WHEN you possess one of the most exciting guitarists in Australian indie rock, many would expect Holy Holy to continue playing to their strengths.
But the aforementioned guitarist, Oscar Dawson, and his collaborator, vocalist Timothy Carroll, have never followed convention.
In September they released the single Faces, a major departure from their previous material. Gone was the classic ’70s rock sound and searing guitar solos from their 2015 debut When The Storms Would Come or the ’80s prog flourishes of Paint, which featured heavily on many critics’ best-of-2017 lists.
Instead Faces opens with a sample, which sounds like it was recorded for a Jackson 5 track with Carroll performing a syncopated vocal, before Dawson chimes in with a driving bass.
“We don’t feel tied to having to be a guitar band or a rock band,” Carroll says from his home near Launceston. “It’s probably true that moving in that direction is more exciting and interesting and challenging for us.”
Carroll explains there was no arm-twisting required to convince Dawson to scale back his guitar theatrics. In fact, he’s previously been hesitant to perform solos on the records.
“I’ve known Oscar for a long time and I’ve always known he’s much more than a guitarist,” Carroll says.
“He’s a great piano, keyboard and synth player and he’s great on the bass. I’ve always seen him more as a composer.”
In recent months Carroll and Dawson have been self-producing their third album at home and in hotel rooms - where ever one can use a laptop and a microphone with relative sound-proofing. Nine tracks are written and recorded, while a 10th is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
After the success of Paint and its singles like True Lovers and Elevator, is Carroll feeling the pressure to deliver something greater than their second album?
“You make a record like Paint and I ask, ‘was it any good’?” he says. “I don’t feel like, ‘oh my god we smashed the shit out of that album, how are you going to top it’?
“I feel like there are some moments that I’m really proud of, but I want to do something else, so it doesn’t feel like this thing that’s hanging over us, it’s just another body of work.
“It was critically well-received, but the things that stand out are the things people didn’t like. I feel so lucky to be in a position where we can make albums.”
A clue to where Holy Holy are going on album No.3 rests in the music Carroll has been consuming. Whereas he once idolised indie-folk acts like Band Of Horses and The National, lately he’s been listening to more hip-hop, electronica and heavily-produced pop.
“Hearing these songs, I think ‘oh my god I could never write that’, and it’s more exciting than the aesthetic of an alt-country guitar band, which isn’t as inspiring as I used to find it,” he says.
Holy Holy kick-off their Faces tour at the Cambridge Hotel on Thursday.