If you weren’t already aware Mick Harvey, Polly’s long time collaborator (and former member of The Birthday Party/The Bad Seeds) has a new record out. Drowned In sound are carrying an interview with him on their website and as they note “he’s more willing to talk about PJ’s record than he is his own”. Good news for us!
Here are the main parts that concern Polly:
As many critics argued, Polly Harvey’s majestic Let England Shake is all aquiver with a musical energy at odds with its subject matter. And it’s obvious that Mick’s work as multi-instrumentalist backing-singing co-producer on that record (and the subsequent PJ Harvey tour) has re-energised him as a musician – and given him the opportunity to slot back into the kind of collaborative role he thrives in. He’s more willing to talk about PJ’s record than he is his own.
"The concerts have just been amazing," he says, suddenly rather serious. "I can honestly say that the recent shows with Polly have been the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve done as a musician playing in a band situation for a long time. What’s required of me is very challenging up there, all the singing that’s on the album, we’re just singing all night, us guys. I think the last four songs of the set, as it was recently, I sang all those songs from start to finish. With the last one I sang the first verse myself, and the other ones I’m singing with Polly in unison through the whole song. And playing piano and stuff – and I’m like, fumble-fingers…"
It quickly becomes apparent that there’s a lot of Mick Harvey, both personal and musical, in Let England Shake. He and Polly Jean researched it together ("we went on trips to the Imperial War Museum and places in Australia") for a start. I ask if the album’s focus on the Anglo-Australian Gallipoli campaign is a reflection of the two Harveys’ respective nationalities, but he’s generally unconvinced by the idea that the record is about specific national identities at all, interestingly:
"Certainly the English press have taken a very strong angle about it being English, but I think what’s important is that she’s speaking out of the voices of other people, really, and using them to get to universal ideas about patriotism and nation. I think she found the [Anglo-Australian] connection by coincidence, it’s kind of incidental that she used things about Gallipoli – they were simply the things that gave her an avenue into the ideas. That gave her strong feelings about the things she could adopt and write about."