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Allo Darlin' - Interview

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 23 / 6 / 2012

Allo Darlin' - Interview


Dixie Ernill speaks to Elizabeth Morris, the Brisbane-born singer with much acclaimed London-based indie pop group Allo Darlin' about their just released second album, 'Europe'

I am greeted by one of the cheeriest 'hellos' I have ever had when Elizabeth Morris answers her phone. She could well have a lucrative career as the voice of the Australian tourist board to fall back on should she ever decide to retire from the music business. In truth, though, she has every reason to be very pleased with herself, as her band, Allo Darlin’, are on the verge of releasing a truly wonderful second album in the shape of 'Europe' and have the small matter of a free gig at Rough Trade East to contend with later that day before they embark on yet another jaunt around America to promote 'Europe' by way of a series of shows with fellow indie-poppers the Wave Pictures. As it only took place a couple of days before the interview, I ask Elizabeth what her thoughts are on Record Store Day and she says, "It’s exciting to see a massive queue of people trying to get into a record shop to buy records. On the one hand if you've got all these great records why not make them available to everyone? But it's the fact that they are limited that makes them attractive". Whilst I agree with the concept and certainly don't like the idea of record shops disappearing almost as fast as pubs, I question the necessity for the hike in price with many seven inches being £7 or £8 to buy. Elizabeth is quick to counter with "It's a lot like Valentine's Day, but as far as a celebration of record shops goes I think that it is cool.... the touting side of things, people putting them on eBay sucks." Allo Darlin’ have just completed a UK tour and I was lucky enough to attend their Manchester gig, which was a brilliant night. Elizabeth agrees, "That Manchester show was our favourite one actually. It's such a lovely venue The Deaf Institute. Perfect size and the sound quality is so good. We're looking at coming back later in the year, even though we sold out we want to play there again because once you get any bigger it loses something and a lot of bigger venues look the same. You're really lucky to have it. We were really lucky that night as the crowd were perfect. During the quiet songs everybody listened and then danced during the louder songs. You don't always get that. The following night in Sheffield, which was a really fun show, it was a Friday and people just wanted to get wasted and have a good time. We tried playing one of the quieter songs, but it just didn't work". In the encore of the Manchester gig, Allo Darlin’ played a spine tinglingly good cover of the Go-Betweens 'Dive For Your Memory', and I ask Elizabeth why she chose that Go-Betweens song. "It's just one of my favourite ones. The other song I thought we could have done was 'Spring Rain' but I don't think you can add anything to it. 'Dive For Your Memory' felt like a very natural one to do. It came together really easily and we recorded it for the Rough Trade bonus disc. Rough Trade made 'Europe' album of the month for May and asked us to record an exclusive disc. So we've got a whole load of covers that we've done in the past and a couple of new ones as well." I tell her that even Robert Forster (who wrote and sang the original in the Go-Betweens) would be slightly jealous of their version, and Elizabeth offers humble thanks before expanding, "I saw him do it acoustically once. Mike Collins, our drummer, had never really heard the Go-Betweens, but Bill (Botting, Allo Darlin's Australian bass player-Ed) gave him the albums and now 'Dive For Your Memory' is his favourite one!" I tell Elizabeth that I was fortunate enough to interview Robert Forster about his recent book, which included a piece he'd written in ‘The Monthly’ (Australian magazine) about Allo Darlin’, and ask her what it meant to have such a patronage. "It's certainly the nicest, most amazing thing that has happened to me personally, apart from being able to travel and being able to play music. In terms of a moment when you capture something and think, 'Oh My God that was pretty amazing.' I actually spoke to him after he played a show at Rough Trade in the Summer of 2010 and gave him a copy of the song 'Tallulah' I'd written. He was such a gent. He said he'd read a review of our debut album and really wanted to hear it, so Sean Price who runs Fortuna Pop! gave him a copy, and then a couple of weeks later his manager got in touch and said Robert would like to write a review. In some ways he was trying to help us and recognised a bit of himself maybe... In the way he and Grant MacLennan and Lindy Morrison moved to London and pretty much I just followed what they did. The reason I moved to London was because of the Go-Betweens - I completely followed the path they put down." Elizabeth then expands on the point. "Not just them. Nick Cave and Kylie moved to London too. The Australian music scene is very insular. Bands who are enormous in Australia probably just stay enormous in Australia. Only really Midnight Oil, Inxs and Kylie since the 80s have become famous in England. I wanted to see the world and see if I could make music that would be heard around the world. I think if I'd have stayed in Australia it would have been difficult. But going back to Robert Forster, it really meant a lot. It couldn't have meant anymore really" I congratulate Elizabeth on 'Europe' and mention it seems to carry on from the debut, but is better. "It pretty much followed from the Robert Forster review in that he said we had opened doors for a second album. It was almost throwing the gauntlet down," she explains. "I thought bloody hell we have to raise our game. It had a lot to do with that. It took a long time to write the songs. It's so much more difficult when you know you have an audience. We wanted to throw everything we had at it and make the best album we could." Elizabeth then opened up about the whole recording process and how it had taken place in two studios, one in Mossley (just outside Manchester) "The studio near Manchester had all the old Strawberry Studios equipment that the likes of New