Earlier this month, Evelyn Morris released her third Pikelet LP, Tronc. After the expansive, full-band psychedelia of 2013’s Calluses, Morris returns to her roots on the new album, crafting experimental pop gems at home with a loop station and an array of analogue gear. She spoke to us recently, via email, about making the new record, her feminist practise and working with the LISTEN collective, patriarchy and white supremacy in Australia, and her upcoming launch show at Hugs & Kisses this Saturday night.
Hi Evelyn! We were really sorry/mad to hear about your gear; I hope it’s making its way back to you. Anything our readers can do to help?
I’ve been very fortunate in that everyone pitched in and crowdfunded the replacement of my gear! So I’m not feeling as awful as I did when it first happened, as it’s been somewhat affirming to have so many people rush to my aid like that. However there are some bits of gear on the list I posted on fb that can’t be replaced so… I guess just keep an eye out? If you happen to be a regular Gumtree or eBay shopper. Thanks for the sympathy!
Tronc is a pretty different record to Calluses. It’s recognisably Pikelet, but it sounds more lofi and possibly more eclectic than ever before. After working in a studio with a full band for Calluses, why did you decide to do a solo home recording this time round?
It happened rather naturally, given that I’ve had to squeeze my music practice in around my feminist practice with LISTEN, which consumed my time and energy for a good year and a half or so. The work I did with LISTEN also really highlighted my own insecurities as a musician and helped to allay some of those fears because I’ve started to understand that some of them are to do with living within patriarchy and within the binary. So exploring feminism has given me a renewed confidence – and hence recording on my own in my own way was both very interesting and much more possible than ever before. I always needed other people to validate my ideas prior to this record… so I released it as quickly as I could, because I needed to do that in order to stop myself from allowing those doubts to creep in that usually cause me to turn to others for advice. That process of self doubt slows things down immeasurably.
Tronc seems quite avant-garde; there are a lot of ideas in the mix (and what i think is the first Pikelet r’n’b track?). I was wondering if you could tell us something about the ideas you had in mind, and any reference points you had for the album?
I am so heavily influenced and inspired by music that’s around me, because that feeling of watching your friends get up and do something beautiful is like no other. So there are many of my friends’ musical inspirations infused throughout. Orlando Furious (Ben Snaith) is where I found an access point to r’n’b, though I suppose I was aiming more towards an experimental electronic track originally [on ‘the Neigbour’s Grass’] and my pop tendencies is how that aim ended up in r’n’b territory. Other local influences for this record would be Laura Jean, Rogue Wavs, Lalic and the collaborations I’ve done with Nick Allbrook have probably also had a big influence. Also more experimental acts in Melbourne are always keeping me refreshed… a band I’m in called Prophets inspires me greatly, as do artists such as Eves and Carolyn Connors.
My constant and ever-present reference point is Broadcast, and track 2 is an ode to Trish Keenan who tragically passed away not long after I had the pleasure of touring with broadcast. That track is named ‘Trish’, however on the cassette the track listing says track two is called ‘Tronc’ for some reason, I guess because I rushed the artwork along and didn’t notice it had been written indirectly until too late.
A lot of times, this sounds like a pretty angry record. On tracks like ‘the Neighbour’s Grass’ and ‘Interface Dystopia’ you talk about feelings of dispossession and disillusionment. There are places where you seem cautiously hopeful, too – making reference to human plasticity/possibility, and finishing up with a track called ‘Survived’. Could you talk a little about the themes of the album, and what kind of headspace you were in while writing it?
I have been dealing with all these themes for many years, however perhaps in a less direct way in the past. I have been stuck in a place of in-betweens my whole life in many ways. In-between the gender binary, in-between my favourite music styles but not really knowing where I sit, in-between poverty and comfort also not really always knowing how good I have it when compared to others… these strike me as fairly universal feelings for a large portion of the population, and especially for Australians that don’t opt to be as wilfully ignorant of suffering as we’re encouraged to be. We are living on stolen land and have been destroying that environment and First Nations people’s lives every day since we first arrived here. We continue to do so every day that we stay here without acknowledgment of the white supremacy infused in our culture. We are also simultaneously actively allowing for the suffering of refugees and asylum seekers to continue because we think we have a right to keep this place to ourselves. I don’t know how anyone could live in Australia and not be angry.
