INTERVIEW: Oscar Dawson talks Holy Holy's newest album, 'My Own Pool of Light'
Available today, My Own Pool of Light is an album showcasing Holy Holy’s vision. From the song-writing to the recording, the self-recorded album redefines their sound and incorporates fresh ideas — without sacrificing the melancholy and soaring melodies that have made Holy Holy one of Australia’s most loved acts.
Loved for their extraordinary live performances, Australian fans are looking forward to seeing them play this September, October and November in some of thir biggest venues to date, across a range of both capital cities and regional centres.
To see how they’re feeling about both their new album release and upcoming tour, I had a chat with Oscar Dawson, guitarist, and one half of the band. Here is what he had to say!
Hey Oscar, glad to have you on the line. How’s your day been?
Not too bad, went out last night so I’m a bit dusty today. You’ll have to forgive me if I have any mental lapses during the conversation. I’ll do my best to remain focused!
(Laughter) That’s okay, that’s okay – so you’re back on the road again and you have a new album. It sounds really grea. How are you feeling about your upcoming tour?
I feel pretty good about it. Normally when we have a tour coming up, we don’t feel good until we start off – once we work out how we’ll play the songs, or how the set list will look, so at the moment we’re working on all that and how we’re going to pull it off live, in that purgatory zone. I reckon it’ll be great.
This album isn’t totally different for us, but we’re trying out some new ideas, new ways of playing songs live and so on. We’re trying some new things, which is always fun — but it’s a bit uncertain, you know?
Yep, for sure. Speaking of songs – tell me about ‘Frida’?
So that is the name of Tim’s daughter and that’s one of the songs on the record. He’s got two kids, a boy and a girl, and Frida’s the younger of the two. We’ve put it out as a teaser track.
In that song, he’s singing about trying to be a good dad. Moreso, bringing people into the world and looking at how we mould and nurture them. He’s reflecting on the mistakes that we can make and the things we can do right. It’s also looking at the way we treat girls and how we treat them differently to boys, and Tim’s using the experience of bringing up his own daughter as a way to explore those ideas.
It’s great to have music that addresses inequality. What else would you like listeners to generally take away from the album?
It’s hard to say if there’s any one thing I would like listeners to take away from our whole record. We do want to explore things that mean something to us. Some songs deal with heavier ideas than others on the record.
Tim, who’s done most of the lyric writing in the band – or really all of it, actually – has got a strong social conscience. He wants to talk about ideas and the way we treat one another. If someone listens to one of our songs and comes away with some new ideas, that’ll be a good thing. We hope it does contribute; we hope that people can reflect.
And how does that compare to your previous albums?
Well, we’ve always thought about the world. Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we argue about it in the tour van. There were probably more love songs on the first record, but throughout, Tim’s been reflecting on things, phrases that people utter and what he sees in the world around him.
You get a little bit older, and as I say, he’s got two kids as well. You start reflecting on things a bit more and it’s not that you run out of love songs, it’s more that you start thinking about other things.
Definitely. On that note, when it comes to songs, is there a track you’re especially attached to?
Oh, probably only one track. Because we’ve only finished making this record, I just don’t want to hear it again, but the first song on the record is called ‘Maybe You Know’ – that’s the song I really feel a connection to. It’s about mental health, so it’s close to my heart. So that’s one I can still listen to, if that makes sense.
What are you trying to communicate through the song?
Well, when someone’s going through a rough patch mentally, it’s almost like the barrier to entry to communicating with them is much higher – when really that’s the time when it should be the lowest. It’s basically about trying to communicate with someone and say, we’re all here together.
On a slightly different not, let’s have a chat about the artwork of this album.
We worked with Timothy Lovett to come up with it, who is a French designer who we were lucky to be able to collaborate with. The idea of My Own Pool of Light is obviously a literal representation of a waterfall, but also it’s about the way in which we shine a light upon ourselves – whether that be through online narcissism, or even like the pool of light that you shine on your face when you’re on your phone in your bed at night. It’s got multiple meanings and the album art tries to sum them up.
Is there a venue you’re particularly keen to play at?
Honestly, no, not any one place. I could always say playing at Melbourne. I’m from Melbourne, it’s exciting, but to be honest, I’m looking forward to seeing more of the country, and going over to Western Australia and seeing Margaret River. There’s a lot of variation! I’m excited to play at all these places. It’s all fun in different ways.
Well, how do you have fun on tour? Do you have on-tour rituals?
Being on tour is heavily routine anyway. You get there, set up, sound check, return to your accommodation, shower, go to the gig, play the gig, go to bed and repeat.
So for me, it’s the morning drive to find coffee, which can be a stressful, and sometimes infuriating experience. Although, I recently read that apparently Cairns is the hipster capital of Australia now, according to the internet, so I look forward to seeing that. But honestly, it’s all about trying to get enough rest so we can contribute best to the live shows. I quite enjoy sitting in the van and talking and arguing with my band mates.
So I have one more question: is it true that men with beards are better at music?
There is certainly a correlation between beard growth and musicianship. I think the causation might flow in one direction, from being a musician to growing a beard, but I don’t think it flows the other way!
The causation is due to the fact that most musicians, once they achieve a certain level of success, don’t need to focus on grooming any more, because they haven’t got a boss to tell them what to do. Honestly, we might’ve gone past peak beard in our culture, and I think we’ve seen peak tattoos as well.
Speaking of tattoos – how would you feel if someone got a Holy Holy tattoo?
I don’t know, I haven’t experienced that feeling yet. Do you know someone who’s got one?
A friend of mine actually, above her elbow! She has the name written in cursive font.
Nice. The thing about that is that it could mean almost anything. It could just be the two words combined, and even though our band is called Holy Holy, we’re not religious.
Where did the name come from?
Tim came up with that. Though we’re not religious, he was a bit obsessed with religion. His family is Irish-Catholic so in our songs you’ll find a lot of religious themes.
I think he named the band that at a time when he was thinking about it a lot. I don’t know. You get one word and then you repeat it – and it just catches more. Two four letter words, it rolls off the tongue in a certain way. It makes it more iconic, bolder. So, yeah, something like that. It wasn’t intended to be religious or commenting on religion.
I think it adds to the overall feeling of the band. I like it.
Well, yeah – thank you so much for talking the time to chat with me, and I’ll see you guys playing live soon!
Thank you for your time as well. I look forward to seeing you there!