The Holy Soul have been around for a while and appear here and there where they can. One such appearance is of the current time of now as they have an album by the name of Get Old! as their currently newest album.
Recently I sat down with Trent Marden of The Holy Soul to talk about Get Old! and talk we did.
Ez: I guess this is where it officially starts then.
I need to make the disclaimer: Trent Marden is my boss in a sense.
Trent: In a sense.
Ez: So I have to be really nice.
The Holy Soul are releasing their third album? Fourth?
Trent: It depends on how you count. We’ve got stuff with Damo Suzuki and David Thomas, and a compilation thing, but Sign of the Triangle, Damn You, Ra, Fortean Times; yeah this is fourth. Let’s call it fourth.
Ez: And The Holy Soul has been around for…
Trent: Since 2001.
Ez: Twenty-two years. Obviously there’s life that gets in the way of releasing things, but what is it that keeps you struggling against the odds?
Trent: Why do we keep doing it?
Trent: I don’t know. It’s fun *laughs*.
Why we still – after twenty-two years – are bothering with this nonsense? We don’t hate each other yet. I don’t know what else you’re meant to do on the weekend. It’s what I’m interested in. I like to do this.
Sorry if that’s not a great answer.
Ez: No it’s fine. I’m asking questions, you’ve got to answer them. Well technically you don’t. You could just walk out.
Trent: Yeah *laughs* Then you’ll be stuck in my house.
Ez: With all your guitars.
The reason why I ask is that most bands would have called it a day at this point. There’s obviously so much financial difficulty being a band that is unfortunately predominantly local, even though you’ve performed overseas quite a few times as well.
Trent: That’s why I go to work in the day: so I can pay for this stuff.
Ez: I already know that Get Old! is a bit of a tongue in cheek title. Is it also kind of a reference to The Who?
Trent: No, it’s more of a reference in punky sort of music where it’s like “Live fast, die young”. We were sitting at Bar Italia in Leichhardt and went “You know, what about live slow and die old? let’s do the opposite of that [die young]”. We were trying to think of titles for the damn thing and after two bottles of wine that seemed like a good one. Then the next day we had an argument over whether it should have an exclamation mark or not. If you see on the side of the sleeve it has an exclamation mark on the front but on the spine it does not.
That’s the biggest argument we had about it.
(Around this point Trent had taken a copy of Get Old! out of one of the shipping boxes and we were looking at the artwork.)
Ez: That’s actually a somewhat very late nineties / early two-thousands kind of Australian alternative rock artwork.
Trent: Yeah that was Sonny from We Buy Your Kids. He was like “Let’s do something like how you draw the Stussy S in your school book, let’s do something like that”. They’ve done our artworks since day one pretty much.
He was like “What about this?” Looks cool to me. It was meant to be like scribblings on a school book.
Ez: Now I know this album was finished – at least recording – about two, two-and-a-half years ago.
Trent: I think it was two years ago in David Akerman’s box factory which is called Lost Sound.
Ez: And it was a relatively quick turnaround time.
Trent: We did the first two days in 2018 with Robyn Hitchcock. Then he went on tour and then pandemic hit and we were waiting for him to come back. Then I wrote a couple more songs for it which is good and then we just decided there was a gap [where we] were able to get together, so we just did it with Toby Baldwin who has been doing our sound for a million years, and just finished it up. So four days all up in the recording studio.
I think Jon (Hunter, guitar / vocals) did a few overdubs at his house when he was mixing, and that was sort of it, but it took four years. A day a year.
Ez: And obviously there was writing beforehand.
Trent: The writing was done before it and there are enough demos on my zoom to put another couple of albums out, and my four track as well.
The demo release and anthology box set that comes out in twenty fifty… three is going to be massive.
Ez: That is a really long time to be living with those songs.
Trent: Yep. I think they’re good but I’m sick of them. I want to do new stuff now.
They work together. There’s still some I don’t know the lyrics of but that’s not new for me.
Ez: What has it been like living with music that is just not happening for so long?
Trent: It’s frustrating. We put the first single out for the album two years ago.
Trent: And we put another one out recently (“High”). The fact it’s off the same album is really weird. Some things just take forever.
It feels like this album is cursed. Me and Sam (Worrad, bass / vocals) have talked about how this is a cursed album, but we’ll persevere and maybe the next one will be done in one take in three hours and I’d be cool with that.
