INTERVIEW: Josh Morris (THE ELECTORATE)
Offering the perfect antidote to the woes of 2020, Sydney trio The Electorate blend sunny charm with stirring narratives in their relatable brand of sharp and proudly Australian indie tunes. Self-described as bent pop and stemming from decades of evolution since their early days styled as The Templebears, The Electorate, aka Eliot Fish, Josh Morris and Nick Kennedy, wield their effortless charm in the vein of You Am I, Bob Evans and other Aussie indie legends extremely familiar with wearing their hearts on their sleeves while conjuring affable earworms that permeate the soul.
Following an eventful journey from demo-ing their debut album, breaking up, splintering into different bands then playing a one-off benefit, The Electorate have unfinished business, and their brand new (and extremely long-awaited) debut album You Don't Have Time To Stay Lost isn't just the result of sonic and creative exploration; it's quite literally an album decades in the making, as well as a culmination of perseverance and passion. And today to celebrate the new release, Tiana Speter chats with guitarist Josh Morris all things songwriting, gateway bands and the ultimate place to get lost. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hey, thanks so much for having a chat with me today! I suppose it’s most fitting to kick off with the extremely exciting event happening this week – the release of ‘You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost’ of course! How does it feel to be finally at this stage of release, especially given it’s your debut full-length!
JOSH MORRIS: Most welcome! Thanks for asking us. It’s an incredible mix of elation, excitement and exhaustion. We’ve been waiting so long and working really hard to make this as good as it could be. Hopefully that translates to people enjoying it as much as we enjoyed making it.
TIANA: And in terms of the overall album “journey”, there has been quite a backstory to this release, starting with The Templebears diverging and then eventually returning to finish what you all started. How much of that early material stuck around for the end product, and how much of it came after the break away from the band?
JOSH: Of the 11 songs on the album 7 date back to The Templebears, but only 2 of those remained unscathed - Number 1 and Enormous Glorious Girl. The other 5 got pushed around the playground a bit - some had their lunch money stolen and some found themselves wearing a jumper they didn’t start the day with. Others had their names changed, and the some of them came out with better haircuts than they started out with. If I Knew had the whole feel altered, and most of the lyrics re-written. It was somewhat akin to ripping up a perfectly legible page, throwing it up in the air, and seeing how it read with the sentences in a different order. A Good Man was a complete and last minute lyrical rewrite. The rest of the album was fresh. Some were written in the studio - Lost At Sea and Skeleton had never been played live, whilst Decades in A Day, Peanut Butter Jars and Wrong Way Round Up had been played a few times live, but still had plenty of room to grow into the somewhat offbeat residents of the album that they are now.
TIANA: ‘You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost’ is also getting a limited edition vinyl run and cassette, living the literal dream here format-wise. But it’s interesting and very apt actually, The Electorate tunes really seem to have this nostalgic modernity that seems to be just begging to be listened to on physical formats. How did The Electorate’s trademark sound come to be, did you all have a solid idea of how you wanted the band to sound way back in the early days? Or did it kind of progress as you went along?
JOSH: I like that - ‘Nostalgic Modernity’. Quite apt….. We’d been sonically and stylistically disparate in our early days - straddling the desire for indie cred with unrealistic hopes of mainstream success. It was really only in the last year or so before we broke up - a year in which we’d written Number One, Wrong Way Round Up and the previous incarnation of A Good Man, that we’d really started to get a better hold on who we were, and who we wanted to be. So when we reformed all that time later, and found that the gravitational pull from some of those early songs remained, we set about bringing in fresh songs to bolster the numbers. We were really just recording the album for ourselves - to make good on a promise of sorts, so we had no great agenda - other to have fun. We were far looser with ideas and far more open to experimentation on this record than we would have ever been back then. The outro to Mayday, the intro to Hercules, the layering on Skeleton all point to three friends having a great time together and moving toward the construction of the album organically, rather than with any sort of agenda. We have trust and faith in each other now that our adolescent egos would have argued with.
