Text by Anthony Thomas
PVT, pronounced Pivot but spelt without the vowels (some shitty band and their lawyers from the US got all high and mighty on their patent horse back in 2010), is the creative vision of brothers Richard and Laurence Pike and Dave Miller. It’s a vision that, for the past eight years, has stood proudly at the forefront of Australian experimental music. Their penchant for reinvention since their debut has kept fans eagerly guessing with each new release, as the music press scramble to create their latest eloquent descriptor. Fourth offering, Homosapien, doesn’t deviate from this pattern. Released earlier this month, the album is a predictably unique collage of sounds that stands boldly in sonic territory not only new to the band but where few others dare, nor have the skill to venture into. I got Richard on the phone to get the lowdown on the all things Homosapien. Note; the first minute of the conversation was degraded beyond recognition due to background noise but essentially entailed pleasantries and a question enquiring about where they recorded the album…
RP: …it was a huge mansion on a sheep station, with fifty sheep out the back paddock. Then towards the back of that paddock there was a dam with a hill overlooking the whole area. It was really nice to be able to get out the city. It was the first time we’ve actually done a record outside of the city.
MM: Cool. Why the isolation on this one?
RP: When you’re in town you’re always on the clock in studios, the pressure can be quite extensive. We wanted to take our budget for the record and spend on somewhere where we could take our time and call our own shots. It was literally just us and our sound engineer and we basically set up a mobile studio that we worked from.
MM: You’ve apparently taken a more focused direction with this album. Is that the case?
RP: [laughs] Um, we’ve definitely always been focused. I’m not quite sure how to answer that. We always just do what we do and try and make it as good as it can possibly be. I feel it is a very different direction from the last record and it probably has a clearer focus, yes. But again it’s a direction that we needed to go in.
MM: Why’s that?
RP: Every record we make tends to be a reaction to the last one, what we did or didn’t like about it and how to bounce off that to move into another direction. Church With No Magic, was a really intense record and we wanted to do something a bit calmer. Homosapien, still has intensity but in a different way. Church, was like taking a big shit. It really felt like something we needed to get out of our system and I mean that in a real sort of emotional way. After we got it out of our system, we wanted to be a bit more open, calm and warm with this one. Human was the word we started using pretty early on, hence the album title.
MM: Was that human theme a big part of the decision to put emphasis on the lyrically side of things?
RP: Yeah, definitely. Early on I wrote a song called Evolution and that kind of became the blueprint for the direction of the record. Lyrically, it’s about personal evolution as well as society and the direction of humanity as a whole. Which is a pretty big thing to take on and by some standards maybe the song doesn’t even touch upon that but it’s what I wanted to attempt to do. Thematically, the album developed after evolution became a strong ‘touchstone’ word early on. Then I saw the words, homo sapien (two words) which is the proper Latin term, at an exhibition for a museum in Italy. It was sort of like being in the cradle of civilisation when I saw those words, and it made sense to me what these songs I was working on were about that.
MM: Would calling it a concept album be taking it too far?
RP: [laughs] Yep, but we always try to find some kind of theme or lubricant. Perhaps lubricant was the wrong word… We always want the record to have a thumbprint, an idiosyncratic sound to it to help guide us in a direction with various words or themes.
MM: Do you think die-hard fans who have been with you from the start will be shocked by the new sound?
RP: I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. Everyone always seems to have opinions about anything we’ve done, even from the first record. One of our missions is to always outdo ourselves and go somewhere we haven’t been before, to try something different. That’s something, to be really honest, that isn’t loud enough in Australia. It’s something, I personally think, not enough artists are encouraged to do. Our first record was essentially a jam band, we didn’t know how to record and it was all self-produced.
MM: Kind of like jumping in the deep end?
RP: To a certain degree. If you feel like you’ve been in the same territory before, there’s always that fear that creatively you go static and, eventually, boring. We always need to shake shit up on every record. Maybe the next one will be our medieval album?
MM: [laughs] I read somewhere just before that “Richard has been instilled as the group’s frontman.” Seems a little dramatic, thoughts?
RP: To be really honest, a lot of that is our record label or manager trying to dramatize things [laughs] and definitely needs to be taken with a grain of salt. At the same time, these songs are some of the strongest songs we’ve written for sure and we want people to listen to the lyrics. On Church, we went on an exploration with the lyrics and maybe they were overlooked a little bit because it became about the sound of the record. Hold up, I’m sorry but I’m out on the street and there is this ice-cream van driving past… And I’m back.
MM: Sweet. Are you excited about the tour?
RP: Yes! We did those supports for Gotye last year but before that I can’t even remember the last time we did our own headline tour. Three or four years, I have no idea. We’re keen to get back to Perth. We’ll probably stay with Dave’s parents place. His dad has a poolroom with a TV and VHS plater. He only has old VHSs from the 90s with the complete Seinfeld on them. So essentially, we play pool and watch Seinfeld recorded off TV, 90s ads included the entire time. Should be good!
MM: Actually sounds great man! Any more videos coming off the album?
RP: The clip for Vertigo is the latest. We worked with a fantastic director by the name of Clemens Habicht; he did a video for us awhile ago for the track called Window. For this one, he basically put us in the back of a van that he turned into a little studio…how do I put it, it looks like a sound-proofed room and we’re playing in the back of that while he drives. It’s all in slow motion and it’s all in 3D. And he wasn’t very nice to us with his driving. We got thrown about, to say the least.
MM: No one was injured?
RP: No one was injured but we got a few bruises.
MM: I might leave that one there Richard. Thanks for taking the time, best of luck on the tour!
RP: Cool. Thanks. Take care man!