Hello My Beautiful World

Hello My Beautiful World

“One of the hardest parts was where to draw the line,” Oscar Dawson tells Apple Music about Holy Holy’s fourth album. Partly thanks to the challenges (and opportunities) created by 2020’s lockdowns and partly thanks to their interest in shifting away from a rock sound, Holy Holy set out to make more: different sounds, new styles, and more diverse collaborators than ever before. “We felt so free to just do what we wanted and to trust ourselves,” Dawson says. The pair—Dawson and Timothy Carroll—worked with producers including Japanese Wallpaper and The Presets’ Kim Moyes on the more electronic, dance-based tracks, while rapper Queen P features on “Port Rd,” the pair’s first foray into hip-hop. There are cinematic strings and harps, sweeping instrumental codas, festival dance floor moments, and meditative spoken word. Still, it’s not a departure from their earlier sound so much as an expansion. “We do have moments where we sit down to consciously think about what we liked on the last record and where we want to go next, what we want to try and achieve,” Carroll says. “But the degree to which we stick to that is pretty loose.” Below, the pair talks through each track on Hello My Beautiful World. “Believe Anything” Carroll: “Early on, we had a writing session in Melbourne. Oscar and I both brought three or four voice memos, tiny jumping-off points, and one of them, this rolling arpeggio, is that first sound for the whole record. It reminded us both of Beach House. We just did some improvising over it and wrote that vocal part.” “How You Been” Carroll: “I was actually inspired a bit by Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You,’ that kalimba. I like to try and write pop. But when we do, we end up with a record like this—so it's this thing I can never quite reach. I'd like to reach it one day, but it's fun where we end up. This song exists in the happy sad. It's got this disco beat and the chords are quite major, but there’s a melancholy in the story and voice.” “The Aftergone” (feat. CLEWS) Dawson: “We’re always searching for more collaborators, and we've known CLEWS for years—we’re big fans of them as people and artists. They did their bits up in Sydney, while Melbourne was in lockdown. I feel like there's almost two characters in the song, so it makes sense for it to be represented by those different voice or different voices.” “The Aftergone (Coda)” Dawson: “We were inspired by New Order’s song ‘Crystal,’ which I loved. This track was about trying to have our cake and eat it too: Sometimes I love a section on its own. So if I'm working on a song, I'll mute the vocal and go, ‘Shit, this sounds kind of cool.’ But you've got to have a vocal, right? So with the coda, it was like, ‘Well, why don't we add this to the end, mute the vocals and just have this euphoric moment.” “Port Rd” (feat. Queen P) Carroll: “During lockdown, we reached out to our Instagram followers asking who wants to be on the record. We’d send them the files and everybody was invited to sing that thing. So we built this Instagram choir, which was working, but I just had a feeling about another vocal rhythmic pattern that could go over it. I reached out to a friend of mine, who put us onto Queen P. So she came down and did a session with Oscar. Thematically, it was inspired by an article about the pandemic, by Arundhati Roy. Broadly, it was about seeing the pandemic as a portal, and that we need to step through it, and not to try and drag all our ideas about what life is through the portal. You need to let go and be like, ‘All right, what is the world on the other side of this?’” “Hello My Beautiful World” Carroll: “I just was thinking about the album title, so I started saying, ‘Hello, my beautiful world,’ and just happened upon that little pattern of 'hello this' and 'hello that.’ I had this idea to try and mention everything that exists in the natural world. I wanted the poem to make no reference to anything that was created by humanity, and for that whole story of our humanity and our relationship with the natural world to only exist in the mind of the listener. So the listener kind of hears this, but they're also experiencing it in their own mind as a reflection of the lyrics that exist in the poem.” “Ghosts” Carroll: “A lot of this was improvised, and I remember really feeling in the moment when we were doing that. I think the hero of this song is the vocal production. Oscar took my improvised takes, where I was trying all different melodies. He stacked them and I feel like he created multiple characters that speak to each other using formant effects, which is a way of altering your voice to change the depth of it, making it lower or higher, without actually changing the pitch.” “I.C.U.” Carroll: “I had this girlfriend when I was younger. We had a really intense relationship and then it fell apart. But recently I had a dream where I was in this bar and she walked in. And she looked exactly like she had when I was 20, so in my mind she hadn't aged like we have in reality. I was shocked that all that data was still up in my head somewhere. So the song is about these two people living in completely different parts of the world, but they're occasionally still dreaming of each other. The verses are these little flickers of things they did together, and at the end, there’s a reflection that maybe the reason it didn't go well was that you were too arrogant or too sensitive with your own ego or something. If you were able to be like bigger and more generous, maybe things could have been better.” “I.C.U (Coda)” Carroll: “In the mixing process, Oscar just wrote this two-and-a-half-minute-long coda. It was quite late and there was no discussion about it; I just remember him saying, ‘I've done something.’” “Stand Where I'm Standing” Carroll: "Thematically, it's about the idea that if you were raised in a different house, with different influences, you could come to hold any kind of opinion. And so it's maybe helpful to remember that even for those people whose views you abhor, maybe it's come from their influences, and that we’re all just a product of those inputs.” “Shoreditch” Carroll: “It’s about how, even with your best intentions, it's just the nature of life that sometimes you hurt the people that are close to you and the people you love the most. For me, this song's got sort of neon pink or blue; it's sparkly, it’s a fun sonic landscape to play in.” “So Tired” Carroll: “Oscar had been apart from his wife [singer-songwriter Ali Barter] for long periods of time, when she was in London. And at one point he said to me, ‘I'm tired of missing her.’ It’s this other element to ‘I miss you.’ It was like, not only do I miss you, but I'm sick of it, I don't want to miss you anymore.” “So Tired (Coda)” Carroll: “It’s my favorite bit of the record. It was the last day in the studio and we were doing like a final check over of the songs. To be honest, I was bored and I wanted to do something, so we set up the mic and we started embarking upon redoing the whole vocal [for ‘So Tired’]. As we were coming to the end, I just happened upon that melody. I remember giving Oscar the side-eye and being like, ‘That could be a really good outro.’” “Here and Now” Carroll: “Before the pandemic, I had only ever recorded on GarageBand and I'd only ever used the microphone in my laptop. Oscar was always my songwriting partner, and he's such a talented producer, so I’d always just leaned on him. And if I had to bang out an idea, I'd just do it like that. But when the lockdown happened, I got this mic and learnt to use Logic. I had a folder of ideas and Oscar listened to them. I remember he’d liked this one—I was surprised it was ended up being worthy of our attention. It was a piano ballad, but we wanted a bit more out of it, so there’s that middle section where it takes a big left turn and goes a bit Gregorian, and then there’s the big descending harps. It’s nice to take people down a bit—it’s like a concluding statement.”

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