TIANA: There’s a nice blend of maudlin emotives and jaunt on the album, how does a The Electorate song actually come to life? Are they personal narratives, are they a creative form of therapy, or are they just the inevitable result of what happens when the three of you get together to conjure tunes?
JOSH: Thanks. Eliot and I are the main protagonists, but it really becomes a group effort once the song is brought into the rehearsal room, and that’s something that is also explored on the album. Lost At Sea is a full collaboration between the three of us, written over months in a rehearsal room into a song that yields different opportunities and different ideas than either Eliot or I would naturally defer to. I’m so glad that we have that to play with and to explore. On a personal note - songs are an amalgamation of all those things you’ve listed - a creative refuge, a place to carve out sentiment and stories that don’t exist elsewhere and an opportunity to explore that strange and mercurial creative space that songwriting allows. That spark in the initial creative process is still just that, and it’s really only in the rehearsal room that you get to throw some kindling on, and see if the song roars, or splutters.
TIANA: You worked with Tim Kevin and JJ Golden with this release…from Marrickville to California, and some extremely lofty company amongst the two, including Youth Group, Holly Throsby, The Dap-Kings and Soundgarden (be still my beating heart). How did these collaborations come to be, and what was the ultimate affect both these wizards had on the overall album?
JOSH: Tim Kevin was someone we’d known since we’d been the Templebears, back in the 1990s. Nick had played alongside Tim in Knievel with Wayne and Tracey, and had also recorded the first Imperial Broads album with him. I’d loved the Peabody, Buddy Glass and Toby Martin records that Tim had done and it just seemed like he’d be a great fit for what we wanted to do. The affect that Tim had on the album was paramount - he facilitated and encouraged us to throw a lot of mud at the wall, and to then see what should stick and what should never be spoken of again. His methodology in recording, his materials and his approach was such a good fit. He’s a lovely human too and I have a lot of respect for what he does, and why he does it. I don’t think we could have made an album like this with anyone else. Tim also recommended we work with JJ Golden to master the album and when we looked into the work JJ had done, it seemed like a perfect fit to put the icing on the cake.
TIANA: OK, we all like to pretend we don’t play favourites. But! Have you actually got a favourite track or tracks on the album that you’re especially excited about unleashing on the world?
JOSH: I’m constantly shifting - We have a lot of love for Lost At Sea, which we’ve done a clip for, and also for Peanut Butter Jars, Skeleton and Hercules. But really, I’m so happy with how the album sounds as a whole that I’m just keen to share it, and let people find the songs that jag with them. Time for these songs to finally fly the coop.
TIANA: As a band frequently referred to as “indie” and/or “indie pop”, what bands or artists really spurred your musical career back in the day? Was there a gateway artist that led you to wanting to pursue music professionally?
JOSH: It’s a long path to trace - I’d have to start it with The Beatles (so original!) but I think being a kid in the 80s, when weird ruled, I think I will forever have my ear tuned to anything left of centre that still values the strength of a great song. Dry by PJ Harvey and Exile in Guyville were 90s game changers for me, as was Bakesale by Sebadoh and Portishead’s Dummy. All records I still love. Veer off the side of the road into The Sophtware Slump by Grandaddy, It’s a Wonderful Life by Sparklehorse and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Go nuts to Fugazi’s trilogy of In on The Killtaker, Red Medicine and End Hits. Go dancing to Talking Heads Remain In Light and LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver. Wind down or wake up with Neko Case, Nick Drake or Suzanne Vega. All these artists and more continue to be sources of comfort and inspiration.
TIANA: And last but not least, in honour of the new album ‘You Don’t Have Time To Stay Lost’ – what’s your ultimate happy play to get lost in? Whether it’s a good book or a secret ultimate beach hangout, where do you happily get lost when you actually have the time to do so?
JOSH: Right now - at 20 minutes into the day of release, after a crazy week, I’ll choose sleep. Night!
THE ELECTORATE'S DEBUT ALBUM YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO STAY LOST IS OUT IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. FOR MORE INFO, HEAD HERE.
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BY TIANA SPETER