If you’re an indie pop fan, put Class Photo on your radar. The solo project of Patrick Morris, formerly from STRFKR, has released two singles so far, with an album on the horizon. “Hard Conversation,” Class Photo’s newest track, evokes Foster the People and Daft Punk with its falsetto vocals and groovy guitars—but don’t be misled by its lighthearted sound. The lyrics describe what it’s like to lose a parent, candidly and unabashedly.
We recently had a conversation about “Hard Conversation” with Morris himself. Read on to learn about his new music, his fondness for Norway, and his spelling bee past.
TYF: You just released the single “Hard Conversation.” Can you tell us a bit about why you’re excited to share the song with the world?
Class Photo: Yeah. So Class Photo is my solo project. And I was in a band for a little over three years called STRFKR. I stopped being in STRFKR so I could start my project, so it’s exciting for me to get the music out there. I did it myself from almost from start to finish, so it’s exciting for me to be making my own music and have my own songs that I care a lot about. And specifically for “Hard Conversation…” It’s a really introspective song. Like, it’s definitely about some experiences that I had that are really important to me—dealing with death and stuff. It’s personal stuff, which I’m fine with talking about, but—yeah, I’d say it’s an important song for me.
TYF: Imagine that you get to make any music video you want for the song. You have an unlimited budget, and no idea is too extreme. What would you do?
CP: Wow. That’s a super good question. It’s so cool because you can do anything you want, and I’m so not prepared for that. But if I could do anything I want, I don’t think I would want to be totally in control. I like when when other people take a song and make videos that are not specific to the lyrics—that are kind of different than what the song seems to be about. So I would want someone else to be involved. I don’t have anything specific in mind… but I do like this video by this director who I think is from Germany. The artist is Siriusmo. And I like this video because it has this really interesting guy in it. He’s an actor and he’s also a musician, and it just kind of follows him. And it’s a really long video. So I think I would want to make a long video that followed an interesting person and try to build it around something that you wouldn’t expect it to be. But I also like watching bands in videos. l kind of have a soft spot for that—seeing the people. So I would want the band to be in the video, but I wouldn’t want to totally be in control.
TYF: Would you want to be in it singing and playing instruments, or as a character in the story?
CP: It wouldn’t have to be, like, singing, but I think it would be cool to be in the video. [The role] would definitely have to do with the plotline. ‘Cause I like when bands are in the videos, but I don’t feel like that’s the most important thing. So many great videos, it’s just about one specific idea, and it goes really far with that. Like, you know, the Weezer video for “The Sweater Song.” Something like that—slow-mo or backwards.
TYF: That’d be lot of fun. So you’re living in Norway now. How has that affected your creative process, if at all?
CP: I think it has for sure, ’cause living in Norway, you have all the seasons. And I came from LA, so I didn’t really have the same seasons. I grew up in California, but I lived in Portland, Oregon for 10 years, so I really missed that. The thing with Oslo is, you really bury yourself in whatever you’re doing. In the cold months, you get really into what you’re doing. And during this past winter, I was getting ready to play shows, and I got really, really absorbed in that. I had written all the songs and gotten together with these two Norwegian musicians who I really liked, and we were focusing a lot of energy into it. Because it’s cold, and you’re kind of stuck inside, and you just have to be alone and be in a windowless—well, it doesn’t have to be windowless, but in my case it was windowless—a windowless small room, just working stuff out. I like that. I like having the seasons.
TYF: Seasons are fun. Why did you decide to name your project Class Photo?
CP: You come up with the reasons after, kind of. I stuck with Class Photo because it was among a lot of names that I was thinking of, and I kept coming back to it. And that’s because I liked that [when hearing it], you could automatically think of something—you could visualize a class picture that was maybe a bit tender or even a bit awkward. And everyone has [a class photo like that]. So it was just automatic that if I said, “Class Photo,” people wouldn’t have to struggle to come up with something. That could be cool too, but for me, like, in my project where a lot of the songs are really lyrical and theme-driven, it was a nice theme. And I liked that [with the name Class Photo], you can play around with photographs—the analog photography and the nostalgic quality that a class photo kind of brings to mind.
TYF: Yeah, it definitely evokes a certain aesthetic.
CP: Yeah, I think so too. And it’s cool when artists play with the moniker and incorporate something from that into the artwork. So I’ve been trying to trying to think about that too.
TYF: For sure. And on the note of class photos, what was your favorite class in elementary school?
