Interview: Kneeling Appreciatively in the Church With No Magic, PVT.

Australian soundscapists are hardly ten-a-penny and Pivot are one in two. In fact the internet wasn’t big enough for the both of them, so Richard Pike’s troupe dropped the vowels and became reincarnated as PVT. Church With No Magic, the trio’s forthcoming LP could therefore be construed to be their debut almost and it sees Pike toying with hazy, ethereal vocals, becoming the band’s focal point, the front man he’s consistently threatened to become. Speaking the innumerable benefits of signing to the seminal Warp Records, the inevitable perils of that dirty word Myspace, and skirting about American lawsuits, it’s a joy to have Pivot, sorry, PVT back...

Dots: Once Pivot, what happened to the vowels?

Richard Pike: It turns out there’s a band in the States that have the same name so rather than contest them for it through US law, we decided it was easier to opt for the name change. After speaking with a lawyer, it seemed the best option. Despite this other band just being timewasters to be honest... It was a tough decision, and we thought about it for quite some time but we’re now PVT for legal purposes.

Dashes: And when talking pronunciation, are we still supposed to say Pivot, or is it PVT, or is it spoken phonetically? Not that a written interview does too much to dispel said doubt...

RP: It’s usually just PVT. But the complicated thing is that we can still be Pivot in every other territory in the world although over in the US we have to be Pivot, no sorry PVT... I don’t really know what to say besides the fact that we can be called Pivot when talking etc. but when it comes to print and internet stuff we have to be PVT.

Dots: Thanks for clearing that up, at least for me... Looking back over the period over which you’ve been away, obviously writing and recording Church With No Magic, how do you feel you’ve progressed as a band?

RP: I guess we feel significantly more mature now, and we’ve become far more comfortable with experimental songwriting. These days we don’t really feel as though we have anyone to impress particularly so we took a few more risks, which was liberating yet at the same time, we feel as though we still have a fair few things we ought to try out, places to go musically so every record feels like a step in the right direction towards that general aim...

Dashes: I suppose in terms of the sounds contained within the forthcoming album, as well as the aforementioned name change, you seem to have gone in a slightly, if not radically different direction. How conscientious have such changes been?

RP: It’s been pretty natural, as we started using the odd vocal here and there when we’d be improvising live so that felt like a good thing, and then we just kept on trucking down that path. We definitely wanted Church With No Magic to pertain more to the live sound as in the space of about 18 months we’d done about 150 gigs, more gigs than we’d ever done before so in some ways we loosened up musically, and we wanted to capture that in the studio.

Dots: With contemporary music being a constantly evolving entity, how do you feel that music over the past few years has changed, both in terms of your musical outlook as well as the music industry in itself?

RP: First and foremost I think some bizarre things have happened, obviously primarily because of technology and the internet. And that works on several levels; people talk about technology being in the hands of the common people, so anyone and everyone can get their hands on recording gear economically and easily now which is true to a certain degree, which has developed some interesting things. At the same time however, with the internet, even though Myspace has levelled the playing field for many a budding musician, it’s also become a complete and utter wasteland so obviously it’s from this cultural shift that’s arisen this predicament we’re in, having stumbled across this band with the same name. Obviously ten years ago we could have both coexisted, so long as our paths never crossed but now anyone can latch onto Myspace I suppose so the internet gives and it takes.

Dashes: Of course the internet does have both positive and negative connotations on how we perceive music. But then I suppose the crux of the matter is how to remain relevant. Have you found it in any way difficult to not only become but also maintain a reputation as a band that people do see to be consistently relevant?

RP: That’s particularly tricky to answer, because of course you want to feel as though your music is relevant, but it’s not really up to us I guess as we can merely create music that we deign to be relevant and I think we’re capable of doing that. But whether it floats to the surface in the long term, well, I don’t think that’s really up to us..!

Dots: With Pivot/PVT having been around and about making music for a decade or so, how interesting and perhaps difficult has it been to chart the successes, and consequential failings of bands that have been and gone, or stuck around over similar time scales to you?

