of new songs so hopefully getting them into the set. I’m looking forward to that and seeing how people respond to them. I’m also looking forward to seeing Olympia who’s supporting us. I’ve never actually seen her play before so that’ll be great! I was talking to Tim this morning about trying to put a new cover in [the set], like we try to do a new cover each tour y’know? And I’m also looking forward to having a bit of a shred-off onstage which will be nice as well!

Woo-hoo that sounds great!

One thing we really want to do is get Waleed Aly to join us onstage. Tim posted a video of Waleed Aly playing guitar, because the guy can play really well, so we want to get him up onstage in Melbourne maybe so we can have a shred-of. Don’t know how likely it is to happen but I definitely want to try! I really want to do a harmonising guitar solo with him…

Too bad I’m going to your Brisbane gig, the Melbourne leg sounds like the best show of the tour!

Ha! You should absolutely come down for the show!

What’s the worst Christmas present you’ve ever received?

Ah probably like when I was six years old and got the wrong Dino Rider or something like that…a tempestuous nightmare and I probably whinged about it!  A few years ago I broke up with my girlfriend around Christmas so that was a present I guess in the long term, but wasn’t ideal at the time…

Finally, Triple J’s Hottest 100 is just over a month away, who have you voted for?

I voted for a couple of friend’s bands, who I think are awesome and they’re songs I believe in as well, like Ali Barter and Ben Wright Smith. But I also voted for Alabama Shakes Don’t Wanna Fight, What Went Down by FOALS, and I heard Taman Shud by The Drones last week and I think it’s just a f*cking incredible and powerful piece of music! I don’t know if it’ll make it in [The Hottest 100 list] because it’s not the most…commercial song, but I voted for [The Drones] as well.

Holy Holy “A Heroine” Australian Tour

Friday 15th January

Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Saturday 16th January

The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle

Thursday 21st January

The Rosemount, Perth

Friday 22nd January

Fat Controller, Adelaide

Friday 29th January

Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Saturday 30th January

The Triffid, Brisbane

Get Tickets HERE