James Vincent McMorrow

James Vincent McMorrow
James Vincent McMorrow

Tropical Textures

James Vincent McMorrow discusses his recent release Post Tropical and his upcoming Australian tour, which brings him to the Astor Theatre this Wednesday, May 21. AARON BRYANS reports.

It’s been one hell of a 2014 for James Vincent McMorrow.

Starting with the release of his sophomore LP, Post Tropical, McMorrow began a 20-date North American tour that would push his professional and mental boundaries.

“It was brilliant from a playing perspective,” McMorrow explains. “It was really epic. It was almost like a Greek odyssey because there was so much drama and so many crazy things happened. We had buses breaking down, I was sick very quickly on in the tour and we had to cancel a show, we had a lot of really long intense drives over the days when we didn’t have a bus.

“And then, as soon as we got into a rhythm, my drummer had to go home to Ireland for four or five days so we had to rebuild the entire set. Then one of my guitar techs had to jump on stage with us to play drums with us and check the sounds. The tour from a logistical prospective was a nightmare; it never got settled into a rhythm.

“We were always waking up having to deal with some crazy drama but from a playing perspective it was probably the best tour I’ve ever done. Night after night the shows were getting better and better and it was easily the best reactions we’ve had for the new album all year long; everything was totally sold-out and the people that were there; there wasn’t a sense that they were there just to be there. There’s always a fear that people are buying tickets just to say they bought a ticket. There was never a sense of that. It’s always people that are really excited that they got a ticket to these shows. I worked really hard to put on the best live show I can and do a really compelling live show and all these things and it was really amazing to see to working.”

Post Tropical was a huge success for McMorrow, expanding his musical sound like never before; with incredible attention to detail and simplicity, fans welcomed the album with praise.

“My goal is to make the best thing that I can make; and with this album that was very much that goal,” McMorrow reveals. “The album was made from the perspective of me as a music fan. It wasn’t made from the perspective of a touring musician that’s making music as more of a function then a purpose. I saw a lot of bands growing up making music to meet expectations; they would achieve something with a first or second record and they would try and maintain or consolidate that by going back around and making the same thing again and hoping that it would stick or a song on there would find a way onto the radio and that would keep them in the place that they wanted to be. It just doesn’t matter to me; my overriding instinct is to make the best things that I can think of and everything else can be damned. I want to just make the best music I can as a reflection of me the musician and me the music fan and hope that when people hear that that’s what they will hear.

“I’m not looking to jump on radio; if it happens, that’s amazing. I’m not looking to be in everybody’s magazines; if that happens, that’s amazing. I don’t want to make music that’s trying to feed into that. My expectation was to make the most beautiful thing I could based on where I’m at as a musician and the confidence I feel as a musician at this moment in time.

“Everything that I love is in this record and it feels as though that is coming across because people are responding on a level that I’d hoped they would respond on; that people would get the songs and get what they would mean and sing along the way that I’d sing along. I had a very specific picture in my mind when I went to make this record. It took a lot of twists and turns and a lot of instruments came into my world that served as these catalytic spark for other ideas and then songs took left turns that I wasn’t expecting. I wanted it to be this layered, textured thing; I wanted it to go from moments of incredibly simplicity to these really dense moments in a flash. On certain songs there are things that are happening that might not be overt to people who aren’t musicians. I wanted it to resinate on different layers. There’s some songs where the last chorus is the same melody as the other two choruses that came before but in a different key. I really wanted to push myself as a writer and that was this idea of exploring texture and sound and exploring all these different avenues.

“I think I found my world and I’m happy in my world now.”

McMorrow has been busy preparing for his Australian tour. Expect a solid stage and an incredible atmosphere.

 “Lighting is a key element to what we’re doing,” McMorrow explains. “We have a full lighting rig that we built especially for this tour. We built pyramids and screens that have been very thoughtfully put together by my lighting engineer. We play the same set every night so that the show is locked in so that my lighting guy knows the cues and the points its almost like he’s part of the stage show, he’s almost the fifth musician. I’ve always been a big admirer of bands who don’t come with generic lights or expect the venue to provide lights. “It’s going to be this thing that envelops you every night. I built the show to draw people in and to move them into the show as much as possible with us. But he’s doing it live he’s not just pressing a button. So people can really expect as profound show as I can bring to Australia.”