In the same way that sunlight streams into open gardens with warm notions of spiritual solace or filters through overhanging branches, dappling pathways with myriads of lingering shadows, The Holidays’ flourishing vision and mystique are as captivating as they are enlightened. More than a sonic imagination of their namesake, The Holidays have come a long way since forming in 2006. Consequently, it was the rhythmic splendour, tropical-esque escapism and eclectic experimentalism of Post Paradise that rendered the Sydney quartet’s debut album one of the finest records of 2010.
It was a sentiment reinforced by various end of year ‘Best Of’ lists; Post Paradise had received consistently strong reviews and established itself as one of the great Australian pop releases of late. The indie-pop band’s several years of intense labour and focus may have garnered a passionate response from critics and music fans alike, but like any record worth remembering, it was also the result of much agony. “There were periods when we were making it where we didn’t even know whether it was going to be released or whether it was any good,” says frontman Simon Jones.
“And I guess it’s kind of validating now that we stuck with it and got it to where and what it is... and people actually like it. I think we all went through various stages of being confident in it, liking the songs, not liking the songs, getting sick and tired of it; by the end of it, we just put a stop to things and said, ‘okay, this is the best that it’s going to be; let’s release it – we’re all happy’.
“It’s like a weight off our shoulders in a way... not that we felt the pressure particularly, but it was more pressure from ourselves. If it wasn’t well received, I think it would’ve been pretty hard to say,” laughs the affable singer/guitarist.
The Holidays delivered an outstanding performance at the East Brunswick Club back on October 22. Beaming faces and euphoric dancing characterised the audience’s appraisal and some fans even removed their shirts in the excitement of it all. “It was really good fun,” says Jones of the memorable album launch. “I think we were a bit surprised... we hadn’t done a headline show in Melbourne for a long time, so we didn’t know what sort of a crowd we’d get, but it was actually really good ’cause the crowd was pretty into it and knew the words.”
Jones, guitarist Will Magnus, bassist Alex Kortt and drummer Andrew Kerridge were joined on stage by classically-trained percussionist, David Zucker. “We hadn’t really thought about it much when we were making the album, but now that we’re having [David] play every night, it’s kind of made the band what it is in a way,” Jones muses. “It makes it more of a spectacle and a more vibrant show as well as covering a lot of stuff that we recorded without thinking about how we’d do it. We still don’t have quite enough hands to do all the stuff that we recorded, but we can get pretty close with an extra guy.”
Post Paradise has translated extremely well in its live performance, but executing these intricately-crafted songs live has had obvious challenges. “Yeah, it was hard work – at the start, we didn’t want the whole live side of it to affect how we recorded the album, so we didn’t think about that at all. But then when it came time to play live, it took quite a while developing them and figuring out ways to do things,” Jones denotes. “Once we got to a level that we were comfortable with, it was really the first time we played them that was a bit nerve-wracking. Now we’re pretty comfortable with it, but there was a period there where we were trying things for the first time and it was pretty scary.”
Which songs have surpassed Jones’ expectations in their live performance? “When we recorded them, we couldn’t imagine what they would sound like,” says Jones. “Some songs we recorded not as a band, we recorded them layer by layer. Slimeface has really become a great live song because it’s just got so much energy and raw power to it live... we could never really imagine having that in the studio when we were doing it. So it’s kind of surpassed what we thought it would be as a song.”
The Holidays will also be supporting English band Mystery Jets on their current Australian tour – another unique and creative pop entity, and one that The Holidays can relate to artistically. “We’ve been interested in the Mystery Jets since they first started, pretty much,” Jones relates. “We had their first album (Making Dens) that they did with James Ford, and that was around the time Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party were coming out and I remember thinking at the time that there was a lot of good stuff going on. We’ve definitely been fans of the Mystery Jets for a long time.”
There’s also no denying that having The Holidays play at the Hot Barbeque festival in the gorgeous seaside surrounds of Point Nepean will be a splendid experience for the audience. “That should be great – I’ve heard a lot about the festival but have never been there. That’s the great thing about summer,” he grins. “I think we got our album out just in time to play all the shows that we want to play as far as summer festivals... that’s really the fun part of being in a band.”
Additionally, it’s a rather special way of celebrating Australia Day weekend. How do they usually celebrate our official national anniversary? “Usually just the traditional way... we always have barbeques and listen to Hottest 100... I think it’s really good that we’re going to a festival called Hot Barbeque because then we can kinda keep that tradition,” considers Jones with a gleeful chuckle.
