Not quite the GQ shoot we had hoped, but still impressive
So what if the new name is reminiscent to a leather-like substitute, PVT, the Aussie Warp band we discovered at their humble Cross Kings gig, seem to do no wrong. After blundering to the trio’s performances twice at SXSW; we woahhed our delight at the guitarist’s fresh vocal interplay, their commanding presence and the taunting new material that wouldn’t emerge for a few months. Armed with entertaining banter, PVT’s man in-hiding, Richard Pike aided in the explication of their sophomore return Church With No Magic, while dishing out news of the scrapped Dean Learner music video. Oh, FYI, his “favourite colour is blue” and he likes “whiskey and cigars”.
SS: Can you first explain a little bit about the album’s title, ‘A Church With No Magic’. It almost sounds like a bitter, atheist retort about losing your religious faith. What meaning applies to it?
Richard Pike (vocals, guitars): That’s an obvious interpretation but it’s not meant to be so literal. We like the sound of it, and the idea of a church being an institution; that façade of an institution doesn’t always live up to the ideal and can often lack substance. That doesn’t necessarily have to be religion, it could be anything. It could be music, the internet or the commercial world we are subjected to all of the time. There is a slight cynicism there but also it’s just an idea that came about in the bricklaying process. About facades and what’s real and not real in modern life.
We didn’t know how people would interpret it, besides the obvious religious connotations, we almost didn’t call it that, we thought, “Is it too much using the word “church”? Is it going to set off alarm bells?” Most people are smart enough to realize it’s a metaphor.
SS: The vocal curls and beat-box synth in ‘Church With No Magic’ actually really reminds us of Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’.
Richard: (Laughs) That’s awesome. I’ve never heard of that comparison yet. We love Prince, so maybe there’s something in that. We’d never try making music like him, so it’s a bit odd to hear it’s compared to that. But I’ll always take that as a compliment!
SS: What else can you tell us about this song?
Richard: That was one of the last tracks we worked on. In the whole process of the record, we didn’t have a title, so when we wrote the song, it seemed perfect. I was actually in London and the other guys were in Sydney, (because towards the end of the album we were all separated) and then we came back in the end to mix it. The vocal take in it, is the first demo when I literally wrote the lyrics. When I went to went to recreate it, I couldn’t really get the same feeling as the original demo version. That’s kind of liberating for us as we get a bit perfectionist about it.
SS: If you didn’t have an album name at first, were there continuous themes you tried to follow, maybe shown in the final artwork?
Richard: The themes got more apparent writing towards the end of the record, especially with ‘Church With No Magic’, so we just discussed that theme a lot with our friend who did the artwork. That’s why we like the idea of the camera obscura picture; it’s a trick of the eye. That idea matched the whole idea with Church With No Magic, things having layers of subterfuge, subtle and direct.
SS: The new album was recorded in a basement studio in London, a music room in Paris countryside, and in Sydney. Are there any particular memorable moments from any of the locations?
Richard: I think we went through so many processes we tried everything to get the songs done. When we were in France - I’ve got an aunt and uncle in the countryside - we just stayed there in between touring and we just recorded lots of ideas and finished a few songs (and a couple of remix’s actually). That was pretty amazing, we felt like the Rolling Stones.
SS: ‘Light Up Bright Fires’ has an electronic opening similar to the intro credits of Garth Merengui’s Darkplace. Coincidently you interviewed co-genius of the show, Richard Ayoade last year, how did that pan out?
Richard: Richard’s incredibly self-deprecating; he tends to switch it on even more as soon as we press record. Any question we’d ask him he’d just say how shit he is at being a comic. It’s really interesting talking to him because he’s about our age and loves music and that’s why he directs a lot of video clips (Kasabian, Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys). We were originally going to get him to do a clip [for ‘Light Up Bright Fires’] and he was going to dress as Dean Learner and do a kind of Napoleon Dynamite dance. That was his idea! But he’s just was way too busy. So instead we made a clip for it last weekend.
SS: Can you give us any spoilers?
Richard: Yeah! We did it with Alex Smith, who did our first clip for ‘In The Blood’ and also with some guys from U.V.A. (United Visual Artists), we just went a used a lot of light and lasers and it’s pretty cool.
SS: The whole process of having to name yourselves came up again second time round, but were there any other names that you and the band played around with before settling on Pivot?
Richard: Not really. Pivot kind of formed as a strange jam band, kind of, embarrassingly ten years ago. We did like a radio show and we didn’t have a name (this was with another bunch of musicians that didn’t continue with the group) and we said on air: “if you can think of a name for the band, please call up”. Someone called up with a list of like twenty band names to choose. Some random caller named our band; we didn’t even think of the name ourselves. Unfortunately, there’s a band in the States named that…
SS: You were thoroughly vocally trained from a young age, but you shied away from singing in the first record, why sing now?
Richard: Because we came from such a improvise background; I was just focusing from playing guitar and keyboards that’s how it kind of went. With O Soundtrack, we were all making noise, usually live yelling at each other on stage, so we kinda thought we wanted that element a bit more in our new music and it just developed from there. At the end of the day, maybe it’s a bit selfish of us, but we make music for ourselves to a certain degree so we kind of just wanted to challenge ourselves and use what materials we have around us instead of trying to meet some kind of criteria.
SS: You have a pretty intense live set up; didn’t Dave get electrocuted once while on tour?
Richard: We did this one gig and had this American amp with a step-down transformer which looked like it had been made during the Industrial Revolution - with this metal casing and if you touched it you’d get electrocuted. So we were getting electric buzzes from the head of the base amp and Dave plugged in a line (because we send computer bass), and it fired one of his lines on his computer and I also got a few buzzes too.
SS: Was it all rather dramatic…were you flying to the other side of the stage?
Richard: We were just freaking out getting quite angry that the guy who had hired us all the gear and given us dodgy gear. He fixed it in the end and was all apologetic. The next gig we played in Paris, the sound guy at this venue fixed it for us. After that we like to think he saved our lives and he became our tour sound guy! He started to go on tour with a band called Here We Go Magic and he met them the exact same way he met us. They played at the same venue we did and had problems with the gear - he was there and fixed it.
SS: Ha! Do you think he could have been the saboteur?
SS: You’ve been together for a while so what’s the dynamic of the group, anyone particularly argumentative?
Richard: Laurence [Pike - Richard’s drumming brother], we argue a lot. We know where we are coming from musically, so it’s never really a problem. It’s usually when it comes to business stuff when we annoy the fuck out of each other. Dave’s the most diplomatic. I don’t know how we’d operate without him. He’s the guy who has to listen to our bullshit. He has to listen to our shit emails for a while, says nothing, and then chimes in with “you’re both being idiots”. We’ve got a good balance between us that we rely on.
Words: Gemma Dempster