Deck The Halls with HOLY HOLY: The Tim Carroll Interview

HOLY HOLY will tour Australia in January. Given we’ve spent most of this year excitedly following their career, I pounced at the chance to do an interview with Tim Carroll.

Trying to disguise my current Queensland holiday sojourn, I call Tim Carroll in slacker mode from my parents’ study (feet on desk, hibiscus in hair) on a balmy Brisbane day.  It’s surreal chatting to him (again) and a pleasure to talk to someone who is not just conscientious, but also balanced. The man has my respect in spades.

Tim answers the phone, and (curse) it’s a bad line – he’s in rural Tasmania. Still, we press on, unperturbed by the distraction of ‘tin-can interference’. In a daring move I start by asking if calling the interview ‘Deck The Halls with HOLY HOLY’ might cause offence?  There’s a pause.  I blink.  Finally, Tim says:  “Yeah, well my surname is Carroll.  I have had a lot of Christmas puns in my life – why stop now?”

I explain that we met very briefly at this year’s Splendour In The Grass festival, at the ‘up top’ Gold Bar. He tells me he vaguely remembers, but that he met a lot of people that week. Not at all surprising, really. We all get enthusiastic at Splendour, if you catch my drift.

I ask who his favourite Splendour act was. He names #1 Dads, Tom Iansek’s side project away from his usual outfit, Big Scary. They were his favourite for a few reasons – he’s mates with most of the crew, and also really loved the About Face (2014) album. Plus, it was the last time they were playing that material live. Really, it was the first night of the three-day festival, the atmosphere was great and not least because Tom Iansek is such a ‘noble, humble performer’.  He tells me how excited they were just to be there, and I proudly nod down the phone in agreement since I remember enjoying the very same performance with sister/associate and husband/spouse.

Our talk quickly turns to Liam Gallagher, the band’s new ‘BFF‘. I ask if they were nervous when they heard he was at the venue?  I also suggest that with their robust repertoire, they probably felt quite comfortable, being peers, and all.

Tim answers, “I was quite nervous. We were playing the Lexington and it was a sold out show. The support act had played and we were just about to go on – the green room was down these stairs, almost tucked away under the stage… our Manager called down the stairs, ‘Ok guys, have a great show… Liam Gallagher’s in the audience.”  Normally I ask her not to tell us who’s there beforehand, but she thought she’d get that one in!  We’d been playing a bit and it was a towards the end of the tour, so the band had the performance perfected.”  I ask if he acknowledged Gallagher on stage?  Carroll says, “I didn’t say anything on stage.  I’m sure being who he is, he’s approached by enough dickheads, but I did get to chat to him.  Our manager brought us downstairs to meet him after the show. It was an honour.  I still remember thrashing my sister’s copy of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and, you know, it doesn’t feel like that long ago.  I mean – he’s only 43.”

I ask if they were at all surprised by his charming demeanour? “Well, we only had a short chat, so I can’t judge his entire character on that meeting, but I think that what the media perpetuates, and the persona he exudes to the likes of NME… I didn’t see any of that. He was lovely.

‘Ok guys, have a great show and… Liam Gallagher’s in the audience.’

 

I tell Tim we’re excited for the Australian tour in January, and we agree it’s been quite a corker of a year. Tim recalls his 2015 highlight being the ‘When the Storms Would Come’ album tour earlier in the year.  “It was a bit of a moment for us – playing in venues like The Zoo, Howler, Oxford Arts Factory – all places that that we probably would never have imagined playing at all, let alone headlining and selling out. I grew up in Brisbane and worked at various live venues – Joc, owner of The Zoo (for the past 25 years) came and shook my hand after one show. I’ve been writing and performing for a long time, and to sell out two shows at somewhere like Howler in Melbourne was incredible.

With rewards usually come challenges. I ask him if there were any? “Financially it’s interesting….At this point, we still don’t make any money, and that’s different to the perception that punters outside of the industry have. We’ve done two European tours and lots of support tours. The cost to do those come out of the band’s pocket. The exposure is incredible and you get to play venues you may not otherwise play, but it takes a long time to make money. Also, being on the road is challenging – away from family, birthdays, barbecues etc. Our band’s a bit different – we’re not young, and this isn’t our first time at the fair, if you know what I mean.” Also, “We’re trying a basic approach:  I mean, I’ve done the indie thing before, and I’m really enjoying this model. We’re on a small label (Wonderlick), which is like family, that works as a buffer between us and Sony.

“Our band’s a bit different – we’re not young, and this isn’t our first time at the fair…”

I ask if the band is still touring because they’re on a roll, or if it is actually addictive? He says, “Yes, doing shows is addictive. If we stopped touring we wouldn’t be a band. This’ll be the last tour of this album and then we’ll start work on the new album. We’re already 5 or 6 tracks into the new record. We have been performing a new song lately – we might even add another to the next tour – it keeps the band on their toes, keeps us engaged. Some bands wouldn’t do it, but playing new material keeps it interesting, and we’re able to gauge the fans’ response and craft songs along the way. I’d like to be in a position of writing heaps and cutting back, but as a band, some of us have other things we do, so we don’t have unlimited time to write songs all day.”

“If we stopped touring we wouldn’t be a band.”

Next we talk about the new single, A Heroine. I ask Tim if he knows how popular the titles Heroin/Heroine have been for songs this year, given that Nussy and Little Boots also used it (pardon the pun). He didn’t. He goes on to tell me about HOLY HOLY’s A Heroine. “Ours is a heroic figure. I listened to a podcast called In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg. He chooses historic events, selects a panel of top academics and hosts a panel discussion.

“In Brisbane I used to go on bike rides and listen to a Melvyn Bragg podcast. One was about ancient Chinese civilisation. The idea that some things happen over and again in time, whether it was 2,000 years ago, 200 or just now. We fall in and out of love, we have babies, all of that. I ask Tim whether he believes we’ve actually learned anything from past mistakes, and he says “I actually think that as humans we are in a peaceful state at the moment, despite the horrible things you see in the media – more people are being raised out of poverty, and getting educated, so that’s progress.

Finally I ask what it was like winning the APRA PDA Songwriting Award.

“Critical acclaim is more important to me than popularity. It was surprising to win. I kind of stumbled into songwriting – but I’ve stuck with it for 10 years, so it’s nice to have that recognised.”

“Critical acclaim is more important to me than popularity…I kind of stumbled into songwriting – but I’ve stuck with it for 10 years, so it’s nice to have that recognised.”

 

Watch the live video for ‘A Heroine’:

 

Check tour dates here.

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