Liam Parsons, one-half of the Naarm/Melbourne lo-fi pop institution Good Morning, discusses the duo's new double-single and reflects on the recording of last year's emotional venture, Barnyard.
Following the release of last year's full-length album, Barnyard, Good Morning returns today with the new double-single, "Out to Pasture" / "Misery," alongside the announcement of the upcoming re-issue of their back catalogue on vinyl via Polyvinyl Records.
Comprised of Liam Parsons and Stefan Blair, the new double single arrives after the duo spent endless studio time with the freedom to craft multi-layered recordings, once again indulging in experimentation. Similar to how Barnyard balanced its ambient sketches with the duo's signature incredibly catchy, ramshackle guitar pop and occasional tinge of country, these two new tracks offer a terrific slice of Good Morning's sonic possibilities.
The A-side, "Out to Pasture," channels this best with its swirl of somber strings that accompany the duo's heartfelt vocals and melodic stream-of-consciousness. Its boisterous B-side, "Misery," is amplified by a rollicking banjo, an eruption of horns, and the simple need to just yell. "A lot of my songs are usually about things that make me want to yell, but they don't usually end with me yelling," Parsons said in an exchange through email. "I don't know what pushed it this time, but lyrically, this song explores economic inequality and power imbalance."
We spoke with Parsons more about the new double-single and the new dimensions he and Blair explored together during the recording of Barnyard.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Paperface Zine: Hey Liam! Love the return with the new double-single and I must say, last year's album, Barnyard, is still on heavy rotation at my place. What has the tour been like so far around Australia and what are you looking forward to when you come to North America at the end of March?
Liam Parsons: Howdy! Thanks so much! And it's been good. We managed to do pretty much all except one of the shows which, I'll be honest with you, I didn't think would happen. Not a terrible strike rate. It's been fun to get out and get back to work and they've mostly been pretty decent. North America is going to be pretty wild, and even though we've done it before, I'm not so sure what to expect. We're going to be pretty "on the bubble" which is gonna be a little weird. But we are really excited to attempt to play a bunch of shows in a row and go to some diners though.
I see you guys have been playing tons of shows since the album release last year and even put together a concert film back in January. One show I saw online that stood out to me was the celebration of The Retreat Hotel's comeback last November which had quite a lineup also including Snowy Band, Elsie Lange, Girlatones and more. What was it like playing that gig?
It was pretty weird! It was really nice to turn up and play a show, especially with it not being our show and not having any pressure on us to do anything good or bad or whatever. But it was super packed at the venue which is always pretty weird in this day and age. Also it was filled with 18-year-olds doing drugs in like every conceivable location, which was actually quite charming in a way.
It's great seeing Polyvinyl re-release your back catalogue on vinyl, especially to familiarize newer audiences with your earlier material. Take me through the beginnings of Good Morning and what has the progression been like since your 2014's debut EP Shawcross? Is it hard to believe you've been playing music together for nearly a decade?
I think ultimately we just wanted to put out records because we liked records and it seemed like a nice thing to do, then everything else kind of had to get figured out once we'd made the first one. We didn't have a name or anything, or any idea about how to put out music or that we'd have to form a kind of business thing. We're still kind of dealing with the consequences of our early naivety which is funny. Sometimes it doesn't feel like we've changed at all and sometimes it feels like we've changed a whole lot. I think at its core the project is still exactly the same — just Stefan and I trying to write songs that the other one likes and then hanging around while recording them.
Your most recent album, Barnyard, is an emotional venture into the depths of mortality and existentialism. While it wanders through both strums of loose guitar pop and minimalist experimental pop, it never loses your core sound. What were the recording sessions like?
We recorded at The Loft, Wilco's studio in Chicago, in November 2019 over five days. We'd built up a bank of songs throughout the year that we were ready to dip into. When we got to Chicago we just pulled one out on Monday morning and took it from there and tried our best to figure out which ones worked with which other ones. "Burning" and "Yng_Shldn" were constructed on Thursday and Friday because we realized we had probably taken things a little too far in the strummy rock song direction. We wanted to go back to just being a duo on records after working with our live band for a couple of records so it's generally us putting two things on at a time so it feels a little bit live if possible. We didn't really have a plan for what the record was going to be or how quickly we were going to achieve anything so on that Friday it was kind of a pleasant surprise to us that we'd managed to get twelve songs down. It also was the first time we've ever recorded in a studio and with an outside engineer. It was pretty handy really. We wouldn't have really been able to get it done without Tom Schick I don't think. He was incredibly supportive and ready for anything that we wanted to try. It was just a really lovely few days with my friend in a studio that we'd always wanted to check out, in a city that we like.
Given the album's fearlessness in both its songwriting, crafty textures, and odd layers, did the experimentation feel limitless?
I don't know about limitless due to the fact that we had to work relatively quickly, but definitely having a room full of fun, new-to-use gear to just be able to pick up and record with was super inspiring. I think we're just generally becoming more interested in incorporating other elements into our songs that might not have been there before. Plus we already knew pretty much how most of the songs went so all we had to do was play them and add things to them. I think we thought we'd probably do some sort of editing or mixing of the tracks and maybe not keep every idea we put down on the track but it ended up that we just kept it all.
Today, you released the new double single, "Out to Pasture" / "Misery." Take me through the recording of these two new tracks. When and where were they recorded?
Thanks! They came about pretty organically over the past year. We recorded the bulk of them about a year back when we'd got some new gear that made our studio functional, just as a way to get back into recording after a little break. Then we came back to them a couple months ago and glossed them up a little bit. It's been really nice to be able to take our time recording and not have any deadlines and just pick things back up as we see fit.
I feel like these two new tracks continue your guys' natural beauty and the experimental spirit of Barnyard. Also, what made you want to add violin and horns to "Out to Pasture"?
That was Stefan's idea! We've had horns a bit over the years, but Stefan's dad, Glenn, is a great sax player and is pretty hospitable with our bullshit requests. But the strings were a new texture for sure. I can't speak exactly for what made Steffy want to add them, but I'd have to guess it was because it was to challenge himself to write a string arrangement and also just down to whatever his listening habits have been over the past little while.
Do you plan on playing these songs on the tour and if so, how will they translate live you think?
We've already started putting "Out to Pasture" in our sets, which has gone pretty well so far! We've got our friend Snowy [Liam Halliwell] in the band with us at the moment, and having him play slide and sax has been really beneficial for that one. "Misery" is proving to be a bit more difficult, but we're working on it.
Snowy is one of the best! Can't wait to see how these songs come to life at the Toronto show next month! Also, are these tracks just part of a standalone single or is it hinting at a larger project for the near future?
These are just part of a standalone thing, but there's definitely more that's at various stages of readiness. We've been pretty consistently in the studio for the past year and have amassed a lot of songs. It's getting to the stage of trying to wrap it up. Kind of like with this two-track single release, it's been really nice to have the time to stretch out and slowly chip away at a record and sort of lose our minds on it, but in a nice way.