A friend of mine recently received a text from me that read, “I know I’m TOTALLY jaded as a critic and hate ALL fucking music other than Belle & Sebastian and The Smiths, but this Springtime Carnivore record is REALLY fucking good.” The record was Springtime Carnivore’s self-titled debut. Springtime Carnivore is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist (vocals, guitars, keyboards, organ, drums…) Greta Morgan, best known for her work with Chicago retro indie poppers The Hush Sound and Gold Motel. It is certainly the debut album of the year, if not just-plain album of the year (Hollywood, Florida’s Beach Day, and their sophomore effort, Native Echoes, hold an especially special place in my head and my heart.) Springtime Carnivore’s first release, which dropped this November on Autumn Tone, builds on a foundation of sunshine folk pop with the sonic sensibilities of ‘60s soul, the proto-twee of yé-yé girls, and light, dance-party-ready, psych rock.
Springtime Carnivore are setting off on a February and March US tour supporting the Dodos, which includes a February 26th stop at Johnny Brenda’s and I recently got a chance to have a lovely chat with the equally lovely, Los-Angeles-based, Greta Morgan about her latest and my currently favorite musical project. I confess that moments before I called her I sent the aforementioned text and she laughs, saying, “It’s easy to start getting jaded when you’re in the industry.” I ask Greta how she feels Springtime Carnivore compares to her previous projects and she admits that she wasn’t thinking about any of her other projects when writing for Springtime Carnivore: “I guess part of the thing is I’m not comparing it. I just wanted a fresh start.” And while 2014 marked the official existence of the project, it has actually existed casually online for several years now.
“It was a playful, experimental thing that doesn’t have lots of pressures or boundaries. I’d just been putting music out on the internet and was curious to see how it was received. I mean, I compare making music to people putting a message in a bottle and wondering if anyone would get it, or someone sitting in their basement and trying to contact aliens. You have no idea who’s going to see it. It was this experimental, natural process, but then that brought in this great record label and then these great tours and then I spent a year of writing and recording to actually get the record done.”
I ask Greta if she has had any favorite reactions to her debut album, she tells me, “The Aquarium Drunkard and All Music reviews were really great. They really got it.” Aquarium Drunkard described the sound of Springtime Carnivore as, “Luminous, catchy and strange – as danceable as it is pensive and atmospheric.” They went on to characterize her songwriting as, “Vivid and dense, her visions nightmarish and romantic – a kind of Laura Palmer songbook.” All Music, prior to myself, also saw her as drawing inspiration from “sunshine pop” and “psychedelia,” while also proclaiming, that her music is, “Bright and intelligent without showing off too much polish.” She tells me of her memory of reading those articles and feeling something somewhat profound: “That was exactly what I intended and they got it.”
As someone whose biggest influences come from individuals outside of my field of work (… Morrissey… Godard… Burroughs…), I’m always especially enchanted and endeared when a musical artist tells me that their work is inspired by someone other than a guitar strummer, crooner, or ivory tickler. When I ask Greta the most significant influences behind Springtime Carnivore’s debut, she immediately, sincerely, and casually admits that 1960’s television may actually be its most direct inspiration.
“Probably The Twilight Zone and The Dick Van Dyke Show… I would watch them before I go to bed almost every night and the way I work is I tend to put down ideas when I wake up every morning… For me, I always sort of feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and it’s like I stumble into a closet for a couple hours and come out with a song. For a lot of the tunes, I’m in a trance and the next day in the studio I come back and I’ll be surprised to find something I really like.”
When I ask Greta what she’s planning for 2015 she tells me that she plans on trying some new things (“I’m excited about doing some collaborating with people I haven’t collaborated with before and I hope to write and record a record it by the end of the year.”) However, she’s also excited about spending a significant amount of time on the road: “I plan to tour the album all year long.” And, finally, when I ask what can be expected of the live experience, considering she’s going to be here in February, Greta tells me, “I just want people to get wild. I’ve gotten to the point of not giving a shit about how it comes together. I’m just ready to go and let the experience happen.”