Conversation with Pollen Trio

hellosQuare label head Shoeb Ahmad asks some questions to Evan Dorrian, member of Pollen Trio (drums, electronics)



When and how was pollen trio formed?

Pollen Trio had its beginnings in late 2007 when we were working under the name Austin Benjamin Trio. Austin, Chris and I were all at the Australian National University School of Music studying Jazz music and Austin put together the trio to play some of his compositions. From there we found ourselves playing together almost every day and hanging out, sharing music and ideas and trying to see where we could take the music. After releasing the album Amalagama we also played a lot live and began to take the compositions much further away from their original forms, improvising more freely and collectively and exploring ideas taken from the different sorts of music we were listening to, which in my case wasn’t Jazz at all. Slowly it became clear that we played more like a band with equal input rather than a trio playing one person’s compositions, and in fact I think it was Austin who suggested we should think of a name that was more suitable to what we had begun to do. Eventually we settled on Pollen Trio.

When named the austin benjamin trio, the music was definitely informed by a studied jazz songwriting approach. As a label, I recommended that the three of you allow your music to be reworked by other artists, leading to the release Unraveled, rewoven. Did this break with songwriting allow you guys to look beyond the songwriting square for the trio going forward or had this been something brewing at the back of your minds for some time?

The context of being at an institution mainly concerned with teaching a certain type of Jazz and technical facility was an important factor in what we did initially, although you’d have to ask Austin about that in terms of composition. But the desire to break this down somehow, and find a way to make and approach music that was more in touch with what we would want to contribute and call our own, was there from the beginning. What Austin did by having the guts to write a bunch of tunes, put together a trio and record an album at such an early stage was really important to just getting something going, and from there we would spend just as much time talking/thinking about how we could make things more interesting to us, as we did playing. In that sense I think Unraveled, Rewoven helped to spur this on and it was great to have a sense that the label could see what we were about. To have other artists that we and the label like reframe our work definitely helped us to think about our approach differently.

Have the trio tried to be fluid creatively between the lineup changes or has it been seen as an opportunity to explore a different side of sound, which perhaps had not been touched on before?

When we brought Miroslav Bukovsky on board we had actually been on a long break. I had been living in London and Chris had been travelling and was then living in Cyprus. Introducing Miroslav was a chance for us to explore the different sorts of sounds he is able to bring as well as a difference in improvisational style. Having said that, we still spent plenty of time working towards crafting a language that worked as a part of the Pollen Trio approach. Miroslav is a very open and interesting person so it was a fluid process working in the new things he brought with the “sound” we had already established.  

Has improvisation always been an important part in the creative process for the trio or is it something that bears more importance in certain situations and takes a back seat at other times?

I would say that for the most part we are an improvising band but it various from one situation to another and also depends on how we feel at a given time. In my case I find it very difficult to enjoy playing the same thing from one gig to the next but I also see the need for us to have some sort of framework, whether this is compositions or just vague ideas, to help maintain some clarity. Improvising and just playing together does lead us to ideas and helps to sort through some of things we like and don’t like, but it can also become a trap. We often feel the need to dictate some terms as a way of coming up with things that we might not if we just play off the cuff.

Has there been a psycho-geographical effect on the music created by the trio with its base between canberra and the outskirts of the blue mountains?

This is certainly a possibility, I often feel that Pollen Trio does have a certain psycho-geographical element in relation to Australia in general, perhaps similar to the way a band like The Necks do. It might be something to do with playing in a way that relishes in being a small part in something much bigger. I would say I’m not totally sure on this though…

The trio as a live entity does differentiate from the recorded output. Is this a particular aim for the three of you or is the plan always to try and capture the sound of the live performance before taking part in the editing process?

We don’t plan to sound like our recorded stuff when we play live. In fact I think we are usually always just concerned with what’s going on at the time, what we have been working on or thinking about or listening to. In general I think every live opportunity we are looking to push things forward. This is the same for when we have recorded, to date we have essentially tried to capture as much live material as possible so that it has a certain energy, and then afterwards edit things down and even add and manipulate things to create what we want. After that when we begin playing live again that process of editing allowed for by the recording often helps us to get into new territory that we couldn’t hear or see beforehand.  

What does the future hold for pollen trio – plans, ambitions, developments?

At the moment our plans are basically to tour our new album Roll Slow and continue to play as much as possible and continue to develop. We are definitely ambitious to see where and how far we can take the music and also keen for people to hear it. So we will just keep working and do our best.