CP: (Laughs) Oh, man. It wasn’t math… I think it would be English. Grammar. I had kind of a love-hate relationship with it, but I was really good at spelling—well, not really good, but that was something that I was pretty good at. And I enjoyed it. I liked stories. I like to write, so I liked creative stories and stuff like that. Creative writing.
TYF: English was always my favorite, as well. Spelling….
CP: Did you ever do the spelling bee?
TYF: I did. I won my school spelling bee, and then I went to the regional round, but I dropped out in the regional round. I was in third place, but there was no prize for third place, so I wasn’t recognized. But it makes a good anecdote.
CP: (Laughs) Me, too. I did the spelling bee. I remember the word that I lost out on.
TYF: What was your word?
TYF: “Fiery.” Yeah, it’s not exactly intuitive.
CP: I didn’t think. I went too fast. Of course you know how it’s spelled, but it’s not how you think it’s spelled.
TYF: Yeah, I had to think about it for a second. Mine was “adipose.”
CP: Whoa, that’s a high level. You got up there.
TYF: I haven’t seen that word in the wild since that moment, so I guess not knowing how to spell it hasn’t really pushed me back any further in life.
CP: I’m definitely going to be looking up “adipose.” Don’t know what that means.
TYF: I don’t either, to this day. (Laughs) “Hard Conversation” and your other single, “I’ve Been Cleaning Your Room,” are going to be on your forthcoming album. What can you tell us about that album?
CP: Okay. The first song I wrote was “I’ve Been Cleaning Your Room,” which is also the first single. After leaving STRFKR, I struggled to make my own music, and I took a little break from it. That was the first song that I wrote that I was happy with, and I decided, like, “You know what? I can do this.” It wasn’t quite as intuitive to me to sing as it was to play guitar and keyboards and produce the various stuff that was more my focus when I was in STRFKR and the band I was in before STRFKR, Strength. The record definitely has a bit of an influence from… I say early Weezer, but I think a lot of people don’t really hear that, and I understand. It’s got an alternative rock sound—sort of the sentimental nineties rock vibe. And then the other half of the album is more like “Hard Conversation”—more in the vein of electronic rock, dance rock. And definitely incorporated elements of the two modes of songwriting in each other, but I let myself kind of let myself go back and forth between them. So that’s what to expect—songs that are in those two veins, and also songs that are kind of about what I was going through at the time. I was going through some stuff, mainly with my parents dying. Both of my parents died, and that was crazy. And I wanted to write songs that were not super sentimental—songs that you could still read into. “I’ve Been Cleaning Your Room”… My bandmates didn’t think it was about cleaning my dead mother’s bedroom after she died, but it is. I didn’t want it to be [obvious] right away that I was singing about something so incredibly heavy. But it is, and that’s what I enjoy writing about. And in a way, it’s therapeutic.
TYF: Looking forward to it. Do you have any advice for new and aspiring artists?
CP: One general thing is to always try and get better rather than trying to repeat what you did once that was good or that other people thought was interesting. Try and get better. The most exciting part of music is writing for me, and so I think to have to have something that you love to do and focus more on that, you’re going to enjoy the music more and not [feel like you’re] doing it for profit—not thinking in that mode of, “What’s this product I’m making?” I’m much more of the [mindset], “If you do something that you genuinely care about, you’re going to want to stand behind it and it’s going to make you excited.” And that’s why I think some bands stay together—they really have a passion for it. And if there’s not the fun factor, then it really kind of fades away. You get jaded.
TYF: We’re in the middle of May now; what are you looking forward to most this summer?
CP: So I live in Norway now. And the cool thing about coming from California to Europe is, in Europe, you’re really close to all these really magical places. They’re so close by. Someone said that in the US, a hundred years is a long time, but in Europe, a hundred miles is really far. You know, you go a few miles in Europe and you see a totally different culture, language, et cetera. And if you’re in the US, a hundred miles doesn’t feel like that much, but when you see something that’s just a hundred years old, it’s, like, crazy old. This summer, me and my wife are going to Italy, which I’m really stoked, really stoked for. We’re going to southern Italy, where I’ve never been. And it’s only a two-hour flight. And Italy seems like a crazy exotic place to me, but it’s not that far away. I think that’s cool.
TYF: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers and the fans?
CP: Yeah. I have a playlist that I just put up on Spotify about a week or two ago. And iif you want to check out what songs inspired “Hard Conversation,” and also songs that get stuck in my head a lot and songs that I’ve known for a while, but keep coming back to, you can check that out. It’s on my Spotify artist page. It’s music I like; I don’t know if it’s for everyone, but it gives you a taste of what inspires me.