Summer in the fall

Pub date October 19, 2010

MUSIC As I sit sipping some morning coffee, Elizabeth Morris of Allo Darlin’ is wrapping up an unseasonably sunny London afternoon. “I don’t know what’s happening, but it’s really warm weather,” she says over the phone. “The last week was really cold and miserable, and then the last two days have been absolutely beautiful.”

It seems fitting to be discussing Allo Darlin’s self-titled album with Morris on a day when the sun won’t be denied. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect “summer” album released in October. Full of shimmery electric guitar, tambourine shakes, and bass lines that would sound at home on lost Motown cuts, the group’s music oozes charm, occupying some sort of space between Belle & Sebastian and a modern, garage-y spin on the Shangri-Las. Out at the forefront of it all is Morris with her ukulele and enchanting vocals.

Originally born and raised in Australia, Morris moved to London five years ago, shortly after finishing school in Brisbane, hoping to do something with the songs she’d begun writing. In Brisbane, Morris doubted her talents and ability to fit in, but London’s music scene proved to be a much more fertile ground for her. “Brisbane at the time was really grunge-y, noise rock, avant-garde kinda stuff — which is cool, but I felt really out of place and would never have felt confident playing little pop songs,” she explains. “I’d definitely written a bunch of songs, but I thought they were all pretty much rubbish. I didn’t feel like I’d written anything good until I moved to London.”

Once settled in London, Morris fronted the Darlings, a group made up of coworkers from the TV and film sound production facility she worked at. After that group dissolved, she began playing solo before winding up with a backing band made up of friends of friends, brothers of friends, and members of some of her favorite local bands. It all came together with a little help from the Boss.

“I was asked to do a Bruce Springsteen song for this tribute compilation and I knew Paul (Rains, Allo Darlin’ guitarist-keyboardist) was really into him. So I asked if he wanted to do this song with me, and that’s kinda how I got started playing with these guys. So we were brought together by Springsteen,” Morris says with a laugh.

In the interview, Morris talks excitedly about some of her musical loves: Jonathan Richman, Steve Martin’s banjo playing, the Go-Betweens, old reggae. She and her bandmates share an affection for Yo La Tengo and their parents’ old Beach Boys’ records. Her earnest and enthusiastic admiration mirrors the tone of her lyrics, which play a major role in making Allo Darlin’ fun. One minute she’s combining lines about love and chili, the next she’s breaking into a verse from Weezer’s “El Scorcho” or singing what’s gotta be the first pop song ever written about Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957). Her lyrical style is clever and unique — by turns romantic, silly, pensive, or yearning.

“I kind of always write from emotion or feeling rather than anything else. I never really sit and write things in a notebook or compose words,” Morris says. “I’ve tried to write story-songs or songs about characters, but it just never really works. I’m not very poetic, I guess. I’m better at seeing things how they are, trying to put them into words with a nice melody and seeing what happens.”

Allo Darlin’s upcoming tour marks the group’s third trip to the U.S., but it’s their first time in California. Despite the impersonal nature of a phone conversation, Morris’ excitement is palpable. She’s even picking up some American slang. “All the bookers say ‘psyched’ — like ‘We’re psyched that you’re coming.’ It’s really cute,” she says, laughing.

“So yeah, we’re psyched to be doing the West Coast.”


with Eux Autres, Terry Malts

Wed/27, 8 p.m.; $10

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011