Allo Darlin’ // Interview

allo darling

One of the greatest cannons in the Allo Darlin’ armoury is their live show; they look like a proper gang on the stage – and you can’t help but want to be a part of that. In part that’s down to Botting’s onstage grin; it seems like that initial enthusiasm has just never left. “When we went to the rehearsal in Tottenham, I was there on the train with my bass and I felt really excited. I think it’s so nice that that hasn’t gone away despite the frankly obscene number of shows that we’ve played.” “I don’t want to over-romanticise it, but I think that’s the thing when you find musicians that you really enjoy playing with.” Rains readily agrees,“You always read about these bands and how the first time they played together they felt this energy and you always find yourself looking for that. But there’s really something in the four members of Allo Darlin’ and the way they play together that really does feel special and feels like it has that kind of energy… or it does to me, anyway. I feel really grateful that it does have that.”

If the band have developed as musicians, so has Morris as a songwriter. Always blessed with an enviable ability as a storyteller and a keen eye for detail, the latest material seems to have a greater sense of subtlety and nuance. Does she think she’s progressed? “I hope I have, but I don’t know if I have! I think it was just such a different process. There weren’t any songs that felt laboured and I don’t know if that was down to a different psychological state allowing that to happen. Certainly in making Europe I felt like there was a lot expectation surrounding it, far worse than with our first album, and that just wasn’t there while I was writing and were making this record. One thing I do know is I wrote two songs in a minor key, that’s a development!” Stemming from a challenge from Paul Rains, and with Morris responding by writing a song that features Rains on vocal duties (‘Bright Eyes’), does she think it’s a sign they’re getting more comfortable as songwriters? “How can you say no to an accusation like that!” chuckles Botting, beating Morris to the punch. She chuckles, before regaining her composure. “I think it has to do with getting older and becoming more comfortable in myself. It’s something that happens once you turn 30 and it’s a nice feeling. You feel entitled to your own opinions, and that people can’t dismiss you for being young and naïve. I think being comfortable does allow you to be more daring.”

Art has somehow been made to consume that bullshit about ‘it’s not real unless it’s real’. But you can tell a story and it doesn’t have to be about you.

Nowhere is this more clear than on ‘Half Heart Necklace’, Morris’ first ever song written from a perspective other than her own. In keeping with the album’s underlying themes of change and romance, Morris chose a subject who perhaps took those ideas to their most extreme – Natasha Ryan, who briefly drew worldwide infamy and who also hailed from Elizabeth’s hometown of Rockhampton. “When I was at school there was serial killer in my town, which is quite small by Australian standards, at 60,000 people or so,” she explains, “Six women were killed and she was missing and, presumed, killed. It turned out years later – and it came out during the trial of the murderer, he confessed to killing her and everything – that she’d been hiding in her boyfriend’s cupboard about a kilometre from her parents’ house for about five years or something as a teenage runaway. It was a massive scandal and I just thought it was one of those situations that had got totally out of control. She wanted to go and move in with her boyfriend and marry him and her parents didn’t think he was all that great or something. She was ultimately just a kid – who do silly things – and there were all these murders going on. I don’t think she wanted it to be her cover story, she probably would have preferred to have just been a runaway, but it snowballed and when it all came out she was painted as this villain. While you find yourself questioning how you could do that to your parents, I do have some sympathy with her. She wasn’t more than a frightened kid…”

“It’s funny, there’s an almost-famous conversation between Michael and David Tattersall [he from the Wave Pictures] somewhere in Spain one night about how people these days want songs to be autobiographical,” Botting interjects, “or they want to to know they’re autobiographical. That art has somehow been made to consume that bullshit about ‘it’s not real unless it’s real’. But you can tell a story and it doesn’t have to be about you – it could be about you or it could be about someone else or a bit of this person’s life mixed with some bullshit.” Morris, meanwhile, seems to be sympathetic to the audience’s cause, admitting that – the aforementioned ‘Half Heart Necklace’ excepted – all of her songs are based on her own experiences. “I think as an audience it has more meaning if it’s autobiographical… to be perfectly frank a lot of things I write about do happen to me…”

But as Michael points out, it’s that ability to create something both deeply personal and yet still routinely applicable that has helped them to garner such a wide-ranging audience over the years. “I think that the songs that have captivated me the most have been the ones that have that element to them. I remember that Tom Waits song ‘Johnnsburg, Illinois’ and how specific he is and much detail he goes into. When he says something like ‘look into my wallet, that’s her’… It makes you reflect on everyday things and you find yourself wondering about what you’ve got in your wallet, it gives you that framework for you to open your eyes and see ‘I’ve got someone I love that much, I’ve got someone I enjoy spending time with.’ And when you look at our songs, those are the sorts of things that are both universal and specific to Elizabeth.”

I was in quite a strange psychological state when I wrote a lot of the songs. I think that’s had a bearing on them.

But if that’s the case, we’re not sure whether to worry, just a little, about Morris’s headspace while writing this record. Because it’s inarguable that We Come From The Same Place finds Allo Darlin in a far more reflective mood. Listen to their début and it’s interesting to note just how carefree it feels compared to Europe. Whereas this record seems more world-weary right from opening track ‘Heartbeat’, as Elizabeth sings, “I’m starting to wonder if true romance is fictional”. With the exception of album closer ‘Another Year’ and its couplet of “As I board a no-frills plane, my confidence starts to wane”, the songs written in Italy are the record’s most confident, most notably ‘Crickets In The Rain’ with its assertion that “nothing feels the way it did before, and I am grateful for that”. “Me, reflective? Never! Next you’ll be saying I wear my heart on my sleeve!” teases Morris, before conceding the point. “There are parts about self doubt, and uncertainty but also parts about certainty and feeling comfortable… or not. Feeling comfortable in yourself is recognising that you don’t feel comfortable in yourself. I was in quite a strange psychological state when I wrote a lot of the songs. I think that’s had a bearing on them.”

That, perhaps, is what makes the story behind We Come From The Same Place so interesting. Despite a wave of changes behind the scenes in personal lives, and their on-record sound, a lot of what’s created their appeal to date remains – that sheer joy of playing together and interacting with each other, and the expertly crafted songs and narratives within them. Recorded in circumstances which might have been less than ideal, they’ve come out the other side with a record of which they’re all proud of. “I want people to think ‘Allo Darlin’ have worked really hard and they’ve done all their homework. They’ve put their heart and soul into it and they’ve stayed true to themselves’. That’s what I like! Paul?” Elizabeth grins mischievously at her bandmate, “which other band that your dad likes, do you hope he compares the new record to..?”

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Buy: Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place

Live: Scala – November 24th

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