RP: Well, I think that’s interesting, particularly having got to know fellow Australian musicians who have gone through different bands, some garnering huge success, others in bands that’ve broken up before passing on to pastures new so it’s more interesting than difficult I suppose... I guess that’s just life really, seeing how things occur around you and after ten years, you get the benefit of hindsight really

Dashes: Referring back to Antipodean artists, there seems to be a tendency of sorts in bands coming over to the UK and attracting a fair amount of attention that’s perhaps more significant than that achieved back on the other side of the world. Do you feel as though that’s been the case for you?

RP: I think most Australian bands either want to break the UK or the US to a certain degree, or at least give it a shot and it can be quite a difficult feat to achieve, both in terms of distance and expense. Logistically, it’s still quite taxing, despite the world feeling smaller due to communication ameliorating but it does feel quite hard for Australian bands still, to come over and make their mark in somewhere like the UK. You always have this voice at the back of your mind, questioning whether the British are actually going to care once you get over there, because we’re not one of them. That maybe sounds a bit paranoid but you hear stories of Nick Cave’s The Birthday Party coming over here because they thought the punk scene was more vibrant than it was in Melbourne, so came over here only to find that the punk scene had swallowed itself whole and ended up living in hovels, becoming junkies. So that rock’n’roll history always lurks in the doldrums of your mind although it’s paid off eventually for Nick Cave. He stuck it out and made it in the end. Although thankfully that sort of degradation is yet to happen to us...

Dots: Having spent a couple of years in the company of the infamously impeccable Warp Records, how do you feel you’ve reaped the benefits of being on such an incredibly influential label?

RP: It’s been amazing really and I think in many ways it’s given us a license to do whatever we want musically, as they’ve always been a challenging label that’s never pressured us into attempting to pen hit singles, or any of the similar clichés that spring to mind when you think of record labels. But at the same time, there’s a fair bit of cult baggage that comes with it, primarily because of what Warp represents to so many avid music listeners so when we were first signed, there was that initial fear amongst purists that they’d gone and signed yet another guitar band in place of the electronica for which they first became renowned. All credit to Warp, they’ve done whatever they wanted, right from the very beginning and that hasn’t changed. They still want to sign up challenging music...

And finally, presumably there’s no more moniker altercations on the horizon, or at least until the next record. What are the imminent plans of PVT?

RP: Extensive, excessive touring. Australia for a launch tour, then back over in Europe and then we’ll crash land back in the UK at the end of September.

It’s a bold move to entitle a record Church With No Magic, given the loaded connotations of blasphemy and perhaps self-depreciation. But then it’s a bolder move stepping out of the shadows of murky instrumental electronica and becoming a fully-fledged band, equipped with new name’n’all, pivoting on falsetto vocals and guitars. When signed to Warp Records. Now PVT once Pivot, the undying ambition behind the trio’s latest long player is contagious, the congregational opening psalm-like coos of Community sounding akin to Simian Mobile Disco leading communion in Canterbury Cathedral, before the plonking synths of Light Up Bright Fires drop like globules of extraterrestrial gorgeousness into the sort of rabid instrumental barrage we’ve longed for ever since Battles went and hibernated. For Church With No Magic recalls some of the greatest progressive acts of the past decade or so, from the stoner thuds and dulcet vox of Secret Machines (Light Up Bright Fires), to the incessantly scatty electro of LCD Soundsystem (Church With No Magic) and the glitched howls of Animal Collective (Window) and it’s this amalgamation of universally lauded inspiration that powers the trio’s third outing. Crimson Swan is emotionally, terrifyingly symbiotic, flittering between major and minor key patterns at brain-curdling velocities, Waves & Radiation is the gritty neo-realism of Nine Inch Nails churned up with kaleidoscopic synths that shriek and cascade like a Mini Moog tumbling down the Grand Canyon and Circle Of Friends evokes a similar melancholy to the wily reverb of Local Natives, Richard Pike’s celestial vocal sustain wafting delicately over throbbing swells of synth, arpeggiated clarity and sabre-toothed guitars. Timeless is the Organ Donor on a jittering comedown, whilst whimsical closer Only The Wind Can Hear You writhes in triumphant denouement. Abridged moniker, expanded aspirations, PVT have created a record so gargantuan you’ll struggle to squeeze its essence alone into your cerebrum.