The first time I saw Lachlan X. Morris play was at the Croatian Club in the back room with no idea what I was getting into. I was sitting on the floor. Safe to say I was crying into my Pavo by the third song. Now it's a year later and I'm sitting again (this time at a table) across from the songwriter. Once again I had no idea what I was getting into – no tears this time though.
Lachlan and his band, The Unholy Communion, are putting on a songwriting festival at the Commons called War On Happiness on the 20th of August. I met him once again to find out what it's all going to be like. I bet it's going to be nice and sad.
So you've been playing for a few years now? Were you always solo?
I started out in this little punk band called The Guppies. That was my first proper band.
I know the name... Did you guys go through Unearthed High one year?
Yeah. It kind of took off before we even knew what it was. We did a bunch of big stuff. It was bizarre. I don't even know how it happened – it was all so quick. Unearthed High doesn't have places that you get, but I remember Triple J got into contact with us after they announced the winner of whatever year it was. They said they really liked us – they said it was pretty much between us and Snakadaktal. The Living End was the featured act for the competition, and since we were the only group with guitars they pushed for us.
I'm finding there's a lot more electronic music out there – especially with the younger writers.
It's seeming more and more like that's what people are flocking to – which is fine. A good song is a good song either way. It's interesting how the tides change though.
So what happened to The Guppies?
It was pretty wild. After that Triple J wanted to help us out as much as possible. They got us Groovin' The Moo, Fat as Butter. We went on tour with Birds of Tokyo and the Rubens [laughs]. We were just along for the ride.
How old were you then?
I was 18 when all that was happening. It was a sweet experience to have. We met a bunch of industry people, different types. People who were around for 10% and all that [laughs]. Good people, but yeah. I was pretty burnt out. I was writing not teenage scummy punk stuff anymore. The rest of the guys were keen to go to university. I decided to keep writing. It did its thing and then, yeah.
You started writing the type of stuff you're writing now from there?
Yeah. When the Guppies finished I tried to have a serious adult think about what it was I wanted to do. Music was definitely a priority. I'd never touched an acoustic guitar before then. One of my old bandmates keeps reminding me of the time I said how much I hated the acoustic guitar, how I didn't know how people could find it interesting. It's pretty much what I do now. It's simple; it's all I want now. It's a vessel for what I'm trying to convey in the lyrics.
Once I started working with that I was very happy with how it was going. The songs were flooding out. I decided to follow that. I'm pretty fortunate how I've got Geoff Mullard at RTN Studios; he's a sweet dude. I've been going there since I was 15. He's super passionate about anything I come in with. We did all the Guppies stuff there; he's always keen. I brought in some new songs last year and we recorded a mini-album, Resurrector.
Is there more music coming out soon?
I've been working on songs as they happen. When they're at a stage where I can record them, I'll head over to RTN and get them down. We're in the process of demoing a full length album right now, which will hopefully be in a good place to release soon. That'll be the next big thing.
So you have a band yourself?
The Unholy Communion.
Yeah [laughs]. I call them that because it always varies who is playing in the band. I've got two members for every position – they're all working musicians in other bands. It's really good. I know I have gigs coming up so I'm forever organising who is going to come on. That's why it's an unholy communion. There's nothing holy about it [laughs]. I'll have the band on and bring others in for a one-off show. I love collaborating that way.
I always wondered about James Thomson and the Strange Pilgrims, other dudes like that – it's a band, but it's under the one name. I've only ever been in bands where you're all together.
It's different. You're all bros, in there together.
Not very flexible sometimes.
But it has its upsides. There's a good camaraderie there.
You must have a lot of drive to pursue this all yourself.
It's a big responsibility, but I love the creative freedom. You can get your idea across so clearly. Then again, I do really enjoy being surprised by another musician I'm playing with. There's a lot you can get from bouncing off another player.
And you're on track to finish the album?
I'm trying as hard as I can to get it done. I'm still writing at the same time. There's 12 definite songs, but a few more in the wings. Everything is demoed, now I'm keen to lock myself away and bunker down.
Some of the material is pretty old, some is fresh. It's all old-sounding though. It's something I really enjoy. Listening to The Beach Boys and The Kinks... It's shown me that a good pop song is as good as it gets.
I didn't expect you to say that.
Not the way people see pop these days, more about the way pop was. Pop is popular music. It's popular because it's a good song. That's where my head's at at the moment, anyways. I used to think pop was a bit of a taboo word – I'd be selling out. That, or ‘there’s nothing interesting about that type of music’. But I think there's more to it than that.
I think it's equally as hard to write a really tight pop song against a lot of different kinds of music.
It's definitely a tough thing to do. Having a perfect melody that battles against the chords in a new way. When it's done well it's the best. Learning from those songwriters has been great.
I had a thought last year, after I finished Resurrector. I think the creative process really revolves around what you've been listening to. You've really got a nanosecond from every song you've ever loved bottled up in your head, and you can take any of it. You don't know where you're going to go. Then someone tells you it's Elliott Smith's ‘Waltz 2’ and you're like... Fuck.
When you take from another song as well, you can't replicate it perfectly. You end up doing it your way.
Definitely. It's all part of why I decided to go under my own name. I can make whatever I want. Metallica can't make a classical record. If I'm under my own name, it's me. Where I'm at where I'm writing. Right now I'm doing much more acoustic, folk-y based stuff. Just recently I was working on a song called ‘No Sky’ – it was more of a studio experiment; heaps of strings. It was the first song I did with drums under my own name. It was a six-minute song with no lyrics until right at the end. I wanted to make it as bombastic as possible.
Does Geoff work with you on that?
Absolutely. He's a very punk-orientated guy, so as it's my first time recording strings, it's also his first time recording strings. I can go to him and pitch a whole lot of different stuff. He'll always say yes to new stuff.
What's the War on Happiness festival about?
I wanted to try and create the perfect environment for people who aren't used to checking out local artists to come and see something new. There's a full day of music planned here. I get to play with some amazing musicians, doing gigs where nobody is watching. I want it to change. I wanted to bring people into it. I want to introduce people who aren't totally used to the idea of going out to watch live music that they haven't seen before.
I spoke to Dan [Southward] last year about this kind of thing. He felt like for some of the gigs he was doing, he was playing in a corner, people talking, nobody really watching.
I know if you go to somewhere like the Civic Theatre to watch someone play music, you don't talk all – you get shushed if you make the slightest noise. I suppose it's different with local music.
There are artists out there with millions of Twitter followers and YouTube hits... The audience is kind of force-fed that act. Everyone just assumes they must be good because of this. Whether they are or not... I don't know. What I do know is that I can name so many local artists off the top of my head that, if you watched them play one of their songs, you'd love them. That's what I want to try and encourage with the festival. We've got some really amazing songwriters performing.
Can you name names?
Definitely. James Thomson, De'May, Jason Lowe, Grace Turner... Some really amazing local artists. People I've either played with or stumbled upon in different ways. We've got the guys from The Press DJ-ing, performing under the name Dad Dick DJs. They're going to play some American rock ‘n roll between sets, as well as putting on a spread.
We want to really encourage people to support local stuff. We're doing a pop-up store, pretty much a huge merch table with stuff from every artist on the bill, plus a few extras. I'm making a compilation CD, which will be a song from each artist.
This event will be extra special.
Starts early, a real picnic.
Buy tickets early from The Commons for $10
or pay $15 on the night like a total dad dick.
Just to confirm, if that poem didn't make any sense: War on Happiness is on Saturday, August 20th. Music starts in the afternoon. $10 if you buy early from the Commons (Beaumont Street) or $15 on the night. I'll be there for sure.