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It’s a Good Day to be Good Morning

21 May 2024

Google ‘Good Morning’ and you’ll be flooded with saccharine stock images—sunshine, coffee cups and flowers. Wade through the greeting cards and platitudes and you’ll unearth a Melbourne band described as a “rock duo," a phrase that does them little justice.

In the decade since they released their first album, Shawcross, Melbourne musicians Liam Parsons and Stefan Blair have leant further and further into the tenderness that defines Good Morning. Even at their spikiest, when fidelity is at its lowest and lyrics spill into irony, Good Morning is soft, sweet and hazy.

On Good Morning Seven, the band’s new double album—their seventh release—the haze has lifted. In its absence, the band’s sound achieves a new clarity. Bright piano notes and soaring strings collide with myriad layers of vocal harmony, but all without any muddiness. Each thread of the album’s rich texture remains distinct from those it is woven among.

There is something daring about a sound this clean. No longer is there a wall of sound to hide behind, but an open plain of possibility. In such a soundscape, creative decisions are laid bare and made vulnerable to judgement. On Good Morning Seven, the band goes against its own self-deprecating character to embrace this musical vulnerability and has written lyrics to match. Intertwined with the band’s signature wit are moments of surprising sincerity. Tonally, Good Morning Seven is less winsome and more mature than their earlier works.

While previous albums conjured images of second-hand couches and overgrown lawns, Good Morning Seven’s identity is bound to the recording studio. Listening, I found myself picturing Paul Dano—eyes shut, jaw clenched, maestro hands cutting patterns into the air—in his scintillating turn as the pop auteur Brian Wilson in 2014’s Love and Mercy, which documents Wilson’s struggles to corral The Beach Boys into the creation of their canonical 1966 album Pet Sounds. Comparison with a musician of Wilson’s calibre is indeed praise, but the meticulous direction of Good Morning’s seventh record smacks of an ambition to make the band worthy of such a parallel.

Good Morning Seven’s palpable confidence has been felt across the music industry, earning the band their debut on the ARIA charts and Triple R’s Album of the Week. These accolades—along with their embrace of the earnest and the project’s now considerable longevity—bestow on them an air of legitimacy, which sets them apart from their local contemporaries.

Good Morning continue to present themselves as casually as ever. They give interviews over the phone while performing menial tasks like their laundry. They mark the achievement of existing for a decade by adding the words “it’s all downhill from here” to their Spotify bio. They describe “watching YouTube and talking shit” as inspiration for their musical compositions.

It’s clear that Liam and Stefan live and breathe the self-deprecation that permeates their lyrics.

When Liam and I Zoom, he props his laptop up on the dashboard of their touring van and tells me about touring the U.S. as Waxahatchee’s support band. This string of shows will lead the band all the way up to their performance at Melbourne Recital Centre on June 6th for Rising Festival.

With Liam now based in London, Melbourne shows have grown fewer and farther between for Good Morning. We discussed what it’s like to write an album with a musical partner who lives on the other side of the world, how this Rising show will serve as an unofficial album launch for Good Morning Seven and what the band has gotten up to between shows as they drive across the United States.

Anna Stewart  How’s the tour going?

Liam Parsons  It’s going really well. It’s super different to anything we’ve ever done before.

AS How so?

LP Big rooms. We’re playing in big theatres with two to three thousand size rooms and they’re all sold out. We’ve never done anything like this, on the scale of this. It’s different and new. We’re learning how to play in theatres.

But it’s actually going really well. It’s nice to be a support band. We haven’t really done too much of that either. It’s  pretty cushy.

AS [Laughs] Are you getting good turnouts for the early slot?

LP Yeah, fully! It’s a really kind crowd. So, a lot of them are really respectful and listen. Going to a lot of shows over the years makes me think about how polite I’ve been to support bands [laughs]. There haven’t been any disasters so far, so fingers crossed.

AS We’re speaking today in relation to your upcoming performance at Melbourne Recital Centre for Rising. Am I right in thinking this will be one of your biggest Melbourne shows to date?

LP Yeah, it is!

AS Is it the biggest?

LP I think it’s probably our biggest headline show ever. I mean, this is all provided that a thousand people actually show up [laughs]. Which is a big ‘if’! I haven’t seen how it’s selling so it actually might be one of our smaller shows; who knows? We got cocky and played a big room in Los Angeles once, but it was massively undersold. So, this should hopefully beat that.

AS [Laughs.] Ok, so if all goes according to plan, big home town show. And, on top of it being a big show, it’s a rare thing nowadays to have you playing in Melbourne with band members living overseas. Although the last time you were here was about a month ago for the album launch, right?

LP Yeah. Honestly, it wasn’t even a proper album launch. We kind of had to rehearse for this tour that we’re on now. I had to go back to Melbourne to rehearse, do some recording for upcoming things and do some press. We just wanted to squeeze in a little show there.

AS Why not?

LP Yeah! I think we’re going for this Melbourne Recital Centre show as the launch, although we haven’t really put a label on it.

AS That’ll bring a real sense of occasion.

LP Something like that.

AS But either way, before that last performance, it had been roughly two years since you played in Melbourne.

LP Yeah, even then, I came back from London to see family and we jumped on a friend’s party for a little show. Other than that, it’s been since the start of 2022.

AS So, does that mean you’ll be on another two-year hiatus after the Recital Centre?

LP [Laughs.] I mean, it doesn’t really feel like much of a hiatus because we’ve been doing little shows overseas and meeting up to record. But hopefully it won’t be that long again before the next home show. It is nice to take a little break and let people miss you a little bit.

