November 19, 2012

Interview: Allo Darlin'

(Originally printed in Candy Twist zine #3, september 2012.)

Allo Darlin’ started conquering the world in 2007 (or 2008, if you don’t count the EP released as The Darlings) and five years later it seems like they’re still winning every battle with ease. This year’s album Europe is another step towards world domination, or at the very least admiration from all people with a heart that beats POP! For this interview I sent them a lot of questions, and then replaced most of them with a relevant fragment of a lyric, making up a story of past, present and future, and a sense of belonging.

Candy Twist: Hello Allo Darlin'! How are you all doing? What have you been up to lately? How was playing Indietracks this year?

Paul Rains: Hello! We are all well; we’re mainly planning and plotting at the moment for the autumn. We’ve been home in London for about two months after getting back from touring America so there’s a bit of dead time. Unfortunately with this summer being so filled with sports events it’s the worst time to play shows and the festival circuit has yet to properly wake up to Allo Darlin’. We had a blast in the US though - we took the Wave Pictures out with us this time. For the after tour-tour we played a handful of shows in Austria, then last week we were in Paris supporting Here We Go Magic.

Indietracks was amazing, yet again. I was a little apprehensive that we wouldn't be able to equal the show we played two years ago, because the reception we had in 2010 was overwhelming and unexpected. Lucky for us this year was equally as good; the crowd at that festival is just incredible. To witness an audience so captivated and moved by our set was very touching.

CT: I read somewhere that Elizabeth first picked up the ukulele in London in 2005. What made you fall in love with this instrument? Was it a spontaneous decision, or had you wanted to buy one for a long time already?

Elizabeth Morris: Really it was walking past the Duke of Uke shop in Hanbury St, as it was then. I loved Magnetic Fields and Jens Lekman songs with the ukulele on, and I wanted to give it a go. And then I saw this little shop. Little did I know that shop would be such a big part of my London story for the next few years! We recorded our debut underneath the shop, and the people we met there really influenced us, like Darren Hayman, The Wave Pictures and most of all Simon Trought.

I think the uke is a very inspiring instrument. All Allo Darlin' songs have been written on it. Somehow it just fits with what I do, I'm not a very good musician, but the uke manages to make songs sound more like songs than if I was trying to write on guitar or whatever. It just fits me.

"You see it's like loving 'Graceland', it's not allowed to be / but we know it's everybody's favourite / deep down in the place where music makes you happiest." (My Heart is a Drummer)

PR: Graceland was a big record in our childhoods. I think of all the records we were exposed to when we were young; it has the biggest influence on what we do now. That record I think has a very impressionable sound and at the time I don't think we would have heard anything else like it before. So there's that kind of mysterious quality to it but the songs are all really good, that's probably why we all got a bit hooked on it. That cassette was on constantly my dad's car stereo. The Rumours album, early Elton John, The Carpenters, were also things I remember being played often around the house. I nicked my Dad's copy of Monster by REM, which was one of the first albums I properly got into. It wasn't until I had musical loves of my own finding that I had a desire to revisit those albums again.

I think it can be healthy to be at least little shameless concerning music and of course people should be allowed to love anything that speaks to them. And that could be associating songs with memories or people you've known over how 'good' you might perceive that to be musically.  Fashion can play a part in how music is perceived, so I think the 'not allowed' idea maybe comes from that? People can make awful decisions based on fashion and whatever music might seem cool to us now may well be seen very differently in the future once we're more removed from it.

"I'm wondering if I've already heard all the songs that'll mean something / And I'm wondering if I've already met all the people that'll mean something" (Tallulah)

PR: Music always surprises me. I think if it wasn't still surprising I'd give up making it and move onto something else. For me Neil Young is a constant source of inspiration. I loved Joanna Newsom's last album, I thought that was incredible. And very brave to do over three discs of material. Dexy's Midnight Runners. Also bands we get to play with every so often, Darren Hayman, The Wave Pictures, Tigercats, Standard Fare. I was listening to Arthur Russell earlier, the sound of his records makes me want to do stuff. Paint, draw, think, play something I haven't played before... I can't explain how he's managed to do that.

I guess that's part of what you're looking for, giving people the desire to do something, to engage in a dialogue or participate in some kind of shared experience. Or just have a rockin' good time, I reckon that's definitely something to do with it.  

I think we'll leave people to work the meanings of our own songs out for themselves, that's all part of the magic.

"So I go to see my good friend / The one who sings in a riot grrrl band / The way she dances on the stage / It is so awesome" (Some people say)

EM: The friend in this song is real, but I'm not going to give it away. I'll let you guess! We do have a lot of friends in bands. It seems like most of my closest friends are in bands - either my own or their own. Which is amazing, because before I moved to London I didn't know anyone in bands.

