“We caught up with a friend the other day and he was like ‘You’re gonna get TikToked, it’s an inevitability’,” says Stefan Blair, one half of Good Morning. “I was like, I don’t think so, it’s not gonna happen.”
Spoiler: it did. A few months ago, a slowed-down snippet of their 2014 song ‘Warned You’ became the soundtrack to videos of anxious teens wallowing in break-up anguish and waves of lockdown ennui.
“Our earlier music is closer to the teenagers’ TikTok vibe, it’s particularly funny that it’s the slowed-down version,” says other Good Morning member Liam Parsons, his eyes giving a mix of amusement and bemusement.
This isn’t even the first time ‘Warned You’ has gotten a boost from out of the blue. In 2015, Tyler, the Creator shared it with his Instagram followers, and three years later A$AP Rocky sampled the Good Morning song ‘Don’t Come Home Today’ from the same project, their debut EP ‘Shawcross’. They’re unsurprisingly Good Morning’s biggest songs to date, with ‘Warned You’ at a whopping 80million plays across Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music.
TikTok teens may love ‘Warned You’, but those songs are firmly in Good Morning’s rear view mirror. NME is catching up with the band to talk their sixth album, ‘Barnyard’, which drops at the end of the week. They Zoom in, Blair with a scruffy beard and a Oneohtrix Point Never T-shirt and Parsons wearing a puppy dog smile that belies a whirring intellect.
“I just remember we wanted something that was hard to Google”
When we speak, Melbourne recently claimed a record nobody wanted – the world’s most locked-down city, with 246 days under its belt. So it’s not too surprising that talk turns wistfully to touring (also when Good Morning swells to a four-piece, adding drummer Joe Alexander and bassist James Macleod).
“We’re really lucky to tour anywhere. All these wild opportunities from this stupid little band, playing in Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Japan,” Blair reflects.
“I’ve thought about it so much during the pandemic; being bummed I’m stuck at home in Melbourne then trying to take stock and think about all the places we’ve been,” he says, rolling a smoke.
“It’s true to what we wanted to do at the start, just make music and figure out a way to see the world.”
It was nearly a decade ago that mates Blair and Parsons split the cost of a Foxtex four-track tape machine and began to record music together. Once they’d finished an EP, they needed a band name. “I just remember we wanted something that was hard to Google,” shrugs Parsons.
‘Shawcross’ led to another EP ‘Glory’, an amalgamation of the two titled ‘Glorcross’, and then a streak of three short but sweet albums: ‘Prize // Reward’, ‘The Option’ and ‘Basketball Breakups’, the latter two both released in 2019.
Perhaps the most perplexing part of Good Morning’s success is they’ve made a fist of it without any radio play from king-makers triple j, who appear to have passed over their lo-fi indie rock meets Mac DeMarco stoner blues.
“I’ve never mourned the lack of support we get from triple j,” Parsons says candidly. “They don’t play our music, that’s fine. They’ve been given too much fucking power and credit. I think that there’s a way around them.”
In 2019, the band signed a deal with Our Golden Friend, the management company headed by Lorrae McKenna (whom Blair calls “the saving grace of Good Morning the last few years”, having helped alert the band to a sticky streaming situation that they’re still figuring out).
And in April, they unveiled their own label Good Morning Music Company Worldwide, which will co-release ‘Barnyard’ locally with Virgin Music Australia as Polyvinyl look after it overseas.
All this levelling up meant ‘Barnyard’ had to be a more serious endeavour. “We really wanted to crack 30 minutes for the first time, that’s legitimate LP length,” quips Parsons.
And they did, recording the 32-minute album in one hasty week in 2019 at Wilco’s studio The Loft in Chicago, which happened to be available while they were touring the US (they now rent a modest studio in Preston). Good Morning worked while “drinking Miller High Lifes and this almost pure Chicago alcohol, Malört”, and tried other new things, like an analogue synthesizer called the Swarmatron that Trent Reznor used while making the score for The Social Network (“lots of chaos”, says Blair).
The Swarmatron is one of a dozen parts that makes up first single ‘Country’’s rainbow layer cake. An undulating, chintzy-sounding banger you can actually dance to, ‘Country’ is a new vibe for Good Morning.
“It’s New Order worship, really,” Parsons says.
‘Country’ is also an utterly loquacious four minutes long – “a fucking prog song” for Good Morning, as their recording engineer Thomas Schick put it – and gives the band room to show off their knack for quotables such as “I think it’s a little different now / I’ve got a boyfriend and I’ve got a psych.”
“The people that are supposed to have our best interests at heart do everything in their power to aggravate the situation”
‘Barnyard’ is bookended by closer ‘Country’ and its “opposite song” ‘Too Young To Quit’, a finger-plucked torch song that draws the listener in as Parsons’ voice rises like an aloof cobra.
Thematically, he lays his cards on the table early, wanting to do something about environmental issues but feeling helpless at the same time. And their single ‘Burning’ addresses Australia’s climate change crisis – and the Federal Government’s glacial response. It was written in November 2019 just before Australia’s worst bushfires in a century.
“It was that anxiety from that particular time. It was an overwhelming sense of doom and it was totally justified,” Parsons says.
“The people that are supposed to have our best interests at heart do everything in their power to aggravate the situation.”
Elsewhere, Good Morning give us a much needed laugh, sequencing three songs of rock’n’lol with pop culture titles: ‘Wahlberg’, ‘Yng_Shldn’ (which pokes fun at the TV show Young Sheldon) and ‘Matthew Newton’, a very Australian satire about the disgraced actor that sounds textured like an Anzac biscuit thanks to (you guessed it) the Swarmatron.
“I think he was the first person I can remember in pop culture being ‘cancelled’,” Parsons says of the song’s inspiration, who pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend in 2007 (the conviction was later overturned). “It’s about nepotism in Australia and being put on a platform. Are you famous because of merit or are you famous because of who your dad is?”
Good Morning may have had the chips fall in their favour but they’re about to go up a level thanks to toil and talent. Acutely aware not many Australian bands – and Australians, period – are making steady income during a pandemic the duo started a Patreon page where they offer exclusive songs, tutorials and livestreams, donating 100 percent of their earnings to charitable causes.
“There’s always a need – someone always needs financial assistance. I’ve taken advice from people who have joined up on where they’d like the money to go,” Parsons says.
“It goes back to that thing at the start to be pretty lucky and in a position to be able to pay our rent and record in a studio we’ve filled with our instruments,” Blair adds.
“What else do you need, really?”
Good Morning’s ‘Barnyard’ is out October 22 via Good Morning Music Company Worldwide/Virgin Music and Polyvinyl