Ez: Obviously four days is a quick turnaround for anything.
Trent: If you go in hot.
We make sure we know what we’re doing as it’s all expensive for us. And also there’s kids and families involved ’cause as the title says Get Old! And um… *laughs* yeah.
Ez: Now I feel bad because I’m asking questions about an album you don’t want to think about.
Trent: Oh no, I’m happy to talk about it.
Ez: So I guess, tell me, how does the twelve string guitar on “747” affect the dialectic discourse regarding what was and what now is on the song? And how does it counterpoint against the small jam section somewhat in the third quarter?
Trent: I know those words. What the fuck are you asking? *laughs*
Ez: Let me ask a less shit question. “747” was the first [released] song. It’s the opening song on the album.
Trent: No. That’s track two. Track one is called… “Charming Host”.
Ez: I’m glad you were able to remember that without me-
Trent: Without you holding the thing in your hand.
Ez: But “747” isn’t entirely indicative of the rest of the album. It somewhat is, somewhat isn’t.
Trent: Well it’s sort of everything we’ve ever done. One song doesn’t sound like another, but not on purpose. It’s just I like different music. Everything doesn’t have to be like everything else and it’s more interesting that way, except for the best album that’s all the same all the way through I think is Funhouse by The Stooges.
But yeah; Everything doesn’t need to be like everything else.
Ez: So then is this whole album a collection of The Holy Soul’s influences?
Trent: It’s just what comes out. I’ve always tried to write songs that I want to hear myself that don’t exist. That’s sort of… other people are doing stuff obviously, but I try to do the songs that I think need to exist that no one else has written yet, which is an absolute masturbatory sort of sentence, but sure.
Ez: Hey, you can hang yourself however you want.
Trent: Yes, right?
Ez: But obviously saying the songs don’t sound the same…
Trent: But also they do ’cause its The Holy Soul. They all sound like Holy Soul songs at the end of the day because that’s the DNA of what these four people come up with.
Ez: In that instance were there concerns when putting this album together that stuff didn’t fit?
Trent: The last album we did (Fortean Times) was produced by Gareth Liddiard so it’s a much more rockin’ album or a lot more more guitar technic. I’d say this is our poppiest one yet which I’m really happy with. That’s the influence of Robyn Hitchcock who produced it.
The influence of Robyn’s all over this I think, especially his backing vocals.
What was the question again?
Ez: I can’t remember…
Were there concerns about the songs not fitting?
There’s an accidental Doors feel on two of the songs I think. “747” and “Said Too Much Again”. There’s a disco beat one and we’re not afraid of doing glam rock on “Bermuda”, which is the next single hopefully. There’s a country thing at the end and…
We put the words The Holy Soul on it and that’s what it is. There’s no concern about what we’re doing.
Ez: Talking about the songs themselves, I’m pretty sure I already knew this, but as per the credits at the bottom of this…
I wish people could actually see this through a microphone because this is really neat.
Trent: It’s a cool looking little album.
Ez: Something waratah-like just sitting there and you’ve got this vomiting dog here.
Trent: That’s the label.
Ez: It’s still cool. It still fits in a non-fitting way.
Trent: The ice with the fly on it, that goes back to Damn You, Ra. If you look at the artwork that’s conceptual continuity 101.
Ez: I’m guessing the ice cube is a little bit melted as well.
Trent: It’s old ice now.
Ez: It’s the passing of time.
Trent: It’s… metaphysical, or metaphorical, either way.
Ez: Both and neither.
Most of the songs are your compositions. You present the songs to the band.
Trent: I bring them in and they Holy Soul them up.
Ez: So they rework it in their own way.
Trent: The longer you do this stuff the more you know how it’s meant to sound like.
There’s been other songs on previous albums where I’ll bring them in and they’re like “Alright, so I’m gonna chunk out all the chords and the chorus doesn’t go like that anymore, it goes like this now.” I’m like “What happened to the chords” and Sam will go “I threw ’em out” and that’s fine.
This one there wasn’t much throwing stuff out except for maybe two chords which made one of the songs sound too much like “Sweet Home Alabama” or anything with Kid Rock. That was probably an improvement *laughs*
Ez: So obviously the other members are pretty key in filtering out ideas and making them work.
