Neil Armstrong’s appearance on Allo Darlin’s sophomore album Europe might seem a bit out of left-field, but the sophisticated pop outfit have an often overlooked penchant for penning tributes to notable intellectuals. Throughout their four year long career, songwriter Elizabeth Morris has honored Woody Allen, Stephen Hawking, Henry Rollins, and cult figure Darren Hayman of the UK band Hefner. “I read a lot of nonfiction,” Morris told Hive. “I guess I’m just kind of a nerd and all of these people are of interest to nerds.” We geeked out with her and asked her to break down five Allo Darlin’ songs dedicated to the thinkers they look up to.
1. Woody Allen
I was reading some of his screenplays, and thinking specifically of Annie Hall, at the time that I wrote “Woody Allen.” I think he’s an amazing writer and the way that he tackles love is incredibly realistic and based on his own experiences. Mine is based on my own experiences as well but his love stories always seem to be very erudite and mine are kind of base.
2. Henry Rollins
I started reading This Band Could Be Your Life — because my boyfriend introduced me to all of this punk music when we first started dating — and the first chapter is on Black Flag. I’m such an indie pop person and I wanted to go out dancing but my punk boyfriend didn’t dance so I wrote the song [“Henry Rollins Don’t Dance”] on a whim about the idea that Henry Rollins doesn’t dance.
3. Darren Hayman of Hefner
We recorded “Henry Rollins” and our first album at the studio where Darren worked and hung out and we became friends. He’s someone I look up to very much and his band [Hefner] was kind of a big deal in the UK about 10 years ago. Their nickname was “The UK’s biggest small band” and they’re one of John Peel’s favorite groups. “Darren” is about listening to his music and falling in love listening with it. I wanted to write something for him because I really love his attitude and he’s a good friend.
4. Stephen Hawking
“Dear Stephen Hawking” was also written in response to reading a book. I read A Brief History of Time and was fascinated by the personal story where he fell in love with his nurse and she was kind of horrible to him, and, then, he ended up being alone after breaking up with his wife. The song is a mix of romance and lofty ideas of physics. I read quite a lot of nerdy science books so that influences my songwriting in a way but I have a brain for language more than anything else. We only play the song in Cambridge where he’s a professor.
5. Neil Armstrong
“Neil Armstrong” ties in with this idea of space. It’s about wanting to have faith and believe in something and most of the time I have to think really hard about lyrics but, for this song, they were just in my mind. I find Neil Armstrong a fascinating character because he’s such a recluse but he’s also one of the most famous people from the last century and he’s kind of faded from peoples’ minds.
Europe is out now. Buy via Bandcamp.