Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum: Photography, Churches, and the Australian Summer

January 23rd 2013


If there’s anyone whose music belongs in the hallowed warmth and reverberations of a church, it is Phil Elverum. Sometimes raw and often tender, the music of Elverum’s current project Mount Eerie will meet with the church on York Street this Friday for one very special evening of sound, co-presented by Radiant and The Gate. Sam Wotherspoon caught up with the prolific songwriter and found out what he’s got planned for this Australian tour.


First of all, welcome back to Australia – I believe the last time you were here was around the release of Wind’s Poem in 2008. Is there anything you’re hoping to see or experience this time around?


I have never been during your summer and I’m excited to experience that pain. Or maybe it will be nice? I’m hoping to be able to swim/snorkel/surf, but that can be a rare tour experience. My fingers are crossed.


You’ll be performing in York Street Anglican Church here in Sydney, which is an incredible venue. Is there a particular environment or setting you prefer to perform in?


Churches are usually pretty great, especially when performing solo. I’m looking forward to that. In general I like playing in places that aren’t normally music venues, if only for the fact that people seem to pay more attention because of the novelty factor of finding themselves in an unusual situation.


What can we expect on this leg of the tour – any surprises? Perhaps a reprisal of the bat dance?


I myself do not know what to expect. It has been a long time since I’ve toured alone and I am open to weird things happening.


I’ve always been enamoured with your album packaging – do you have anything special planned for the forthcoming Microphones reissues?


I don’t want to reinvent them too much. I mostly want to keep the albums in print. The biggest change will be the quality of the printing and construction on the jackets. They’ll be heavy and permanent feeling. I’m retouching all the original artwork and making it look pretty. There will be additional posters and obi strips and other things, but mostly I’m just re-releasing the albums in as nice of a form as I can, sparing no expense.


Now you came out with not one but two LPs last year, which is no small feat. Did the two projects ever overlap or were they always intended as separate pieces?


They overlapped completely. I was just recording with no clear intention for about 2 years. I realized that they worked best as 2 related but distinct albums towards the end of recording.


On a previous tour here you recorded a 12″ with some Australian musicians. Have you kept up with any recent releases coming out of the country?


I don’t listen to that much music lately and I haven’t been very good at keeping up with new stuff anywhere in the world. I sound like I’m 100 years old maybe. I still like music a lot but it actually stifles my creativity to consume too much of it. I like the possibilities inherent in no music playing.


You’re also quite the photographer – I loved the work captured in Mount Eerie pts. 6 & 7. Is that something you’ve been continuing with? Are you still experimenting with old cameras and film?


Yes, I still take a lot of pictures. I haven’t been using film for a while because the way color prints are made from negatives has all gone digital which doesn’t look good to me for the type of pictures I take. It’s technical, but that’s the reason. I loved the washy distortion and gradations that came from optically printing grainy color film. It doesn’t translate digitally. But I do take a lot of pictures on a digital camera and I am working on a 2nd photo book.


You’ll actually be here for Australia day! (January 26) How will you be celebrating?


Oh, how embarrassing. I didn’t know it was Australia Day. I play in Melbourne that night. I will do as I am told.


Finally, what can we expect from you and your label in the new year? Another two Mount Eerie LPs for 2013, per chance?


Probably putting out these 5 Microphones albums will consume most of my time. I have some new live band configurations I want to try out. Maybe I’ll rest a little from recording for the year. But I do have many ideas in my notebook, always racing to keep up.



WHAT: Mount Eerie presented by Radiant and The Gate
WHERE: York Street Anglican Church
WHEN: Friday 25 January
HOW MUCH:  $30 + bf (moshtix)



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