Q&A: Allo Darlin's Elizabeth Morris On Rejecting "Twee," The UK Indie Scene, And Singing Along With Weezer
This May, for the sixth year running, New York will once more be treated to the NYC Popfest, a lovingly curated sugar-rush of indie fizz that brings bands from all corners of the globeand not just Sweden!to celebrate a musical lineage that traces itself back to names like Sarah, Factory and Labrador. These are the songs to hold hands to, though they're not always as innocent as all that.
Case in point: the output of Allo Darlin', a charming, sly quartet from the UK whose second album, Europe (Slumberland), maintains the dreamy mix of clean guitars and verbal incisiveness that mark their many 7-inches. Before they set out across the continent, however, we were able to ask Elizabeth Morristhe band's uke player and winsome lead vocalist (she sings like it's just you and her, out in a sunny meadow) about their idiosyncratic style.
You like to appropriate from other musiciansthe last album quoted Weezer and Johnny Cash, for example. What do you get out of borrowing a lyric or chord progression?
I guess when I was writing those songs for the first album, I really wasn't thinking of anybody hearing them. And I guess my mind just wandered in the process of writing them, alone in my room. That's how those songs ended up in my songs. For so many of us songs soundtrack so much of our life, and a particular song can really make people happy. Like, when we do "Kiss Your Lips," people love singing along in the Weezer bit, because so many people, like me, love that song. And it just fitted I guesswell, that and it really happened of course, my love singing Weezer to me. I think I was inspired a lot by Jens Lekman at the time and his appropriating of chord progressions and samples, and I liked the style. But I haven't written a song like that for a long time.
The new album is called Europe, but two of you are Australian and the other pair is from Kent: what do you know of Europe? (And does the UK count?)
Haha, well that's an interesting question. Of course the UK is a part of Europe, but there is quite a distinction between the UK and what we call "the continent." The UK really has an island mentality, like Australia does. I was in Budapest recently and was a bit overwhelmed with how much horror that city had seen in the last century, and it occurred to me that perhaps why the UK doesn't want to gang together in the whole EU thing so much is because it was never invaded by another European nation in the last century. It never needed its neighbors in quite the same way. Obviously the Blitz happened, but that's different from being occupied. Sorry, that is quite a long and historical answer to your question.
I got my wife hooked with the song "Woody Allen." Any arguments on tour about which of his films is the best?
Perhaps on this tour there will be, because I know Dave Tattersall from the Wave Pictures likes Woody Allen too. I actually really liked his new film, Midnight in Paris. I thought it was funny and warm and it was a nice film to see in the cinema. But it's always going to be Annie Hall for me. I don't know if the other guys in Allo Darlin' watch that many Woody Allen filmswe've actually never discussed it!
Actually, there are many songs that directly address real people, from Henry Rollins to Stephen Hawking, and now Neil Armstrong. What would they make of your odes to them?
I imagine none of them will ever hear them. "Dear Stephen Hawking" we only play in Cambridge now, it's kind of a little tradition. I like to think someone who knows him will play it to him. We're playing Cambridge next week so maybe I'll get lucky. I imagine Henry Rollins would hate his song, but I hope Neil Armstrong would like his.