Order would have used and the tape machine was Trevor Horn's" and the other in London where the likes of Denim and Shirley Lee have recorded in the past. "Paul (Rains, Allo Darlin’s guitar player-Ed) was playing on a guitar used by Felt. That was pretty inspiring. There's a great deal of pop history on this album and for a kid from the sticks in Queensland it was pretty amazing!" I ask Elizabeth about the writing process. "I write all the songs. Still on the ukelele, even though many end up on guitar when they are recorded or played,” she says. I take them to the band and they flesh out their bits. Paul writes the beautiful jangly guitar parts and Bill comes up with something cool and Mike's just the solid base. It really comes together in the studio or on stage." I am also intrigued about the lyrics, "It all relates to a certain period of time at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011when we were doing lots of touring and I was having a personal visa crisis. My visa was running out and I didn't know how long I could stay, which prompted the song 'Europe' which I wrote in January 2011. That song was basically me collecting thoughts and thinking about what I would take back if I had to leave.” “Then we went on a European tour and basically everything went wrong. It was a disastrously triumphant tour. Triumphantly disastrous! It was really hard but also the best time any of us had ever had. It was amazing really. We were playing the song 'Europe' on the road and it was poignant, and I realised that actually this is where I belong. Home is not necessarily a place it's the people you are with. That really informed the rest of the album. That whole experience. The song 'Tallulah' had already been written a year before then and was referencing going home. It kind of all fell into place. The songs are a bit darker, but I wanted them to be upbeat as well." Elizabeth then says something that breaks a thousand indie-pop boys' hearts, "Some reviews have dubbed it the 'heartbreak record', which it is not all really. I think my boyfriend would get a complex reading so many reviews saying it was about having a broken heart! But it is definitely reflective." I mention that Allo Darlin' are yet to play in Australia. "We are actually going to do it this year, which is very exciting," proclaims Elizabeth proudly. "My sister is getting married and wanted Allo Darlin' as her wedding band. Because of that we are actually going to play a few shows while we are there. We have to work out about three hours of covers and earn our money!" I bring the conversation back to the new album and in particular a lyric in the song 'The Letter' that I am particularly drawn to - "we found solace in the shattered dreams of England". Elizabeth explains, "It references how you end up in a place without actually planning to be there that long. I wasn't expecting to be in England for seven years. England feels like a very different place to when I first moved here and when I first visited when I was 18. It does feel a bit glum. I remember when I first came here it was like 'Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory'". I liken it to my own experiences of going to Brisbane and how the buzz of my first visit has worn off somewhat. "You and me both," Elizabeth concurs, "Brisbane doesn't feel as charming as it once did either. But I'm still here (in London) and still love it, but it feels like it needs a cup of tea. It feels like England has a headache...." I tell Elizabeth how Amelia Fletcher was an indie-pop icon when I was in my teens in the 80's and ask her about her brief time in Amelia's band Tender Trap. "When Amelia got in touch and asked me to come and play I felt a bit excited, but other people around me were more excited. In a way because I didn't grow up in England in the 90's Heavenly and Talulah Gosh weren't on my radar until I moved to England and got to know some Talulah Gosh songs and a Heavenly song. I didn't really know them, which was probably quite a good thing as I wasn't a fan girl coming in to play. I was taking them at face value. But obviously I think Amelia is amazing now that I know more about the band she's in and those she's been in. I think she's an inspiring person too as she has a very proper job, a PHD from Oxford, 2 little kids and still manages to be in a band. That is what I find most amazing. Obviously I loved playing with them. They are such fun people." Elizabeth also reveals her musical influences, "Definitely the Go-Betweens. Jonathan Richman and the Velvet Underground too. When I first started making songs I loved Magnetic Fields and Belle and Sebastian. Also Yo La Tengo. I got into them when I was about 18 and still love them. You probably can't hear much of them in Allo Darlin' but Paul and Mike are big fans. Especially when Paul plays with his tremelo on in 'Some People Say', if you close your eyes and take out the vocal it could be a Yo La Tengo track" "Jens Lekman?" I enquire, "He influenced me with sampling songs," agrees Elizabeth "That's why I sometimes sing parts of other people's songs in the middle of my own songs. I didn't have a sampler but it seemed like a quite fun thing to do". One of the absolute highlights on the album is ‘Tallulah’ which I hope will be released as a single. "We did talk about it as a possible Record Store Day release as either a 7" single or a cassingle, but it didn't happen. But our album is coming out as a 100 copy limited cassette on Fika records. Tallulah is not going to be a single as I don't think it would get played enough on the radio to justify being a single." Talk then moves to the upcoming US tour. "It's our fifth time!" says Elizabeth triumphantly "We absolutely love playing in the States. Half the tour we are staying with fans of the band which is really nice as most want to show us around their town. It's also amazing to play with the Wave Pictures every night. I like the way they are all about the songs and not an image thing. When they get it right they are just the best band". She has a point, The Wave Pictures have made some fine records, but right now Allo Darlin' are in fact the band that are setting the standard.

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Allo Darlin' - Interview

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