THE MORNING AFTER GIRLS

25 Feb

THE MORNING AFTER GIRLS

“Good Morning, Good Morning!”

What do we think of when we think of The Morning After Girls? Guitars? Australia? Melodies that seem to extend for miles and miles, disappearing into the horizon, where they are ultimately reclaimed, re-purposed and reborn for the next gorgeous song about falling, human nature and love?

Sure – all of those things. But also the Marquis de Sade.

Specifically, words spoken by de Sade in the Peter Weiss play, “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.” Specifically, these words:

“And now I see where you revolution is leading – to the withering of the individual man, to the death of choice, to uniformity … and so, I turn away … I step out of my place, and watch what happens, without joining in – observing, noting down my observations.”

Certainly, the straight-mackin’ Marquis knew a little something about pleasure and pain (as do The Morning After Girls). But what Weiss’ words bring forth is the notion of the observer, the watcher, the fool on the hill, if you will – the alone. Interested, invested, intrigued – but still alone. That’s the feeling I associate most closely with The Morning After Girls’ tremendous album, “Alone.”

Three of the boys who are Girls – Martin Sleeman, Alexander White and E.J. Hagen – were kind enough to answer our questions and help us to not feel so all alone.

For many American weirdos, our knowledge of Australian contributions to the world of rock and roll begins somewhere along the line with The Bee-Gees and AC/DC, then maybe continues along to Radio Birdman and … well, you get the point. In this age of instant Internet communication, why do you think Australia continues to persist as somewhat of an “exotic” locale for rock musicians to originate? What treasures of the Australian music landscape are we missing that we should catch up on?

Martin: I don’t think that Australia does “persist as somewhat of an exotic locale” really. I don’t think it’s something that any whole place can actually enforce, you know? I think that there will always be some spectators who enjoy drawing correlations between one thing and another in order to suck all the uniqueness out of an artist. All the artists you mention, and many more, have a uniqueness all their own, regardless of their origin. Nevertheless, for the sake of this question, I sometimes wonder whether what gives some Australian bands a commonality, are the ones which have moved away from Australia to spend a long period of time (or their journey) in another place, perhaps more often than not, 10,000 miles away. Most of the places, thoughts, ideas, experiences that people have never seen for themselves, gain more labels of “mystery” or whatever because they are simply unknown. It’s unfair for me to describe Australia as a country in a way that properly answers your question, so I can only say go there (when you can) and experience it for yourself.

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Alex: As a non-Australian, I can tell you, from an outsider’s perspective, that Australia has been a bit misunderstood as a country thanks to goofy people like Paul Hogan, Steve Irwin (God rest his soul), and those wicked Outback Steakhouse commercials. But Oz is forging a new identity in the world — especially through music. A band like Tame Impala shows that an Australian band can make music that’s not geocentric.

EJ: Aussie bands? There was a band called Afterglow that I’ve always liked. They really wanted to be Ride in my opinion. Pretty dead-on vocally on a few tunes. Afterglow’s “Fall Behind” 7-inch, a “The Real Thing” 45 by Russell Morris, Bee Gees’ first, and a few Sugargliders and Easy Beats 45’s are the only vinyl of Aussie bands I’ve got that I can think of off the top.

Then again, The Morning After Girls are hardly an Australian band at this point – I believe the band currently resides in NYC. What was the reasoning behind the shift in continents? What advantages has the move provided? What has been the biggest unforeseen obstacle to life in the big city? Our limited knowledge on this topic suggests that visas and passports are, generally, a colossal pain in the ass.

Alex: I believe Martin, Sacha, and I moved to New York City for the same reasons—because we love the energy and opportunities, and also because of its location. It’s the ideal place to be if you want to travel the states, Canada, Europe and the U.K. without spending 21 hours on an airplane. Visas are an almost constant concern for musicians visiting from out of the U.S. without a Green Card. But rules are what they are and at the moment they are strict. You just have to have your papers in order and prepare to deal with immigration
officials. You have to play along with the game and hope you don’t end up in some USCIS dungeon.

EJ: Advantages of the lads moving nearby, for me, would be I still get to live in my house, hang in my locals with my mates when not busy, work on things I need to get done. I’m probably not the right one to ask.

Not to be confrontational at an early juncture in the interview process, but not only is this supposed “Australian” band not currently residing down under, but we also have it on good authority that there are currently NO girls in the band, whatsoever. Do you care to comment on these allegations? How can you possibly explain yourself?

EJ: There are no girls in the band? That’s false advertising, yeah?

Alex: Well, my only reply is that I think it’s a brilliant name, so it shouldn’t go to waste despite the fact that we’re all chaps. I mean, there were no monkeys in The Monkees nor zombies in The Zombies. Didn’t hear them get called on the carpet for that!

Continuing on a vaguely related theme … how often does the band’s website get contacted by confused girls looking for information about the morning after pill?

Alex: Never. We encourage them to contact the band members individually for counseling.

Martin: The girls who contact us are never confused.

EJ: I’ve never heard of this happening either. To quote a movie, “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever,” isn’t it?

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One of the things often commented on regarding the music of The Morning After Girls is the very dynamic nature to your sound – even the most prominent influences seem to be encrypted in a way that keeps listeners on their toes. There are shades of your influences (or what one might assume are among your musical influences). Is this variance in sound something the band ever discusses as a concept, or does it just happen organically, after years of practice?

