For years, friends and associates have been strongly recommending (i.e. pushing) Kentucky based My Morning Jacket to me, especially with the band's 2005 release, Z, which saw the group take an experimental turn and expand beyond its southern and classic rock roots. Something about the band never clicked with me personally, however, until the group released Evil Urges in 2008. That disc expanded the band's reach even further, stepping out not only into garage rock, but also funk and R&B, exhibiting as much of a fascination with Prince as the classic rock of Neil Young and explorational Americana of Wilco.
For many devotees of the band, Evil Urges was a schizophrenic record, but it was just that widespread diversity that drew me in. As a result, I eventually worked my way backwards through the catalog and dug into earlier discs like At Dawn and It Still Moves.
When My Morning Jacket released it latest disc, Circuital, in May of this year, fans and critics both rejoiced. Widely hailed as a return to form, the disc does have a more organic sound than its immediate predecessor, but it also continues to follow a deep psychedelic groove that plays to the band's strengths and explorational nature. Almost immediately, the album started appearing on early listings for the 2011's best releases.
Not a band to sit still, My Morning Jacket filled its summer with concert dates and festival appearances, also garnering fan and critical reviews that deemed them some of the band's best performances to date. As the festival season drew to a close, the band departed on a fall and winter tour that take it to more intimate venues like Tulsa's Brady Theater this Tuesday night, Dec. 6.
In anticipation of a tour that brings My Morning Jacket to Tulsa for the first time since 2005, I was eager to discuss the band's development and new album, but a touring schedule that took the group to Europe for a run of shows made connecting directly with the band a challenge. Nevertheless, keyboardist Bo Koster was gracious and accommodating in an email exchange, candidly discussing the band's current direction and live shows.
When asked about the early reviews calling Circuital a return to form he responded:
"I guess it depends on what perspective you're looking at it from. I find the notion of a 'departure' confusing, because it implies that something gets left behind, or lost, but in reality it's always there. It never goes away, it just manifests itself differently. When we were making Evil Urges, it's not like we were sitting around saying 'Well boys, this one is our departure record.' Nor did we ever have a conversation about going back or anything like that with Circuital."
"Sure, we were aware that things were different, but we weren't really focused on it. In the end, the songs, ideas, or feelings come to Jim, and we sift through them, and then we do the best we can on every level to stay inspired and turned on, and when it's all said and done, the record kind of makes itself ya know? There's an illusion of control, but the reality is, that much of it is out of our control. You try to follow your inspiration and your gut the best you can, and make sure you enjoy it along the way. In general, we think that deconstructing and talking about the music is more harmful then helpful most of the time -- at least in a big picture, creative sense. It's a fine line kind of topic."
As part of the break between albums, both band leader Jim James and guitarist Carl Broemel released solo albums or side projects. I asked Koster how these departures helped shape My Morning Jacket and the freshness of the band's new material, to which he answered:
"Speaking for myself, I think it's a positive thing to do now and then. It gives people space to grow and come back with different perspectives and ideas. I think we all agree that working in other situations makes us realize how lucky we really are to have what we have together too. In the end, it's a craft and to truly become a master, you have to continue to learn and grow, and any little thing helps. Anytime you're challenged or forced to see a different perspective on things, or a new set of possibilities, it's just one more step in honing your craft. There's also the matter of taste development and continuing to refine it, which can only be done if you're constantly meditating on it."
When discussing the band's live reputation and reviews calling these shows some of the My Morning Jacket's best performances yet, Koster shared that "We take a lot of pride in putting on the best show we can. I think we all feel really blessed and lucky to be able to do what we do, so we try and give it everything we have night in and night out. The new material has fit in incredibly well as far as the live show goes, so we've been playing a lot of the new stuff this year."
Perhaps most interesting for the band's devoted fans; the group has been offering a special opportunity for fan club members with optional "Soundcheck pre-party" packages that can be purchased through the band's website. My Morning Jacket has always been known for connecting with its fans and being interactive, but this takes the concert experience a step farther, allowing fans into soundcheck to experience the band's preparation process.
When asked how this package has evolved, Koster explained that "It started off as a way to do something for local radio initially, instead of getting up super early on a show day and visiting the actual station. Now, it's turning into something where we can play a few songs, say hello and interact a little bit, give them (fans) a signed poster, and have it be a special kind of intimate behind the scenes thing. Instead of waiting by the bus for hours to get a poster or record singed after the show, people can now come to the sound check party instead. It's no skin off our back, so it's kind of a no brainer as long as people are into it."
Although the history and intimacy of Cain's Ballroom adds to shows, an appearance at Brady Theater is perhaps more appropriate for the dynamics of the band's current album, Circuital, and the explorational and improvisational nature of the group's extended catalog.
If you miss the band's first appearance in Tulsa since 2005, you could very well miss one of the best shows of the year. Tickets are still available starting at $36.50 plus service charges for the show that starts at 7pm this Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Music to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share this article: