Allo Darlin’

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Allo Darlin’

Allo Darlin’ is a band without a country because Elizabeth Morris is a singer/songwriter without a country. The London-based group could be writing from anywhere about anything, appealing to all of us who have felt lonely, lost or homesick for a place that might not exist. Though their music is far from doom and gloom on the band’s latest album, Europe.

Some call it indie pop, some call it twee pop and Pitchfork calls it a worthy heir to Belle and Sebastian. Not that Elizabeth cares; she avoids press in the interest of self-preservation. Here’s how it all came together. Spoiler alert: there’s a ukulele involved and tour van that ended up in flames.

SSv: I know you started solo as a songwriter. How did you connect with Michael, Paul and Bill and what attracted you all to each other?

Elizabeth Morris: The first thing that brought us together was actually Bruce Springsteen, believe it or not. A friend of mine who runs a label here in London was putting together an indie pop tribute to The Boss and he asked me to be on it when I was playing solo. And I knew that Paul was really into Bruce Springsteen so I asked him if he’d want to do it with me and then Mike came along playing percussion. That was the first thing we ever did together, a cover of “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen. Then we were offered gigs to play live and Bill came in. He was a friend of mine and I knew he was pretty good on bass.

SSv: How did you come up with the name Allo Darlin’?

I definitely feel like an outsider here in London but then I feel like an outsider when I go home as well. That’s sort of the weird thing about living abroad for so long. I’ve lived abroad for nearly eight years now. It means that when you go home it doesn’t really feel like home either.

I definitely feel like an outsider here in London but then I feel like an outsider when I go home as well. That’s sort of the weird thing about living abroad for so long. I’ve lived abroad for nearly eight years now. It means that when you go home it doesn’t really feel like home either.

Elizabeth: It was kind of a stupid thing, as you could probably guess. I had a band before that called The Darlings and that was kind of like an obvious band name and so a California punk band sends a message on MySpace, back in the days when people used to use MySpace, and sent us like a cease and desist letter, so we had to stop using that name.

And then my friend Virginia said, “Why don’t you call yourself Allo Darlin’?” which is what all the people who have market stalls in Soho used to call us every day when we’d walk past. It was a joke name and I didn’t expect it would stay, but it did.. It doesn’t really matter, most band names are stupid, I guess.

SSv: There seems to be a lot of nostalgia for Australia in your music. Is that an inspiration, being away from home and feeling like an outsider?

Elizabeth: Probably. I definitely feel like an outsider here in London but then I feel like an outsider when I go home as well. That’s sort of the weird thing about living abroad for so long. I’ve lived abroad for nearly eight years now. It means that when you go home it doesn’t really feel like home either. I definitely miss it, that’s for sure. But you know, I still haven’t moved back there.

SSv: What else inspires you guys as a band?

Elizabeth: We’re pretty inspired by the people we play with. That’s maybe a bit of a cheesy answer…There’s a whole bunch of people here in London who are pretty amazing musicians and inspiring people to be around. I guess to some extent, films and books and things that I’m reading and people that I’m hanging out with. Definitely older musicians, people who have done it before, I find quite inspiring.

SSv: Who were your favorite bands when you were younger?

Elizabeth: Well I guess I was pretty influenced by the Go-Betweens and then I love Yo La Tengo. I love the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Bobby Dylan, Joni Mitchell. A whole bunch of people I guess. I’m constantly finding out about more and more people that I probably should have known about a long time ago. But those are pretty good ones to start with.

SSv: How did you start writing songs?

Elizabeth: Well it’s a funny thing, I always knew that I wanted to write songs but then I didn’t really do it when I lived in Australia. And then I moved to London and I just started writing. I had to move to London to be able to write songs. Buying a ukulele I think helped a lot because it was easy to write songs on the ukulele. It all kind of changed once I got that. But I wasn’t very good writing songs on guitar or piano.

SSv: What is it about the ukulele?

Elizabeth: Well it’s just very easy to play and it’s quite easy to come up with nice chords. It’s just the ease of it. It suits singing in a really nice way. It’s not a virtuoso instrument, it’s the perfect accompanying instrument and I think that’s what it was really. As opposed to guitar, which is obviously kind of designed for shredding.

SSv: So you’re not smashing your ukulele at the end of your shows?

Elizabeth: No, no, and I hate that kind of stuff.

SSv: How does the creative process start with the band?

Elizabeth: Well generally I’ve got the lyrics and the song written before I take it to the band. And then they all work up their parts and things and its kind of a collaborative process from that. I tend hide away in my bedroom and work on a song and then present it fully formed.

