Three years might not seem like such a long time to be away from something. Not in the grand scheme of things anyway– three years is but a drop in the ocean of time if you’re a planet in the universe or a teenager chasing a dream – but for an Australian band it can seem like a lifetime.
The Internet has more or less leveled the playing field for bands and artists in terms of immediacy of exposure and has meant that hip, 20-somethings in Australia now have their fingers on the pulse just as closely and accurately as their traditionally more switched on counterparts in the United Kingdom or America do.
Yet, this great en franchiser of the people also carries an extremely sharp, double edge to it. The life of a band on the rise; the constant cycle of writing, recording then touring takes its toll on all of its members and, as Simon Jones of The Holidays found, if you step aside from it for awhile to try and live something of a normal life you might very well be forgotten, or surpassed.
Post, Post Paradise
“Three years is a long time for people, especially in the Australian music scene,” confessed The Holidays lead singer/songwriter Simon Jones over the phone. He has just fielded a question that may or may not have intimated that ‘nobody would give a shit,’ about his band’s new album after so many years out of the fickle spotlight. A question that came out wrong and that he handles with remarkable tact and poise.
“Since Post Paradise [the band’s 2010/11 debut album]there are so many new bands that have cropped up and who have more or less come and gone, particularly in our genre.Ultimately your music has to speak for itself to get into the public consciousness and if people liked Post Paradise then they should be receptive to our new songs.”
The Holidays stand on the precipice of releasing their second studio album Real Feel, an album that was“torturously” accumulated in hotel rooms, rehearsal spaces and various studios across three different continents over a number of years. The sound of the new album – the overall feel of it anyway – is certainly different to the shimmery,African-drumming inspired collection of songs found on Post Paradise. The two new singles; the alluvial, ethereal Voices Drifting and the more immediate, pop-hook laden All Time High represent two sides of the same coin that eager fans can expect from Real Feel when it drops on February 21.“Yeah, they probably represent two sides of it [Real Feel]. There are a couple of songs that are a bit slower and dreamier; I guess you’d say, kind of how Voices Drifting fits into it,” says Jones, before adding. ”We kind of put it out first to test the waters, to see how that fared. I guess All Time High was, in my mind, more of a return to kind what we’re known for. I mean some of the sounds on this album are different but the pace and build are kind of similar I think [to Post Paradise].”.
Something old, something new
An elaborate change in sound, theme and direction between releases is “nothing new” for The Holidays, as even the most perfunctory look at their short discography will show. The band made a name for themselves with a couple of short EPs in 2008 playing the kind of tight jeans, heart-on-your-sleeve, indie/post-punk music that was de rigueur in the Harbour City at the time. That’s what made the inclusion of funky Hawaiian shirts and ‘afro-beat’ percussion all over Post Paradise so intriguing at the time of its release just two years later. It seemed to be a sonic U-turn that had come completely out of left field. “That was the concept that we thought up,” said Jones, referring to the proliferation of tropical percussion sounds on their debut. “I think this time around we figured that if we do that again it’s just going to sound like the last album.So you take some stuff out and keep some in, I mean there’s still congas and stuff on the album, but its definitely a little less ‘tropical’ than Post Paradise. It’s still a big part of our‘thing’, even on the new album there’s still a lot of that percussion stuff on there, even if its not quite as obvious.”
The parts that they’ve “left in” certainly make for an interesting listen. Real Feel sounds like a more mature,intricate and layered album than its predecessor. Clean,bouncy bass lines and synthesizers swirl all over album opener, Long Now while airy, electronic percussion and washed out guitars propel the gorgeous chorus of third song Home, which finds itself wedged comfortably in between the two lead singles.
It’s a very strong opening salvo from the band and one that juxtaposes nicely with some of the darker, slower burners to be found towards the end of the album.
Writing on the road
For a record that Jones himself has described as “something of a travelogue,” one that was pieced together over more than two years of ideas and sketches made in hotel rooms and rehearsal spaces in places as varied as Chippendale, London, Paris and Tokyo, the songs seem to have a real cohesion to them, both in terms of the music and the lyrics. Jones puts this down to his ability to write and record ideas,no matter where he was in the world.
“Well after we finished touring Post Paradise we ended up in London for two months and then the rest of the guys came home and I ended up staying on for another month by myself. I travelled around Europe by myself then for a bit, trying to write the album,” he said. “I’ve got a setup that can travel with me that was just sort of rolling around in a suitcase as I travelled. It’s a real patchwork of a bunch of different sessions and times but I guess that’s just generally the way we work: just collecting a bunch of material and then knitting it together.”
While trying to write a new record on the road can rather cut into one’s sightseeing time, the wonders of modern technology allowed Simon Jones the chance to effectively catalogue his experiences musically wherever he went and,while much of the material was rejigged and re-recorded with the full band back in Australia, some of his original sounds and ideas still made it onto the record.
The Holidays are setting out on a national tour for Feel Real in March, playing all of the major capital cities. While Simon Jones reflects that the band haven’t had a great many chances to perform the new songs live, he hopes that“people will have a grip [on the new album]” before the tour begins in the Gold Coast on March 6.
“We played a few of the new songs in September. It’s kind of hard playing new songs to people in a small, sweaty club because they usually just want to hear songs that they know.We hope that people will have a couple of weeks to get to know the new album before we start out on the tour.”
With all the support that the new singles have already received in Australia on radio stations like triple j and the buzz they have already generated in the wider public sphere it seems likely that the boys from The Holidays won’t have any problems at all when it comes to getting a little crowd help during their trademark big choruses.
While it has definitely been a long time between drinks for The Holidays it’s fair to say that neither Simon Jones or his band mates are particularly worried about anything.
Real Feel is out on Feb 21 via Liberation Records. The Holidays will also be touring nationally between March 6 – 30, for all ticketing info see facebook.com/theholidaysband