In 1966, The Doors, at that time a largely unknown psych-rock band from Los Angeles, opened for British R&B outfit Them at LA’s famed Whisky A Go-Go nightclub. The titular leaders of the respective bands – Jim Morrison and Van Morrison – shared both a surname, and a fondness for excessive alcoholic indulgence. The inevitable product of the bands’ professional association was a two-week binge of alcohol and erratic behaviour culminating in a show at the Whisky that would conclude with an apocryphal 20-minute version of Them’s Gloria. Had either of the frontmen been sober enough to think beyond the next beverage, this could have been the conception of the original Morrisons.
Nick Morrison, guitarist with local band The Morrisons, hasn’t previously heard the story, but he does feel an affinity with the broader context. “I tend to get pretty trashed when I listen to The Doors, so I can kind of appreciate it,” Morrison laughs. The Morrisons was formed just over five years ago when a group of friends, each of whom had their individual toes in the local live scene, decided to form a new band. A pseudo-Marxist desire to control the various aspects of the band’s production and image led to the construction of The Morrisons as a punk band. “I’d been playing in bands for a few years, and I wanted to start a band where I could do all the record, and we could do all our own artwork, so it had to be a punk band – we really like Bad Brains, Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys,” Morrison says.
After a pointed call-out on Facebook led to the recruitment of a drummer, The Morrisons were away. The band’s first gig was a 20-minute set supporting The Scarlets at Cherry Bar, the set truncated due to the effusive appearance of The Scarlets’ lead singer on stage. “We had to cut a couple of songs off the set because the lead singer of The Scarlets came on stage and started saying lots of stuff,” Morrison says. “I think she was pretty drunk, and she knew our drummer, so she was saying how people should really get into our music – it was pretty funny.”
The Morrisons’ first recording was an EP recorded by the band in Northcote in 2007. Outside of the band, Nick Morrison was continuing his research into, and practice of recording; by the time it came to record The Morrisons’ recently released four-track 7” – this time in Morrison’s house – Morrison says he was much more aware of the potential and limitations of the studio recording process. “I’ve definitely learned a lot since we did the first EP,” Morrison says. “How to use the gear, buying the right equipment to use, and also learning how to do it more simple. I think when you start out recording, you have an idea of how simple you can make it, but as you go on, you realise how to do it even more simpler,” he says.
While Morrison doesn’t construct himself as the formal leader of the band, he does admit to maintaining a controlling influence in the studio. “I can honestly say that I’m a control freak, but I think the band appreciates it!,” Morrison laughs. Leadership isn’t bestowed on any one individual in the band; rather, it exists in the form of collective momentum. “I like to entertain the fact that I’m a leader, but when the band gets going, there’s no-one who can really control The Morrisons – it’s its own growing organism,” Morrison says. “But when we’re recording, I am the one who hits record, and then we just see what happens.”
The Morrisons’ songwriting process is no more sophisticated than you’d expect: a riff, a melody, a half-formed lyrical idea. “It can be anything,” Morrison says. “We might be just sitting around and someone comes with a mobile phone, with an idea that we all listen to and work from there. Or an idea for a song – once Pete came in saying, ‘What’s with all these fucking fixed gear bikes!’, so we wrote a song called Fixie Fad. Another time we realised that we’d all been dropped off at school in a Volvo when we were young, so we wrote a song about that,” Morrison says.
This weekend sees The Morrisons launch the band’s new four-track 7” single at The Old Bar. Recorded in Morrison’s house, the recording shows the benefit of Nick Morrison’s experience as a producer and mixer. “With our new 7” you can definitely hear the sparseness more than with the first EP we did,” Morrison says. “I tried to do that a lot more, rather than trying to create a really dense sound – I really tried not to condense the sound too much.”
The fact that The Morrisons are in a position to create and construct the band’s image and music offers a degree in freedom in planning its future. “I’d really like to tour overseas, especially Japan, because I think our music would do really well over there,” Morrison says. “Because we can record ourselves, and we’re all mates, we really love what we’re doing.” Notwithstanding this very laissez-faire attitude, what’s the better scenario: burning bright for a few years, or burning slowly over 20 years. Morrison is prepared to take his cake and eat it. “Probably burning pretty for the next 20 years,” he replies. “The main aim is to keep making music. We’re all mates, which is the first thing about the band.”
BY PATRICK EMERY
THE MORRISONS launch their new four-track 7” single at the Old Bar on Saturday May 12.