Pivot - Heart's On Fire
3D’s Cyclone speaks to Laurence Pike of instrumentalists Pivot, the first Australian band to sign to legendary Warp Records.
For an Australian act to sign to the fabled British label Warp is a huge deal – and Pivot did it. What’s more, with O Soundtrack My Heart, they’re one of 2008’s breakthrough electronic bands. Now, following the heavy touring that saw them play Glastonbury, not to mention support Sigur Rós at home, Pivot are returning for the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival.
An exhausted Laurence Pike is excited at how Pivot’s music has evolved. “It sounds big and weird and organic live,” he raves.
The last few months Pivot have resided in London and Laurence – who, incidentally, collects matchboxes on tour – may be homesick. “I still consider Sydney to be my home, but I’m based here because I can’t be homeless,” he quips.
Pivot – currently comprised of Laurence (drums), his brother Richard (guitar) and Dave Miller (programming) – are no overnight sensations. Back in 2005 a very different incarnation of the group debuted with Make Me Love You. The then five-piece subsequently underwent a purge, leaving only Laurence and Richard. They’d rope in Perth’s Miller. (He was also in London ahead of the Pikes.)
In an oblique MySpace post, Laurence claimed his madness drives others away, but today he assures that the departures were less dramatic. “The line-up change is something that was happening over a long period of time,” he explains. “It probably just took us far too long to actually do anything about it. That sort of stuff happens in bands – even bands that have been together for a long time. Musically, it was developing in different directions. You’ve gotta maintain relationships within a band and, as with any relationship, often if you’re not growing in the same direction, things don’t work.
“Rich and I had always been the driving force of the original group and, even when the first record came out, things were already moving in different directions. The album [Make Me] was already a couple of years old to us when it came out. One of the guys had to move overseas and the other two just wanted to do some things.
“When we met Dave Miller, and started working with him in 2006, when he joined the band, that basically provided the [new] direction. It just seemed very logical that that’s where we wanted to head – working with him more and more and less with the other guys. It wasn’t a huge bust-up that happened at rehearsal or anything like that. It just morphed over a couple of years into something else entirely.
“I don’t wanna harp on too much about it [laughs], there’s more I could say, but it seems like it’s in the past now.”
Amid heightened intrigue here in Australia, Pivot 2.0 aligned themselves with Warp, O Soundtrack again cut a year prior to release. “We’ve been big fans of the label for a long time. A lot of their artists have been quite influential on us. I’d go as far as to say that the music that they’ve put out has a good deal to do with the reason that we actually started making electronic music.”
Pivot exploited some informal connections to Warp. (Laurence had collaborated with Prefuse 73.) “We literally came to London last year and hooked up with them and gave them the record just before we mixed it,” he says. “Fortunately, they wanted to release it straight away – they were more or less the first people we played it to – so it happened quite easily and logically.”
Pivot caught the attention of critics with the epic single In The Blood. They then presented the Krautrock-reviving O Soundtrack – complete with cover art by Michel Granger, responsible for the image on Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygène. O Soundtrack has been favourably reviewed in the Guardian, NME and Mojo.
On MySpace Pivot list their influences, spanning the predictable Brian Eno, hip Ricardo Villalobos and the unexpected Arcade Fire. In fact, the trio have divergent interests. Dave is, of course, the techno purist. Richard has formally studied composition. Laurence, “a jack-of-all-trades,” was involved with the experimental jazz combo Triosk, now defunct. Still, with O Soundtrack, Pivot didn’t “let everything just run riot in the music.” It’s a focussed LP.
Reviewers have praised Pivot’s cinematic air, especially on In The Blood, referencing John Carpenter.
Overall, Laurence believes that Pivot achieved their “objectives” with O Soundtrack. “We felt like we made the statement that we wanted to.”
Ultimately, Pivot are unlike most neo prog rockers, as that intentionally “melodramatic” title O Soundtrack would suggest. They have a sense of humour. Pivot gently mock some bands’ pretentiousness. “We’re not very fond of the whole post-rock thing of having to be really earnest and having ridiculously long song titles, so maybe it was slightly tongue-in-cheek in that regard,” Laurence says.
Pivot have commenced their third album, which they hope to finish this summer in Oz. They might preview songs in upcoming shows. “We’ve been thinking about it for a while and [we] actually did a chunk of recording earlier in the year in Sydney, as well as some stuff in London in a room of vintage analogue synths. The thread of the album as such hasn’t emerged yet, but it’s coming together. We’re always trying new approaches to writing. So far the new material has been pretty spontaneous and organic – [with] just the three of us playing in a room and throwing things into the ring, which is quite different to the process of O Soundtrack. I think it will be rhythmically more propulsive and consistent and hopefully not as dense as we have let it get in the past. It’s important for us to keep ourselves guessing. Our approach is that, if we totally understood what we are doing, then we are most likely on the wrong track. So we’re in a good place at the moment.”
With the rise of Modular, Australia is depicted in international music magazines as a nu-rave hub, yet Pivot, like the drum n metal Pendulum, have their own style. They’re indie, they’re electronic, and they’re arty. But Pivot’s antecedents are The Necks, not The Avalanches.
Laurence appreciates why UK journalists invariably ask Pivot about the Australian scene, but he’s baffled when they’re bracketed in with The Presets – Modular’s pop acts are “a world away”. So do Pivot have an Australian sound-
“It’s a tricky one, because obviously we are Australian and that’s where our roots are and we’ve been influenced by the environment,” he starts. “But, certainly, our ambition has always been to make music that’s international as opposed to just Australian – [music] that has some global perspective. It’s important to us in the sense that it’s there, but I don’t think we necessarily go out of our way to be Australian.”
WHAT: O Soundtrack My Heart through Warp / Inertia (limited edition O Soundtrack My Heart 7 Inch single also available) / Play Gaelic Club / Peats Ridge Festival / St Jerome’s Laneway Festival
WHEN: Out now / Saturday 29 November / Tuesday 30 December / Sunday 8 February