It's been seven years since Pivot traded vowels for vocals. 2010's Church With No Magic, their third LP and first under the truncated PVT monicker, saw the Sydney trio sideline the instrumental post-rock drift of their early work for a more direct approach, partnering punchy, pop-leaning electronica with the heavily manipulated harmonies of Richard Pike.
"It was quite a natural progression," says Richard, sitting alongside his brother, PVT percussionist Laurence, outside a cafe in Sydney's inner-west on a humid late-February afternoon.
"We first started bringing vocals in when we were touring a lot for [second album, 2008's] O Soundtrack My Heart," Richard explains. He adds with a chuckle that although the experiment started on stage "just sort of yelling at each other a lot", it eventually involved the band's third member, producer Dave Miller, sampling Richard's voice live and integrating it into existing songs.
While this tact – largely inspired by Brian Eno's approach of making vocals "part of the sonic landscape" – initially served the band well, Richard explains that when it came to record Church With No Magic, they "wanted to bring that experience into the writing".
"We wanted it to feel more live, more expansive and big," Richard now reflects, adding that the band, at the time based in London, "were all going through a lot of shit", leading to an album that was also considerably darker than its pair of predecessors.
The band parted ways with their label, Warp, shortly after ("You're always in a shadow of Warp," Richard says, diplomatically), prompting Laurence and Miller to both return to Australia. Richard stayed put in the U.K., a move more accidental than planned ("I was there with my suitcase, I had time to kill and then it turned into nine years"), which forced the trio to mostly collaborate over e-mails when writing 2013's Homosapien and the just-released New Spirit.
"Regardless of where we lived in the world that's how we would work. It's very modern," Richard says with a smirk, with Laurence adding that those e-mails are often just a "small idea, a mood or a loop".
It's a framework that served the trio well when it came time to finally meet up in the flesh in Sydney in 2015 for the New Spirit recording sessions.
"We went in with the intention of just developing [those] ideas and it quickly formed," says Laurence. "We were quite focused on the specific parameters sonically."
Those strict "parameters" were in response to the band's decision to "not over layer it too much" on album number five. The aim was instead to give greater weight to Richard's lyrics, which focus prominently on themes of global politics and cultural identity, specifically "what it means to make Australian music".
"I think when you want to have a message, you need to give space for that," Richard says, sipping his coffee. "And what's wrong with doing something stark and futuristic that says something about modern times?"
From issue #786 (May 2017), available now.