David Bowie and Elton John both found fame and gained commercial popularity after spending years investing in their craft and honing their skills, and this isn’t a phenomenon that’s exclusive to the overseas market.
Back home, rock duo Holy Holy fell into this group with their 2015 debut When The Storms Would Come: a masterstroke of modern rock songwriting that set the duo up as one of Australia’s most exciting local outfits of the decade.
The brains trust behind Holy Holy – Timothy Carroll; a gifted singer-songwriter hailing from Queensland, and Oscar Dawson; a dynamo guitarist who had a stroke with fame in the mid-00s while playing with Berlin-based electro-rockers Dukes Of Windsor, initially met one another while teaching English in Southeast Asia, where the duo immediately hit it off over their shared love of music.
Following the dissolution of his band in 2011, Dawson took a trip to visit Carrol in Stockholm, where the pair wrote a number of songs that would form the basis of their debut release, The Pacific EP.
Upon returning to Australia, the duo released a number of independent singles and shared their EP, creating a buzz in the local industry that eventuated in the band signing to Wonderlick Music in 2013 and embarking on a number of tours with the likes of The Preatures, Boy and Bear and Ball Park Music.
After touring behind the EP, Carrol and Dawson began work on their debut When The Storms Would Come with producer Matt Redlich (Ball Park Music, Emma Louise). The duo had a long relationship with Redlich, having had him play in their touring band alongside bassist Graham Ritchie and Ryan Strathie, formerly of Hungary Kids of Hungary.
Largely recorded to 2” tape on a 16 track analogue recorder, the record was released into the world on July 24, 2015 to solely positive reviews, with the group extensively touring the album around Europe and Australia to help drum up further hype.
The almost cinematic album opened with the slow-rock jam; ‘Sentimental and Monday’ a track that sounds like the work of a band decades into their career. The track doesn’t sound like an introduction to the album, but an introduction to the band, affirming Carroll’s incredible talent as a lyricist and Dawson’s immense prowess as an arranger and setting them up as a new Australian power duo.
Dawson’s quaint guitar coupled with Carroll’s breezy vocals remind the listener of chilled summer afternoons, while the warm production quality elevates the track to entirely new heights as it ascends to its epic close.
It then travels to the softer, Fleetwood Mac – esque ‘Outside Of The Heart Of It.’ The pair performed this track at the popular annual BIGSOUND conference that same year – the perfect track to show the industry what they’re capable of.
We then get into the rockier portion of the album, where the pair really express their wide songwriting range. This section opens up with ‘A Heroine’, a borderline psychedelic song that really showcases the chemistry of Carroll and Dawson as guitars and vocals intertwine. This song was universally loved by fans – the pair responded to the adoration by naming their album tour after it.
‘History’ comes around next, which truly feels like a history lesson into the 90’s rock scene – this track could have easily sat next to the best songs of Oasis or Radiohead. The big verses and singalong chorus are bound to put a smile on your face, and will almost certainly provoke a fist-punching response from any festival crowd.
The gradual incline in energy and power continues with the epic ‘If I Were You’, and the first album single ‘You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog’ which once again, both show how virtuosic the pair are at writing and performing their respective instruments.
Perhaps most notably, ‘You Cannot Call For Love Like A Dog’ sees Dawson flex his chops as a guitarist by delivering an absolute monster of a guitar solo, striking the perfect balance between speedy virtuosic scale runs and long, emotive bends. Some would even call it one of the best Australian guitar solos of all time, and at Mixdown, we’d certainly be inclined to agree.
The pair’s love of older rock and psychedelic bands like Neil Young and Pink Floyd really shine through on fan favourites like ‘Wanderer’ and ‘Holy Gin’, which you wouldn’t be mistaken if you thought were tracks from a group years into their career.
When The Storms Would Come comes to a close with ‘Pretty Strays For Hopeless Lovers’ and ‘The Crowd’, both of which help end the album on a high note. Both tracks conclude the journey into themes and motifs from a variety of rock music from over the years.
For many, Holy Holy remain as one of the most underrated Australian groups of the modern era. The combination of Carroll’s vivid storytelling and distinctive voice with Dawson’s uncanny fretwork and compositional skills makes for one of the most exciting creative partnerships in modern Australian rock, and it’s When The Storms Would Come that sees the pair at their most unfettered.
It’s rare that a band can sound this good on their full-length debut; for Holy Holy, it’s just another day at the office.
Revisit our interview about the recording of Holy Holy’s acclaimed 2019 LP, My Own Pool Of Light.