SSv: Does that ever come with some nerves, wondering what everyone else will think about it?

Elizabeth: Oh yea, every time, in a terrible horrible way (laughs). But I guess it’s part of the nice thing about being in a band, you know each other so well. I won’t take it to them unless I think they’ll think it’s ok. I’m a bit too much of a wuss like that. I can’t handle disappointment.

SSv: Where does the name of the new album come from?

Elizabeth: I had written a song called “Europe,” which is on the album. I wrote that before I decided the album should be called Europe. That song is really about the fact that my visa was running out and how I was going to be able to stay in Europe after living here for seven years. So there was that song and then we went on tour and we had this really disastrous but wonderful tour around the continent in the winter of last year. It really shaped the band in lots of ways and we just decided to call it Europe. It would have to be about these ideas of home, longing and loneliness. All these things that a tour van amplifies. It just seemed to fit.

SSv: What was so disastrous about the tour?

Elizabeth: We thought we were being really clever by buying a van and splitting the costs with our record label, but actually the van we bought, we crashed it in about 500 meters of setting off on a five-week tour. So that was kind of a bummer. And then we had to hire another van for 10 days while that van was repaired, at great cost. And then in Hamburg we actually got our own van back, which was driven across Germany by the manager of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Then it just wouldn’t work.

It was really cold, like minus ten in Berlin and Hamburg, and it just wouldn’t start. So every day we had this Groundhog Day drama – the van wouldn’t start and we have 600 miles to get to the show and we don’t know how we’re gonna do it. It was very stressful and quite sad, but we didn’t miss a single show. I have absolutely no idea how we managed it. We just all pulled together in a really nice way and it impacted us a lot. Though after five weeks of touring the van actually caught fire…

SSv: Sounds like you might need a private plane next time.

Elizabeth: Oh, I don’t know. Planes and bands have a bad history.

SSv: That’s true. It’s interesting what you said that the album is about Europe and the idea of home. When people hear Europe they might think eurozone crisis or Greece going bust. It seems like you really made a point to write about things that were smaller more relatable moments.

Elizabeth: Like a personal political crisis. It’s kind of funny the way it worked out, it actually has nothing to do with that stuff at all.

SSv: In “Tallulah” you say you wonder if you’ve heard all the songs that’ll mean something. Do you worry once you put your music out about its influence or legacy?

Elizabeth: Not really, I think if you think about things like that it’s counterproductive. It’s really difficult to try and write songs when you’re thinking about what people might think of them. So you have to put all that stuff out of your head. About the lyric, there are some songs that I love so much and I worry that I’ll never feel that kind of love for a song again. But then you always do and something will blow you out of the water when you least expect it. I’m happy to say that lyric isn’t true, but that’s something I worry about sometimes.

SSv: What are you most proud of with the new album?

Elizabeth: It sounds the way that we wanted it to. The first album, we recorded so fast and we had only been a band for a couple of months. The second album, we didn’t want to disappoint people so we took a lot longer recording it. I just have this memory of sitting back in the studio and hearing the playback of “Europe” and it just sounded exactly the way I wanted it to and I almost started crying. I was just very happy because it had been a long time in the making. I was very proud at that point.

SSv: How did your recent U.S. tour go? How are the shows different on this side of the pond?

Elizabeth: It was incredible, I think it was my favorite tour we’ve ever done. We loved being with the Wave Pictures and seeing them play every night. I think it’s different in the States because of the way that American people are, which is incredibly effervescent and enthusiastic – almost like puppies. Really enthusiastic and not naïve, but just over the moon and excitable. That really translates in a live environment and we just loved it.

We got to play lots of places in the Southwest that we’d never been before and go back to places that we loved to play as well. I can’t say enough, we just really love playing the States and we hope that we can come back again. It’s very expensive for foreign bands to come play in the States, but it’s so worth it when you actually get there.

SSv: How would you characterize your fans?

Elizabeth: You know I honestly couldn’t characterize them at all. We get 12 year old girls who come to our shows with their dads who both want things signed. Or we get people in their 60s. It’s impossible to generalize our fans, that’s kind of the odd and really nice thing about it. It’s really nice to appeal to a broad market, it makes us feel good.

SSv: How do you think that happened? What have you guys done in terms of promotion?

Elizabeth: We’re very much a word of mouth kind of band. We’ve never been hip or hyped, we just love playing shows quite a lot. I think that’s been beneficial because that means people find out about us through their friends. Through a way that’s a real recommendation which is really nice. I guess its all kind of been through the live shows – we’ve played an awful lot over the last three years. We’ve become the band that we are because of playing so much.


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