But it’s not just that Australian anger that I have expressed in these songs, it’s also the anger that has built up since realising my feminism more fully. The years wasted on hating myself and undermining myself because that’s how I have been raised in this structure… I’ll never get those years back.
There’s so much happening emotionally on this album though, and ultimately like any record, I wanted to find a way to capture those feelings so I could look back on them some day. I suppose the cautious optimism is the only way that anyone can look at these themes and not feel really stupified as to what we should be doing. You’ve gotta convince yourself of the fact that there’s purpose to continuing to work towards change.
What’s your favourite track on the album, and why?
‘Interface Dystopia’ is my favourite. It was a lot of fun to make; I recorded much of it on this very small little portable tape machine that my housemate loaned to me. It feels as though it speaks to something I’ve not been able to articulate before as well. Plus it’s a bit silly at times so feels like it’s in a nice grey area between the heavy themes I mentioned previously and also the absurdity of making a song about anything. The feeling of ridiculousness that we’re sometimes left with amidst all this intensity seems to have been captured. Like at times you feel like you’ve been caught with your pants down, and that you’ve made an absolute idiot out of yourself, exposing some privilege you’d not noticed before. Embracing that it is necessary to sit with those feelings and own up to mistakes is important to me. So the song couldn’t speak to those themes with a sanctimonious attitude. Because I’m just a bumbling idiot trying to get my head around this mess and find my most effective place in it just like everyone else.
How have your experiences working with the LISTEN collective informed Tronc?
Like I said above LISTEN has both impeded and contributed to my making music because though it took my focus for a while, it’s created a much stronger sense of myself and my abilities. It’s affirmed my right to do what I do via fighting for the rights of others in this city who I admire greatly. I am also giving myself more space to take care of myself which is something I learned through feminism, and a skill that people need to spend time developing in order to unlearn the capitalist mindset that work for money is all that matters.
I hear you’re going overseas for a little while. Is that for touring, or are you just looking to move somewhere else for a time?
I’m doing a few short runs of gigs yes but mainly the trip is for a residency that’s for developing my piano pieces and my compositional skills. I’d love to live somewhere else sometime but don’t really know how someone goes about doing that really. Plus I do love Melbourne.
Who’s at the helm of LISTEN now? Do you think you’ll go back to working there when you come home?
Yeah LISTEN will always be a part of my life I think. I’ve taken a huge step back though and there’s a new crew of volunteers who are rising to the challenge of running it. It was always part of the plan for it to become the property of the community, because I don’t want my ideas to monopolise the organisation. When I return from overseas I plan to focus on the editorial and publication-oriented elements of the project and leave any events/structural organisational tasks and more public-facing aspects to other people
We’re really excited for your launch show next week! How are you finding it, playing these songs for a live audience?
Actually so far they’ve been incredibly challenging to perform! Mainly because of the heavy emotional content, and the fact that I didn’t have much time to road test them. So there’s been a lot of pressure in my mind leading up to the launch. That’s fuelled me to work very hard on them though and, despite the setback of losing my gear, I feel fairly good about them now.
Suss Cunts is a band that some really good friends of mine are in. Helena Holmes is the bass player and has been one of my dearest friends for many years now. I was so happy when she started this band with friends, because she’s always been quite an integral person in some small music communities I’ve circulated in; I’m glad she’s also found a project she’s enjoying finding a voice in. They play kinda punk stuff.
Ninetynine have been around for ages and were a band I was super into before I got really serious about being in bands. So very formative as an influence for me. Amy Clarke (who is no longer in the band) and Laura MacFarlane were really up on a pedestal for me for some time. Cameron Potts who drums in that band was also an inspiration when it came to drumming, and he and I played together in a band called Baseball for around seven years and toured extensively with them.
Finally, I asked WTH contributors if they had a burning question for you and our photography ed. Bec wanted to know, “How are you so cool? you are a super inspo power woman.” Any advice for Bec?
That’s a very sweet question! I feel completely uncool almost all the time so that’s amazing. Thanks Bec. I dunno about advice… I think everyone knows themselves and their own lives best so maybe like… trust your instincts? Haha. I reckon everyone has a role to play within communities, and we all influence each other and inspire each other. I find it hard to imagine telling ‘me from the past’ all the things I’ve managed to do and be part of in the last five to ten years. They would never have believed any of it was possible.
Pikelet launches Tronc this Saturday, 21 May, at Hugs & Kisses with support from Suss Cunts and Ninetynine. RSVP here.