AS Leave people wanting more.

LP Something like that. I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be nice to play with friends and family.

AS You mentioned recording there. The recording and writing process have  probably changed a lot over the years. It’s been a decade since Good Morning began. Congratulations!

LP Thanks!

AS Does that feel like an achievement? Or has it flown by?

LP It feels like a long time now, but even a year ago, it didn’t. When I think about it being ten years, I realise it was all of my twenties. I just turned 31. So it’s a fair chunk of our lives—a third of our lives. So, yes, it’s felt like a long time but it’s gone quickly. It’s kind of the nature of it—we don’t do it full-time, some years are busier than others—but there’s always been something going on.

AS I imagine, back in the day, you would have had much easier access to each other for creating, rehearsing and recording together, but now that you live in different cities, that process must have changed.

LP A little bit, yeah. I mean, the record that just came out was done (mostly done) before we left Melbourne. So that was probably the most access we’ve ever had. We kind of lived in each other’s pockets for a good couple of years.

The separation we’ve had since then has made catching up and hanging out so nice. But it also helps you really get to work and stay focused. When we’ve been working on stuff, it’s been in really concentrated bursts. We’re not really the sort of people who can do it online, sending things to each other. We kind of have to be in the room.

So, considering we don’t live in the same city at the moment, we see a lot of each other.

AS That’s great. I suppose you just have to.

LP Yeah. It’s our quote-on-quote job, so gotta do what comes along with that.

AS And on this tour with Waxahatchee, you’re playing bigger venues, which, numbers-wise, will stand you in good stead for Melbourne. Another distinctive feature of this venue is its careful acoustic treatment and accompanying formal atmosphere. Have any of the shows you’ve played recently had a similar vibe?

LP Totally. Even just by virtue of it being a seated venue, it’ll feel different. I think the only seated headline show we’ve ever done was at the Malthouse during COVID, because it was basically illegal to stand at the time.

AS [Laughs.]

LP So, that’s the only other time we’ve done it. And it does feel a little fancier. I’ll probably have to wear a collar.

AS Ooo!

LP Yeah. And at the moment, we have our friend Chloe playing violin and our friend Snowy playing saxaphone, so it’s kind of fleshed out at the moment anyway. There are six of us currently and I’m sure we’ll have some extra guests to try and add to the feeling of it being special.

AS So the band that you’re touring with now is who you’ll play with for this Melbourne show?

LP Yeah, so we should be pretty well practiced by then.

AS Yeah, it's a good little run up. I won’t keep you too much longer; I know you're knackered.

LP Don’t worry, I’m literally just sitting in a carpark in upstate New York. Do you know what Dave and Buster’s is?

AS No.

LP It’s this big…I’ll show you, just to get the vibe.

AS Yeah, please! [Laughs]

LP It’s like a strip mall. We’re in a mall carpark. Over there is Dave and Buster’s, which is kind of like TimeZone except you can drink and have dinner there. So, we’re meeting up with the Waxahatchee people and we’re gonna play a bunch of arcade games for a few hours.

AS Hell yeah.

LP So, you’re not keeping me from anything.

AS What are you talking about? It sounds like I’m keeping you from a great time!

LP [Laughs.] Nah, it’ll go for hours.

AS Has it been a really social experience, touring with Waxahatchee?

LP So far, yeah! Super hospitable and really friendly. We’ve been watching each other’s sets every night from sidestage, or even hanging out in the room. But this is kind of the first outside work hangout.

AS Before I let you loose at Dave and Buster’s, I heard you on PBS when you were last here, in late March. And there was something of a tease about new material already being in the can, and I wondered what you could tell me about upcoming Good Morning releases.

LP We’ve pretty much finished the next one. I don’t know when it’ll be out, but hopefully sooner rather than later. We recorded it last year. We’ve been starting to learn a few of them as well, playing them on this tour. You always want to be one step ahead. At least for me, when you put out a record and it’s fully done, there’s this feeling of, ‘Now what?’ We always try to have that.

AS Yeah, and also to get on top of songs so that you’re not playing a full double album all together for the first time, where every song is quite stressful and people know how it should sound.

LP Exactly. It’s nice to play things that people have no frame of reference for. So that’s the next thing.

AS And will that next record be called Good Morning Eight? Or…

LP [Laughs] I think it has a name already.

AS But you don’t want to spoil it?

LP The spoiler is that it’s not called Good Morning Eight.

AS Great, that’s an exclusive. My editor will be thrilled.

LP A scoop!

AS Lastly, on the topic of Good Morning Seven, how has it felt playing those songs with the whole band? Has everything clicked?

LP Yeah, it has. We’ve definitely been spreading out. There’s a couple of songs that we’ve been wanting to play, but never really have had the time to. But there are still some that we don’t really know how to perform live. You never think about that when you’re recording. But you can definitely shoot yourself in the foot sometimes. And learning how to sing songs takes me a long time. Even though I’ve already sung it on record, doing it live can take a year to figure out. So, all seventeen songs aren’t getting a look in yet, but maybe one day.

AS Well, the singing on the album sounds beautiful so I’m not surprised it takes a bit of effort to recreate live. Oh, woah! Is the car door opening?

LP We have some guests!

AS Okay, well, let’s leave it there. Thanks so much for making time, Liam.

LP You’re welcome. See you in Melbourne!

Good Morning is performing at Melbourne Recital during Rising Festival. Purchase your tickets here.

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