Sometimes you never really know what sort of direction an interview will take, until suddenly you’re straddling the line between existential crisis and the joy of A-grade banter. This is pretty much what went down when Music Feeds got the chance to catch up with 2/3rds of electronic outfit PVT, who are set to return with their (long awaited) album New Spirit. Down the line of a scratchy speaker phone, brothers Laurence and Richard Pike gave us the run down on the lead-up to the album’s release, their questions about the Australian identity and why you can’t separate art from politics.
“Insanity. Clinically we are insane”, laughs Laurence when explaining why PVT are continuing to pursue creative endeavours. “Maybe we are, but we don’t really know how to do anything else, we’re pretty useless otherwise”. Despite their tone being overwhelmingly jovial and relaxed, there’s a real sense of sincerity to their response. “In all seriousness, we’ve always loved playing music and we made it a vocation. It’s been over 10 years since we released our first record with PVT so it’s all we do now. It’s all we are,” Laurence continues before being (ever so politely) interrupted by his brother, apparently lurking somewhere in the background. “We’re also massively under-qualified as gardeners.”
As the conversation continues it gets harder to distinguish Laurence from Richard (or, as it were, Richard from Laurence). But, as their creative energy bounces through the room, it does give a glimpse into their creative process. Speaking of time in the studio, New Spirit also marks the end of an unofficial hiatus for the band, although Richard admits, they don’t really see it that way. “It doesn’t feel like we’ve had time off”.
But time off they did have, at least in a physical sense, with their last album, Homosapien, released back in 2013. “I guess in terms of time off from PVT, touring-wise we definitely did,” Richard adds, “but in all honesty, we probably would have done the album sooner if things aligned better. It just took a while to get this new record off the ground. We actually finished the record within a year, maybe 18 months or so, it was more everything else around the record that was really affecting the overall process. It’s really great to finally have it out there and ready”.
PVT – Another Life
Although the structure of the music industry is changing, especially in regards to the release and distribution of electronic music, PVT, as an outfit, still firmly believe in the traditional album structure. “It was actually one of the driving things when we made our first record. When I was young I really wanted to make great records. It was never about writing hits it was about making the ultimate statement on a record. We still do that, we’re still excited by that idea and I really hope that the concept of the record doesn’t die. We’re really, sort of, flying the flag for that,” says Laurence.
Ever optimistic, or perhaps more accurately realistic, about what could be next for the band, he continues, “On the other hand, I’ve kind of embraced the fact that you can now release a record any number of ways. We’re embracing that a little by releasing a nine-minute song and doing a video with that because you don’t really need to be restricted by a three-minute pop song anymore, you can do what you want and reach out to the audience who will dig it and come with you”.
The nine-minute song in question is ‘Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend’. Even before watching the video, the track conjures up images of a mystical journey into some sort of abyss. The accompanying clip continues this theme, depicting a camouflaged individual stomping across various landscapes, blending so effortlessly into the world around them.
The idea? Just to do whatever they wanted to do, explain both brothers. “The song didn’t have to be a particular type of song or have a particular structure – particularly for this record. It didn’t have to have drums on it, or vocals on it, it’s so much more about developing a kind of sonic world, which is really what we’ve aimed to do with every record. We really wanted to build the narrative within that world.”
Laurence, who also produced the video, continues, commenting more on the purposeful inclusion of such an epic track on the album. “I guess it is a little bit provocative especially because it is that nine minutes long, but hey, it’s nine minutes just because it felt good. When it feels good we really saw no reason not to, we saw no reason to really edit it down in any way. With the video, the director and I sort of made it up as we went along, but the overall idea is that there are people who can be in plain sight of you but don’t have a voice or are invisible to certain elements within the environment”.
This particular theme of voice and identity is something that runs as a constant throughout New Spirit, particularly in regard to the Australian identity, or perhaps evidently, a lack thereof. “It’s a theme in the record. New Spirit is largely about exploring Australia’s identity and where Australia is as a country. The idea that people try to segregate what it means to be Australian and what the Australian spirit is”.
But would they call it a political album? Richard weighs in. “It’s a tough one because we feel like we’re not trying to make a political statement but there’s also this argument that anything you do artistically, especially on the ground we’re walking on, it really does become political. What’s going on in Australia right now is probably a period of change and we’re dealing with how to understand it and process it. Really, without trying, our themes and lyrics became more political.”
On the role of politics within electronic music Laurence adds, “We kind of feel like we have an obligation. Whilst we’re trying to push boundaries musically with what we do, if we’re going to have lyrical content there needs to be some sort of meaningful conversation there. What better themes to talk about than what it means to be Australian and who we are as a people? At the moment it would almost be irresponsible of us, as artists, to talk about anything else”.
PVT – Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend
New Spirit is a thoughtful musical commentary on themes that ultimately hit close to home for all of us. “We don’t write throwaway party songs,” says Richard. “There’s something heavier going on that we want to explore.” Thankfully fans won’t have to wait too much longer, to finally dissect explore the metaphorical intricacies when New Spirit is released this week.
‘New Spirit’ is out February 17th and PVT will tour nationally in late February and March. See those dates here.