At first glance, Morgan O’Sullivan is a pretty unassuming guy. He’s humble, thoughtful and reserved — maybe even a little guarded. But via his band, Boreen, he regularly lets listeners hear his innermost, often vulnerable, thoughts. His latest album, “Lovely” (released by Good Cheer Records in late October), is Boreen’s most ambitious project to date. The 10 tracks are a lush electronic soundscape with deep lyrical dives into the realities and insecurities of being in love.
Clearly, “Lovely” is also an album dedicated to someone with whom O’Sullivan shares a deep connection. “I guess why it’s called ‘Lovely.’ It’s kind of corny, but I’ve always had so much trouble writing love songs and I think this album is my first batch of what I hope are successful love songs,” he recalled during a recent interview with opbmusic.
However common it is for artists to write love songs, these tracks are unique in that they focus on the harder parts — the stressors and eccentricities — of sharing a life with someone. “[I] approached it in a way that’s not just talking about all of the great parts of love, but also the anxieties and the doubt that comes along with being in a long-term relationship,” he says.
Aside from O’Sullivan’s lyrics, perhaps the most fascinating element of Boreen’s music is the band’s use of found sounds. Out in the world, O’Sullivan is constantly capturing interesting audio with the voice memo function on his phone. Eventually, many of these pieces of audio became integral ingredients in the songwriting process for “Lovely.” By stringing these clips together and creating loops using audio editing software, Boreen’s music has taken on a whimsical and sometimes disorienting vibe similar to an Animal Collective song; you’re never quite sure where it’s going but you’re sure glad you came.
O’Sullivan sat down with opbmusic to discuss the record, his truly deconstructive writing process and surprising new project. Read excerpts and listen to the full interview below.
Boreen has a gig along with Mount Goldie and Babehoven on Thursday, Dec. 13 at Turn! Turn! Turn! in Portland, Oregon.
Interview With Morgan O’Sullivan Of Boreen:
Max Robinson: I notice that on some of your songs like “Gaining Weight” and “Midnight Mass” there’s a lot of found sounds — like there’s someone whistling in the background of “Gaining Weight.” Where do those come from?
Morgan O’Sullivan: I guess it kind of depends. I do take voice memos on my phone of stuff that I hear walking around. That’s always been a big part of music for me, just from listening to hip hop or electronic music, just the use of sampling. So that’s something that’s stayed pretty consistent through all of the things I’ve done under Boreen. Yeah, that whistling was a street performer in London actually.
Robinson: At what point of the writing process do those fall into place? It seems like you listen to some of the songs on “Lovely” and try to think of how it would get started to how it would be completed. What’s that process like for you?
O’Sullivan: Yeah, a lot of the times, especially with this latest album, it actually starts with the samples and I’m kind of just messing around, coming up with a loop that I like or some sort of thing and then I figure out what key it’s in and start writing a song around that. That’s how a lot of these particular songs ended up coming around. I do this weird thing where I write a song and I write lyrics with the song, but then I almost never like it and so I scrap that song and then keep the lyrics, then sing those lyrics over a different thing I’m doing … So I think that’s usually how it goes, I start with a sample, find some old song that I got rid of and sing those lyrics over whatever I’m coming up with around the sample.
Robinson: I notice that there’s a lot more songs than your previous records that have to do with love.
O’Sullivan: That’s true. I guess why it’s called “Lovely.” It’s kind of corny, but I’ve always had so much trouble writing love songs and I think this album is my first batch of what I hope are successful love songs. [I] approached it in a way that’s not just talking about all of the great parts of love, but also the anxieties and the doubt that comes along with being in a long-term relationship. I think writing them kind of helped me figure some stuff out that I didn’t realize I was feeling.
Robinson: Are you working on any new material now?
O’Sullivan: Yes and no. I feel like I’m always doing something but it takes a long time for it to start feeling right. Me and my friend have been working on this metal project we’ve been sending back and forth, so who knows maybe that will be the next Boreen direction.