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.