Words by Aksel Nichols - Published on March 21, 2013
Musical pioneers PVT are back home in Australia, touring here for the first time in over two years. Coming off an outstanding year, touring internationally with bands such as Gotye and Menomena, they have just released the critically acclaimed Homosapien. We had a chat with percussionist Laurence Pike about the recording process, what we can expect from their live shows and their continually evolving sound.
You just released your fourth album Homosapien, and that was recorded in an isolated, rural, 19th century mansion, which I guess is a bit of an unusual location to record such an electronic, modern sound. How did that compare to recording your previous albums?
Well it’s obviously pretty different than being inside a dark, closed in studio. I don’t think necessarily the building, or the location, hugely impacted upon the sound of the record necessarily. That wasn’t really why we went there; it wasn’t to take something from the actual location. I mean we were happy for that to happen, but more than anything it’s a matter of being able to be in the same space together and live together. Maybe being isolated influenced the pace of the record. That was something we were aiming to do, to be more patient with the music and ideas, leaving room for things to breathe. Being out in the country side made it a bit easier.
There’s a pretty big variety of emotions conveyed on the album, did that reflect the recording process at all?
Of course. Was it an emotional rollercoaster you mean? Well yeah, to be honest a lot of the songs came out of periods where we finished touring the previous record and we did two or three months in the US and Europe. We came home and we were cut off from each other and just from kind of being in a band. So I think that created a weird space in our lives of being sort of ignorant to the writing process. I mean I know for a fact that after we finished the album we came to a bit of a standstill. It happens all the time, when you’re very busy you just fall into a hole and don’t know what to do with yourself. I found myself getting quite down. In a big way, writing became a way of dealing with it, so I think there’s a lot of that feeling of anxiety potentially evolving into some sort of feeling of acceptance. I hear that in a lot of songs. I feel that acceptance turned into an overall theme in them. Then strangely, when we started playing the songs live it felt like the band was in a good place. Our last tour, I felt like we were playing really well, all getting along, and we worked pretty well together as a band. We’re moving into this new period of our lives, and it’s quite exciting, because the band is constantly moving forward into something new and I think that reflects us as people as well.
Your sound has been constantly evolving over the years. Was that a conscious decision to change, or did it just happen naturally?
I don’t know how you could consciously decide those things. That’s the funny thing we constantly seem to contend with, and people struggle to understand our history in that regard. For us the idea of doing the same thing over and over again is very distant from what we want to be doing. The one thing that connects all our albums more than anything, more than sounds, energy or feeling, is an attitude, and that attitude is to do whatever we want and we do whatever excites us. We sort of have an inbuilt mechanism which is to just always keep pushing on.
It seems that a lot of bands find what works for them and then just stick with it, releasing the same stuff over and over again, but you guys have really avoided doing that.
Yea, well we’re musicians I guess. We’re artists. We want to produce a body of work that has meaning to us and hopefully in 20 years’ time still sound good. I think you need to always make things in this headspace where you don’t really know what you’re doing. Anytime we’re too surefooted about something it’s going to backfire, and turn into something of a bore. Plenty of artists that we love and admire have always worked like that, and they’re the ones that stick around and have some longevity. You could sit around and devise the most calculated, set genre, fashionable blog record that you could possibly conceive, but that would just be complete horse shit. Who the fuck would want to listen to that, there’s so much of that crap already. You’ve just got to be honest with yourself and do what you feel is the way forward and what excites you, and that’s how it’s always worked. We’ve always had that attitude and it’s our job; our job is to keep moving forward, find new ways to say things, and not let it get stale. Ultimately we’d love to do this for decades, if we can. We’re in for the long game. It’s not that we’re trying to be deliberately difficult about it or anything like that. I don’t want our music to be difficult; I want as many people to listen to it as possible.
Who would you say are some of your biggest influences?
At the moment? I don’t know, it’s sort of a funny thing because we all listen to so many different kinds of music. There are definitely people I always return to, like David Bowie, Miles Davis or Autechre. I think everyone has got something to say, that’s what I tend to gravitate towards. I appreciate it on some levels but I tend to avoid returning to music that is very style or aesthetically based. I’m more a fan of people who have got something to say and not be afraid to explore the limits of that over a long period of time.
You’re about to start on your Australian tour, and you’ve recently supported some pretty big names like Gotye and Menomena. Do you think that being the headline act changes the energy of your shows much?
Absolutely. You have to stretch a set over a much longer period of time and you also get to play for people who you wouldn’t necessarily get to play to in an opening spot, playing to someone else’s audience. The set list changes quite a lot. We’ve been doing lots of support internationally recently, so it’s been a while. I think the last time we played a headline show in Australia was over two years ago, far too long actually, and we’re quite keen to be playing at home a lot more.
One of the big talking points has been the transformation of Richard into the frontman of the band. Has that changed your live shows a lot, and does it mean you play less older material as well?
No, I don’t feel like there’s been a great shift. The live show’s really evolved over the last few years and I think when you have a good dynamic in the band you roll with the shifts and know how to support each other and play to each others strengths. I’m pretty certain there wasn’t a moment when Richard looked himself in the mirror and said “I’m the frontman now”. The previous record had singing on it but we got more safe and patient with ideas, so we’re writing better songs and producing more compact, focused music.
What do you think has been your favourite gig?
There’s a couple, for totally different reasons. One of the first gigs the three of us did in Sydney, we opened for a couple of nights before our album came out. The walls were sweating; I just remember it being really fun. We did a gig at a football stadium in Italy as support for The Chemical Brothers, that was pretty weird. We thought it was some sort of festival, but when we turned up it was literally a football stadium filled with ten thousand people and we were main support for The them. It was pretty amazing.
What do you think the future holds for PVT?
I don’t know. What does the future hold for any of us? Well in the immediate future it’s touring this record, but beyond that, we’re already sort of fucking around with new ideas to be honest. I don’t think I ever had any idea what we were doing, but that’s exciting, because it means we’re doing something potentially amazing or potentially awful, but we’re just going to fucking explore it a bit better and see where it leads.
PVT start their national tour this Thursday. For more information on dates and tickets, look here.