Trent: Oh absolutely. It’s a four-headed beast. I think Robyn Hitchock is about the only thing we have in common musically. Maybe Mudhoney or Scientists or something like that.
We’ve got a dude that’s really into nineties dance music. Kate’s (Wilson, percussion / vocals) really into shoegaze, there’s a hip hop sort of thing. Ultimately we drag the thing out like horses dragging a person limb from limb, but hopefully it’s the right tension.
Ez: Well there you go. This is what’s it all about, right?
Ez: So the album is called Get Old!. You have songs on it that imply the passage of getting old, like “747”, and, you know, the other ones.
Is the title appropriate to the songs?
Trent: It’s appropriate to us. We’re all in our forties now.
It’s a bunch of mature songs, but also it’s really not. You don’t learn anything when you get older but also you try.
Ez: Obviously with the band making the songs work, how much input do they have on lyrical content?
Trent: If a lyric’s really bad, then it’s out. The quality control; it’s tight. If a lyric doesn’t work or if it seems a bit iffy… well, we’ve all got to stand behind it. It’s just as much about them as it is about me.
I had to submit them to Robyn before we did this and Robyn’s one of my favourite songwriters ever. There were a few things where I wasn’t sure what I was going to sing. I was just going to wing it. Robyn was like “Can I please have the lyrics for this?”
“*Sigh* Yep, alright”. That made me solidify some things in a rather quick fashion when the guy who I’ve been ripping off for years would like to see the lyrics. He would like to see the workings.
Ez: Did he take it well?
Trent: He was like “Ah, these are good songs”.
The previous album with Gareth Liddiard, he wasn’t going to put out some garbage. There was one song we had to rewrite on the spot because it wasn’t working lyrically and that became a collaboration with all of us. The ideas were there, it was five in the morning and we had another ten minutes to record the vocals.
The lyrics have got to be strong and everyone’s got to be cool with it.
Ez: Let’s start talking about the songs.
“Charming Host”, which from this distance almost looks like “Charging Host”…
Anyway, “Charming Host”. Tell me about it.
Trent: It starts with one of my favourite lines I’ve written. “Tied to the chair he said I’ve never done this before” and it goes downhill from there. To me it’s something about being in Japan when we were there a bunch of years ago. It reminds me of that. There was nothing specific about it, but that song reminds me about Japan for some reason. I picked up a few lines from some people we talked to in a weird little bar somewhere and it sort of went from there. Read into it what you want.
Ez: It’d be fairly easy to assume what “Said Too Much Again” is about.
Trent: It’s about me trying to be cool and fucking it up.
Ez: Was that the easiest song here to write then?
Trent: *laughs* it didn’t come too hard. It took about thirty minutes to get the damn thing done.
Ez: Let’s also talk about “High”.
Trent: That’s the one I didn’t write.
Ez: There’s two here you didn’t write actually.
Trent: Yeah that and “D-Glass”.
“High” is about Jon hanging out with The Laurels and Royal Headache, and getting high. It’s got a nice little Teenage Fanclub sort of vibe to it.
Ez: It is very poppy in a sort of ragged way.
Trent: We can’t do tight. We’re not a tight band.
Ez: So you start with something that’s a bit dark, you follow with something that’s a bit reflective. You then go into a party and then it goes to “Fine by Tuesday”.
Trent: “Fine by Tuesday” is about a rabbit and a dog, and you wouldn’t notice but that’s what it’s about.
Ez: So it’s not possibly some hangover recovery.
Trent: It’s also about the idea that it takes about half the time of a relationship to get over it, and if you have a really short relationship – say of about five days – by next Tuesday you’ll be fine. That’s what the chorus is for that.
Ez: You then go into “Said Too Much”, then “D-Glass”.
Trent: “D-Glass” is Sam’s one. That’s about a smash repairs place in Penrith. The legendary rumour is it was a cover up for a bit of a brothel / sex dungeon sort of place.
Ez: You start the second half off with a song about something that’s somewhat related to experience but not so related to The Holy Soul.
Trent: The Holy Soul started in Penrith. We’re technically a Penrith band. We all went to UWS and that’s sort of when it all happened. I’m from Bowral so I was driving for hours to get to stuff. Sam was living there. John was from The Blue Mountains and before Kate started… well she was living in The Mountains for a bit as well so we just say we’re the greatest Penrith Band ever.