Martin: Ever since myself and Sacha developed a relationship, there has been an unspoken understanding regarding what we are trying to convey artistically. We are both very passionate about our belief that the most beautiful facets of life are those which defy description. So, for us to discuss that which makes us “us,” would only serve to deprive our art of its uniqueness. I am influenced by life itself. The intangible nature of what always seems to be just beyond our reach. These things defy discussion, thus accommodating expression through music.

Alex: Well, to my knowledge, in the past, it’s always been an organic process where songs come from jamming out with no expectations. Expectations contradict art.

What does the path of your own musical evolution look like? What was the first music that captured your attention in your youth? How do you feel about that music now? What was the first live band that you ever saw, and which live band’s performance was so convincing that you thought, “Ok, I HAVE to do THAT”?

Martin: A path such as the one I think you’re referring to does not look like anything; it cannot be seen. I was brought up with classical music from as far back as i can remember. I used to get to my grandfather’s classical concerts every weekend. He played in an orchestra that did charity events for the mentally handicapped. These times I guess shaped my appreciation for the ways that music can reach so many people. My mother gave me an old HMV suitcase-record player when I was very young, and all she had was an ELO record, an Elton John record, and I was given “Electric Warrior” by T-Rex from my best friend of that time. Right now, the music that makes the most sense to me would have to be Bach, Rachmaninoff, Chopin. It’s retained an untouchable beauty that will always fascinate me. The first show I ever saw was Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Gondoliers.”

Alex: My first concert was The Kinks in 1993 at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia. I know Martin’s first concert was Elton John, which makes me jealous. The first band I saw live where I said, “That looks like a good career,” was The Charlatans U.K., sometime in the 90’s.

EJ: Loaded question. A.) Great B.) 80’s hip-hop C.) Music now is a bit OCD. It’s hard to find bands that write songs instead of odd parts thrown together. I blame “OK Computer.” “The Bends” was brilliant. Very well written songs. D.) Teenage Fanclub in a high school gym in like ’89ish while I was in a very poor part of West Virginia fixing peoples’ roofs in a church youth group.

What thought does the band put in to the format and form of its releases? What tells The Morning After Girls that its time to put out an album, versus an EP versus scrapping the song all-together? Will you take the stand that vinyl is killing the MP3 industry?

Martin: It’s a necessary beast in today’s society that one must give thought to format, etc. Xemu Records give a lot of consideration to creating releases that convey a high level of stylistic beauty to suit a band’s music. That was one of the many reasons why we felt so comfortable in committing to them.

Alex: Exactly. A lot of thought goes into everything from the track listing to the booklet layout and packaging. Sacha and Martin have strong opinions and plan the releases in every detail.

EJ: Vinyl is really the only format now.

What music have you been listening to lately? Push comes to shove, what’s your favorite song by The Warlocks?

Alex: Personally, I’ve been listening to the same Beatles, Stones, Kinks trifecta I have since I was small. More contemporary bands I listen to are Dead Meadow, Doves, The Charlatans, Spiritualized, Telefon Tel Aviv, Bernard Butler, Zero 7, The Quarter After, Darker My Love and MGMT. I’m on a hiatus from Blur, Oasis, Suede, and The Stone Roses. I really dig The Warlocks, but I can’t choose a favorite because there are too many I like. “Shake the Dope Out,” “Baby Blue,” “Red Camera” and “Midnight Sun” all rank high. I watched The Warlocks play live almost every night when we toured together — so I’ve seen them some 30 odd times.

EJ: I listen to me and Alex’s other band Highspire to try to come up with video ideas and to hear what I don’t like. There’s not much I don’t like so I keep listening to try and find something. Also, a German shoegaze band called Malory I’m friendly with. When they’re hitting all cylinders they are about as powerful a live show it gets.

You’ve now finished recording your next full-length, entitled “Alone.” What can we expect from this album? What are the album’s distinguishing characteristics in your view? Is it true that you have sold your soul for rock and roll, and a true title of the album is “A Loan”? Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe said the following: “The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.” Your thoughts?

Martin: Beauty can only be experienced alone.

Alex: A Loan … that’s funny and more true than I can say. If it’s a loan, guess that means you eventually get your soul back, right? Rock ‘n’ roll is a cruel mistress and if you’re not careful, the ambition associated with it can ruin all the relationships in your life and make you into an opportunistic monster. When that begins to happen, that’s when you know your soul has a clearance price tag affixed to it. What to expect from the album is to let it grow on you because it reveals itself rather slowly. The vocals and guitars sound wonderfully pristine thanks to the work we did with Mr. Alan Moulder. But this album requires several listens through because the song melodies are more sophisticated than the “Evolve” album but they’re no less beautiful. People nowadays, myself included, tend to listen to new music the way record executives did in the l980’s – like, “You get 30 seconds to impress me or I’m throwing your demo tape out the window of my ostentatious limousine.” I’m asking people not to think that way when listening to “Alone.”

EJ: “Alone” is a great album. It’s why I joined up.

What’s next for The Morning After Girls?

Martin: We are finalizing plans to embark on a tour of the United States, followed by tours through the U.K. and Europe. As well, working on the next album.

Alex: Xemu Records released our album in North America on CD and vinyl LP on January 11, 2011. In the U.K. and Europe it’s being released through Cargo Records on March 14. After that, we hit the road. If we don’t tour soon I’m pretty sure I’m gonna die and take some people with me. Friend us on Facebook and you can see the announcement seconds after it’s made.

The Morning After Girls

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