The Holidays will then be making their second appearance at the Laneway Festival next month; however, Jones has been a fervent attendee. “I’ve been going, I think, since it started... we played one the year before last, which was great and probably one of the most fun things that we’ve done,” he asserts. “But as a spectator, I think Laneway festival is definitely one of the best. I like that it’s kind of boutique and not huge... there’s often a surprise or you discover music that you don’t actually already know. I’ve always been a Deerhunter fan and also Beach House.”
The band’s recent touring experiences have evidently opened their minds to new possibilities and future inspirations. “It’s probably the best part of being in a band, the travelling,” Jones affirms. “We all really enjoy moving around and playing different places, meeting different people... I think we’ve been lucky enough to go all around Australia a number of times and we’re pretty excited about the idea of going overseas and touring different countries. It keeps you interested and excited."
Additionally, The Holidays will be heading to the USA for South By Southwest for the first time in March. “That will be the first time that we’ve travelled overseas as a band,” Jones enthuses. “We’ve all been overseas separately on personal holidays but never as a band... I think it’s a lot different. It feels much more exciting going overseas with a purpose.”
As for songwriting, while Jones does write down “bits and pieces” on tour, he doesn’t regard himself as a member of the notebook-carrying songwriter assembly. “I would like to be that kind of guy, but I think I generally try and sing to the song a bit more, in terms of singing to the feeling, not to the meaning in a way,” he conveys. “I do like the idea of basing songs around certain ideas but I don’t really collect stories or anything like that. We kind of write from a musical point where we have a feel or some sort of vibe at least, and have a lyric supporting it. I find that allows me to create certain imagery with the lyrics that suits the music and they kind of paint each other.”
On Post Paradise, The Holidays utilised Latin and African percussion, electronica and placed an emphasis on soulful grooves. Unsurprisingly, there are already exciting ideas flourishing amongst the group. “Right now, we’re kind of working on new ideas,” Jones relays. “It’s been interesting because we really have a blank canvas now. We’ll definitely be keeping some of the sounds from Post Paradise, but I think at the moment we’re working on finding new techniques to get a fresh sound again. Things that we used a lot of on Post Paradise like congas and percussion stuff like that, I think that’ll still be there to a degree but maybe less overtly.
“We’re more interested at the moment in interesting guitar sounds and guitar noise that haven’t been heard before and interesting effects,” Jones informs. “We always work with palettes of ideas, so if we change elements in the palette or change instruments, I think it naturally gives you a different sound. So at the moment, we switched some of the instruments that we used on Post Paradise – some of the things like marimbas and steel drums, we’re not using at the moment – and we’ve substituted them with things like a Kalimba thumb piano. We don’t really write with a particular sound in mind; it’s more that we’ll develop them as they’re layered. That’s our process at the moment – I don’t know if it’ll change,” he chortles.
The Holidays’ latest single, Broken Bones, is accompanied by an engrossing – albeit, freaky and rather disturbing – video that’s markedly divergent to its predecessors. “It was originally the director Dimitri Basil’s idea of creating a surrealist montage clip where every shot is disconnected and random and quite odd looking,” Jones explains.
“We liked the idea of a bizarre video clip that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the song or imagery that really related to the song. We gave him free reign to make it as weird as he wanted to. We ended up not seeing it really until the end... he got us to act in it for a few parts, so we kind of had an idea of where it was going,” he giggles, “but when we saw it at the end, we were like ‘wow...this is really quite strange!’”
THE HOLIDAYS play at the HOT BARBEQUE festival – alongside Mos Def, Roger Sanchez, Hoodoo Gurus, Bluejuice, Gypsy & The Cat, Boy & Bear, Cash Money, Hungry Kids Of Hungary, Grafton Primary, The Jezabels, Kids Of 88, Red Ink, Streetparty DJs, John Course, Grant Smilie and heaps more. It’s at the Point Nepean Quarantine Station, (end of Point Nepean Road, Portsea - Melways Ref: 166 K7) on Saturday January 22 (Australia Day Long Weekend). Info and tickets from hotbarbeque.com.au, ticketmaster.com.au and 136 100. They also play LANEWAY FESTIVAL, along with !!!, Les Savy Fav, The Antlers, Deerhunter, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Cut Copy, Beach House, Foals, Gotye, Holy Fuck, Violent Soho and heaps more – at Footscray Community Arts Centre on Saturday February 5 – info from lanewayfestival.com.au. Their unbelievably excellent debut album Post Paradise is out now through Liberation.