Ez: So you go from “D-Glass” to “I Am Chemical Compound”.
Trent: That one I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about really. To me that’s my favourite one currently even though we barely play it but I’m still figuring out what is going on in that one.
Ez: Is that because you know it the least?
Trent: “Bench” is the one I know the least but I know what that’s about. It’s about living in my previous place and looking at the bench across the road whilst I for three years.
Trent: “Bermuda” is about a friend of mine. Said she was in a bad mood, was going to Bermuda. Basically a euphemism for “I’m disappearing”. “I’m going to Bermuda for a while”. My friend’s okay. This was years ago.
“Weird Concept” is about a friend who died. I wrote that within five minutes and it’s also one of my favourite things we’ve done.
Ez: And all these songs would’ve started as their own individual things before they hit the band.
Trent: Yep. I have another band called Tres Hombres and it accidentally turned into the band where I’d test all these songs out. I’ve got a twenty minute version of “I am Chemical Compound” with a big old jam session in the middle of it. That got played by that band for a while before it got thought of being a Holy Soul song.
“Said Too Much Again” was intended for Tres Hombres but I accidentally sent it to the wrong email address. Sam was like “That’s great, let’s do that one”.
Some of them were intended for other things, or worked through with other people to see if they were actually good. There are a bunch of other songs that will never be Holy Soul songs. They don’t suit us. They’ll end up on another album; a Reverend Jemima album or if Hombres ever do something.
Ez: When it came to putting songs together, did you just record them and then decide on order?
Trent: We’ve got emails of arguments about what should go where.
It wasn’t too much of a fight this time actually.
I think it was always going to start with “Charming Host”. It was going to end with “Weird Concept” and start with “Charming Host”. “747” had to go there and “D-Glass” was going to be first song side two. I had an idea where “Chemical Compound” should’ve been track one at one point ’cause it’s weird and sort of spacey and stuff and you’d sort of merge into the album like a… cloud.
Yeah. I don’t know.
There was conversation but we didn’t record it like “Track one. Let’s go”.
Ez: Obviously then when it comes to ordering that’s also taken pretty seriously.
Trent: Well we’re massive wankers when it comes to record collections. We’ve all got very big opinions. Track four, it’s got to be the best song and I think “Fine by Tuesday” is an excellent song.
Ez: It’s not the best apparently *laughs*.
Trent: Well, between that and “Weird Concept”, I think they’re my two favourite accomplishments on this thing.
If it didn’t flow right then we’d get upset about it.
Side two I think flows pretty well, if I do say so myself. *laughs*
Ez: Did the length of time have an impact on the path the songs took?
Trent: No. The first session we did we got seven out of ten songs done.
Ez: So the second session was the last three.
Trent: One of the songs existed before that and two of them didn’t exist, and one of them wouldn’t exist without all that weird experience.
Ez: So when it came to recording those three songs, what with the passage of time the way that someone looks at their own art can change, so were there any concerns about making sure those songs would ultimately fit with what was already done?
Trent: Yep. A lot. Even just trying to replicate the drum sounds. There was some re-recording of some of the vocal takes of the first songs. ‘Cause we were living with the songs for a bit it was a bit of a privilege to go back and go “Alright that didn’t quite work and let’s fix that up”. It was micro-tonal things but those are the things you notice when you go back to things in the future, but we got to fix some of it.
Ez: I guess the thing as well is that even though a listener might not necessarily perceive those things it can still affect the overall sound and feel of the record, so in a sense it was a lucky thing.
Trent: It was good and bad. Overthinking is a terrible thing, but also overthinking and fixing what you’re thinking about is good.
Ez: How do you feel Get Old! compares to Fortean Times?
Trent: I like it because we’re actually playing together and we’re doing vocals takes every take. I think it’s the most authentic band-sounding thing we’ve done.
Ez: Thus far.
The fact you have to sing it while you’re playing equals you’re playing it how you can actually do it. Fortean Times is great but the vocals were done later. I think it was a bit herky-jerky.
They’re both great but Get Old! sounds the most bandiest. It’s good to like your last thing. The last thing you do should be the best thing you’ve done.
Get Old! is available here.