Performance should be about bringing people in and revealing to them a certain magic or latent state of possibility in a world around through what you do on stage.

Laurence Pike of PVT

Hi and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Musicology.

Firstly congratulations on the album New Spirit. Being your 5th release was there an added sense of confidence in producing this record or just as challenging as any other?

Our writing, recording and production process is all very much intertwined. We rarely start making an album with a lot of fleshed out material. In this way every record presents a new challenge; mainly that of discovering what it is we’re making and bringing it into focus.
We’re not together in the same room all that often these days with Richard living in London, so we like to rely on some sort of group intuition as to where we want to head to next. We all make music outside the band, and between us there’s a broad array of interests and skills. For me the fun is seeing how we are going to combine in any particular period of work. There’s always a sense of confidence that we understand our roles in the process and we’re capable of coming up with something interesting. That’s natural after so many years of working together, and I also think this process gives the band a creative longevity.
In the case of ‘New Spirit’ it happened in a couple of intense bursts of work in Sydney, and happily we seemed to be on the same page as each other for the most part.

Content / lyric wise, what sentiments and experiences did you pull from in crafting the eleven tracks we find on New Spirit?

Our albums are largely reactive to what we’ve done previously. There’s a natural tendency to assess what the most open ground to move towards is.
When we got together to start work on this album, the consensus was that we needed to make something that reflected the sentiment and energy of Australia at the moment. It felt like the country had been at a spiritual stand still for some time, and to be honest kind of still is. We’re living in a very dangerous and conservative time in our history. It’s a transitory time in the world at large really; the differing forces of politics, identity, the internet, all these things are colliding in a mass of entitlement and opinion, and our leaders eat onions and worry about keeping their gig at the expense of governing in the meantime. It just seemed too omnipresent to not want to try and capture something of that essence in the album, and our desire for something better, and reflect it with the music.

Your single and accompanying video clip Kangaroo is Australiana in full flight, iconic images of landscapes and fauna with some classic It’s A Knock Out thrown in for good measure. Can you walk us through the storyboard process for this one and who you worked with in bringing it to life?

We actually had an entirely different video planned for ‘Kangaroo’, but it fell through, mainly because it was too ambitious an idea, and we didn’t have the money to pull it off. It was supposed to be a little something like the film ‘Wake In Fright’, but we couldn’t find anyone who would let us shoot guns in their paddock at night.
Instead our friend Mclean Stephenson came in at the last minute and based the whole thing around 4 min of footage from ‘It’s a Knockout’ in 1986 that we ripped from YouTube.
I can’t say I can argue with this judgement on it.

Continuing the Australian theme, can you elaborate on the album cover for New Spirit?

We had worked with the cover’s designer Jonathan Zawada a couple of times previously. I had this idea for the cover being some sort of graphic distortion of Australian flora or fauna. We wanted it to look quite bold and hyperreal as well, and Zawada just seemed the perfect guy to approach for it. I sent him that brief, and he came back shortly after with the gold gum leaf in this ouroboros formation, straight off the bat. Case closed.

Dividing your time between the UK and Australia, was there some strong influences that you drew upon from the current European scene that found their way into this record?

Oh sure, I think our music has always been influenced largely by English and German music, rather than American artists which tend to dominate Australian musical psyche. I think the music coming from the Border Community label in the UK played a part in encouraging how we were thinking about more organic and expansive use of electronics and structure on the new album, and utilising the element of rhythm without having to use ‘beats’. People like James Holden, Nathan Fake and Luke Abbott (whom I now have a band with called Szun Waves btw) were all influential contemporaries, and to some extent guys like Modeselektor out of Berlin.

Electronic music is always in flux and one of the most difficult genres to create albums with real longevity. You create quite timeless pieces with your own unique flavour but do you take into account past, current and potential trends when fleshing out new material so as to keep the pieces in a non-definable era?

We don’t think about trends, and I rarely listen to popular music or follow industry hype. Most of that stuff is pretty short term. I think we try and define our own process and parameters in the hope of making something singular. I guess it’s a decidedly untrendy way of approaching things.
We’re interested in music that’s on the margins of what’s going on though, that’s where the good stuff happens in my opinion. I suppose you could consider that stuff potential trends, but more likely it’s just music for shut-ins…

You make music for yourselves first and foremost but I often refer to electronic mastermind Dan Deacon who said that “the audience is the performance”, how much of a consideration do you take into account when constructing your music of how the listener will perceive what you have crafted??

I’d have to fundamentally disagree with Dan Deacon on that statement.
We make music for people to listen to, but we don’t second guess what they want to hear, ultimately I think that’s a self-defeating game. I prefer to think of the role of the artist as some sort of modern day shaman. Ideally performance should be about bringing people in and revealing to them a certain magic or latent state of possibility in the world around them through what you do on stage.
I think it’s serious business. That’s not to say it can’t be fun or have humour, but when you start peddling in the realm of DJing novelty songs from 90’s Disney soundtracks and getting people to do the hokey-pokey with you on the dance floor, that’s a little closer to being a children’s entertainer than anything else in my opinion.

Having performed with and met so many amazing artists over the years including The Arctic Monkeys, Gary Numan, Warpaint and Bloc Party, where there any words of wisdom spoken to you or memorable instances that really resonated with you and altered the way you approach your craft?

I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many amazing musicians; Brian Eno tried to hit on my wife several times, I queued at a hotel breakfast buffet with Aphex Twin once, had a cup of tea with Jaki Liebezeit from Can, stood next to Bjork completely paralysed with fear and didn’t say a word…
I admire creatively successful people rather than just the famous ones, more often than not you find they tend to be the sort of people who are the most relatable.
I did speak to Ryuichi Sakamoto after we supported Yellow Magic Orchestra a few years ago, and he said something quite profound about our set like ‘The music had humanity and intensity’. It felt like the room went still when he spoke. I can’t remember his exact words as a result.
I am pretty sure I just mumbled something shocked and idiotic in response about how cold my Asahi was.

Touring later this month, are there personal favourites / crowd pleasers that you cherry pick from your previous albums that you will be performing in addition to the new material?

There’s a couple of tracks we can’t get away with leaving out of the set from a punter point of view, and happily they’re the ones from the back catalogue that we still seem to find new things to do with. I was surprised playing ‘O Soundtrack My Heart’ on our last few shows for example, caught myself doing things on the drums in that song that had never occurred to me in the first few hundred attempts at it.
I find it increasingly hard to play our old material though to be honest. I think creative thoughts are constantly evolving. There’s whole albums of ours that, whilst I think they have value to listen to, I struggle to find the incentive to play. The context no longer seems relevant to me, not right now. I’d rather be playing the new music. Maybe in another 10 years they’ll start to make sense?
I’ll get hair plugs and want to play ‘Make Me Love You’ (our first album) again.

Thanks for your time and all the best for the upcoming tour.

Hey, thanks for having me.