I am often in awe of people we share a stage with. Touring the US with the Wave Pictures was such a pleasure, every night I didn't know how we could follow them. Some shows I thought they were the best band I've ever seen live. Darren Hayman is always incredible, even if he says he doesn't like playing live. When you see him play you know what great is. Standard Fare are another band that I feel so incredibly lucky to have played with so often. When Emma sings that song ‘Wow’ and her voice slides up to breaking point - that's a mesmerising moment.

I remember playing with Verity from Electrelane in Manchester a few years ago; she played a solo show. I was truly daunted. She was unbelievable and made me weep.

"There’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask you / How do you feel about Europe?" (Europe)

PR: Our European tour has been my personal favourite out of all of our tours. Which must seem a strange thing to say seeing as we had so many problems on the road and we ended up flat broke at the end of it. Every day was hard but also the best fun I've had in my life. The bad luck just seems to spur us on I think, we refused to be defeated and by the end of it we felt like we'd earned every show. I don't think we could or want to repeat the experience again because everything that happened was so unbelievable. It really was a tour of extremes and people say it's amazing that we didn't fall out with each other.

Playing mainland Europe is very different from the UK and US, yes. Some venues have proper arts funding so in general they are just better equipped at being able to provide for bands. Plus there's more variety when you're able to travel from one country to another in a relatively short space of time. The UK tour experience, with the exception of a few interesting cities, is a collection of identikit town centers by comparison.

America is a hard place to tour just because of the sheer size, but we're blessed with having growing audiences in most places there, really appreciative people and superfans who will travel miles to come and see us. The scale of it can be grueling though. When you're onstage after traveling for most of the 16 hours you've been awake, you have to really find something from somewhere to make your playing special. On the days I can't find it - that's when I feel like I've cheated everybody who has come to see us, even if they say it was a fantastic performance.

Europe does feel like a separate continent to me even though we're part of it. Actually it was my first time on the Eurostar to Paris the other day and I couldn't get over how quick the journey was. It still feels exotic to me when we go out into mainland Europe, because of the unfamiliarity, but also culturally it's very different from the UK. People have more taste there. Or maybe that's just Allo Darlin' fans. Very tasteful people!

"We found solace in the shattered dreams of England" (The Letter)

EM: What this record is really about is how the personal is political. Ideas of home, of longing and confusion. All of these things overwhelm the political. I'm trying to think if I've ever written an even remotely political song, and I can't think of one.

Perhaps I perceive things differently, being an outsider and an expat. But it also means I experience things differently when I go home to Australia. It's no longer my home, but it will always be "home". It's a strange thing. It means I'm always on the outside, and the flipside of that is that I belong everywhere.

London is where I've spent most of my adult life, it's the place where most of my dreams have come true. It's where all of my friends live. So that's where the solace comes in, but so many things are so wrong. In any case, at least the UK still has incredible news organisations and papers, which is very different from Australia, where the papers / TV channels are either owned by News International or mining magnates. Even the government broadcaster is the wrong side of right. It makes me sad, because I think Australia has such amazing potential to be a progressive country, like New Zealand, or Sweden. But instead we import this neo-con crap from America. It's terrible, and such a waste.

"And when the lights go out and you set the world to rights / When I find you under Capricornia skies" (Capricornia)

EM: I get homesick from time to time, and I wish my family was closer and I could see my old friends. And I miss the beach and the sun. But our families are proud of us, and they get Google alerts so they read all of our reviews, even if I never read them!

In October we're going to play in Australia for the first time, and I am so excited about it. My middle sister is getting married, and wanted Allo Darlin' to be her wedding band, so she's paying for the boys to come out and join me. We're playing about an hour of covers and then an hour of our own songs. It's such an amazing thing for her to do, but she's so excited about it.

hen we're flying down to Melbourne and joining Mark Monnone (ex Lucksmiths) and playing some Melbourne shows, including a backyard show with Bart & Friends, then driving up the East Coast back to Brisbane. I can't wait. I have no idea what to expect. My boyfriend Nik, who made the ‘Capricornia’, ‘Loneliness’ and ‘Dreaming’ videos for us, is coming too and filming it. The prodigal children return, or something!

"I wonder if you would wanna go there with me / When I'm finished over here / If you're not finished with me" (Tallulah) 

EM: I have no idea when I'll leave London, it's home for now. We've talked about moving somewhere else in Europe, like Berlin or Gothenburg. We especially think about this when times get tough financially or when it hasn't stopped raining for 3 months. Australia is so far away, and so isolated. That's part of what makes it so special, but for me being in a band, moving there would make it impossible to continue with the group. Who knows what the future holds, but it's been a pretty amazing 7 years so far in London.

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(I put this interview online because I'm excited about their show in Paradiso, Amsterdam this Sunday (november 25). See you there?)