By Jacob Sprecher
Oh, the sweet lullabies of an English voice sung in the key of pop. Well, Elizabeth Morris is actually a Queenslander, but after relocating to the United Kingdom seven years ago and jumping full-force into the vast musical pool, she pretty much qualifies. As for the group she fronts alongside Paul Rains, Bill Botting and Mikey Collins? They’re called Allo Darlin’, and you might find them charming, playful and a damn good time, in a vein relevant to contemporaries like Standard Fare and Evans The Death. Currently abroad and toting along they’re second full-length LP, Europe, Morris caught up with Synthesis while still cozy in her London abode.
So Allo Darlin’ has toured abroad several times now. How do you find the audiences in the U.S. compared to the U.K.?
Quite a big difference. People from the States in general are really lovely and enthusiastic, almost a bit like puppies [laughs], if you don’t mind me saying; people are really excited and over-the-top and it’s nice. Whereas people from the U.K. can be a lot more withdrawn and bit more reserved and held back, still really warm, but don’t necessarily dance at shows. The other difference we’ve found is that we might be playing on more mixed bills; people from all different walks of life and genres. Whereas over here it’s quite specific, and a bit more sceney, you could say. Like we were asked to play a punk festival last year in Austin, Chaos in Tejas, which was really awesome, and it was like, “Wow! You think we fit on a bill with all these anarchistic punk rock bands?”
I had an interview with Veronica Falls a while back, and we were talking about the genre of twee-pop and how in the U.K. that’s kind of a dirty word, but over here it’s not at all. Often I’ll hear Allo Darlin’ get a twee-pop label—does that bother you?
No. Sometimes I think it’s a thing where if we get called that in the States we’re not bothered by it, because we know it means something quite different [than] over here. To be honest, the genre of music is probably the same, but over here, if people hear something described as twee, they probably think that they won’t like it—it’s definitely a pejorative. And that’s the annoying thing, if it puts people off unnecessarily.
I would relate it to using emo to categorize a band in the States. It has a lot of negative connotations surrounding it.
And maybe, in a similar way, emo has a lot to do with emo haircuts and style, and I think the twee thing has a lot to do with the clothes people wear. Like the Zooey Deschanel comedy New Girl—it’s the clothes that she wears almost more than what she says. I think fashion has a lot to do with it.
I really like the new record. When I listen to Europe and compare it to the self-titled, I notice that it’s a little more polished, but in a tasteful way. Did you work with a new producer or just take some different angles?
Simon, who we recorded and produced the first album with, we actually took with us, mainly because the [prior] studio was really small; you could just fit a band in there. So we went to a studio outside Manchester called Analog Catalogue, and it’s really plush and beautiful [with] lots of beautiful old gear that came from Strawberry Studios; the stuff that New Order used. So we did that session first, and that was all recorded to tape, and the second session was in the autumn of last year at a studio here in London called Bark. But Simon was with us the whole time, and the main difference production-wise was the time we took recording it and how much more considered we were. We didn’t know that we had an audience when we made that first album; we were just making it for ourselves and a very small community here in London.
Throughout the album there seems to be a lyrical theme of people and places that’s sort of melancholy in some ways, but still pretty positive.
At the time I was writing a lot of the songs, I had about 12 months to run on my Visa—which means you’ve really got to start sorting it out—and I didn’t know how I was going to be able to stay. And that was really affecting me. I was thinking, “What if I have to leave?” Because I’ve spent most of my adult life here in the U.K. or in Europe, and I was thinking about having to go back. It was affecting a lot of the songs I was writing, so I just tried to focus and bring that out more.
On “Tallulah,” it seems like you’re singing about being homesick from Queensland. You still homesick in a little way?
Oh, definitely. There’s lots of amazing things there; it’s such an isolated place. It’s one of these things like if you’re having a long-distance relationship with someone, absence really does make the heart grow fonder, and you sort of romanticize things in your head, and then you go back and maybe it’s not quite as nice as it was in your brain. But it’s definitely where my heart kind of ultimately is, and I would love to go back there; but I don’t know if it would ever match up to what it is in my head.
Especially for a musician—not the same opportunity, I’m sure.
That was the whole reason why I moved to the U.K.—I wanted to be in a band and I just wanted to be like the Go-Betweens, really.