Published Mar 03, 2014Morning Glory, the ambitious punk rock brainchild of New York scene veteran Ezra Kire, are back with a new album, War Psalms, the culmination of 13 years of trying to make a truly cohesive album. Written mostly on piano, an instrument that's relatively new to Kire's repertoire, the band's third full-length album since Kire formed the group in 2001 is a veritable punk rock opus from the former member of New York bands such as Leftöver Crack and Choking Victim. Kire recently spoke to Exclaim! about writing and recording the album that he always wanted to make.
How does the new album carry on, or differ, from the last one?
This record is a little faster, a little darker, and more cohesive than [2012's] Poets Were My Heroes. The Poets record had more of a "rise, fall, rise, fall" feel to it and this one is pretty much a straight across the board, rocking punk record. There's a lot of piano in it, but to me it just feels like a natural progression from the old stuff. It's more political and less personal, and it's sort of its own thing again. I definitely like it better than the Poets record.
Oh yeah, why is that?
On the Poets record I was just getting my shit together in my personal life, just getting clean and all of that, so I was a little bit scattered and that's definitely reflected on that record. But this one you can tell I'm more focused on just playing music and writing. I think people who liked the earlier stuff will like this stuff, so we'll see.
I noticed you have Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, Violent Femmes) playing drums now. Have there been any other line-up changes?
No, just Brian. When we came back from Europe our previous drummer decided he wanted to do his own thing, and he's one of those multitalented guys who had his own bands, singing and playing guitar and stuff, so he left and that left us scrambling for a drummer. Brian came up in conversation and he was totally willing to do it. He is going to play some shows with us, but he won't be with us all of the time. So, at the moment we're kind of drummer-less, which for anyone who's in a band in New York, they know how hard it is to find a good drummer here who's not in like ten fucking bands already. Plus, Brian set the bar really high because he's a fantastic drummer, so we've been having trouble finding someone who's been able to play these drums on the album.
Morning Glory are known as being your band. What's it like being the guy who's in charge of the band, and member changes and things like that?
It's a lot more to deal with than I would like to, but that's just the way it is. We've actually had a really solid line-up for the past couple of years now. I was sad when [guitarist] Lucky Strano left the band, but we found a solid replacement with this new guy Shawn Gardiner, who also happens to be a songwriter, so he ended up co-writing some of the songs on the new record, and we did really well with that... Right now, we're just stuck on a drummer. I mainly don't like the scheduling conflicts that we have, because that's the biggest pain. And I don't like being the guy, so I try to pass off as many of my duties to other members in the band. We're pretty democratic and divide all of our responsibilities, that way we don't have to have a manager.
War Psalms sounds a bit more metal, or based on bigger riffs…
Yeah, that's probably due to Shawn. He's definitely a "guitar player first" kind of guy, and he's into it. He'll be writing those kind of riffs. A lot of times he would send me songs and I'd choose the best part or riff and I would write the song out of that. That seems to be a good way of collaborating. I always work better with guys I can bounce things off of, and he's a good guy for that. We ended up with a lot of great tunes because of that. But, yeah, it's definitely a little more metal, but hopefully in a more rocking kind of way than an actual heavy metal way.
You guys are known as being one of punk's more musically ambitious bands. After sticking your necks out a little bit, do you think that punk can be more than it is?
I don't know. It depends on everyone's definition of punk. I've always been into punk and listened to punk bands, and been in punk bands. I consider Morning Glory a punk band, for sure, but that's just because the songs I write I consider to be punk tunes, but other people may not agree with me on that [laughs]. Essentially, I just write the songs that I'm hearing in my head and if people like them, that's great, and they can call them whatever they want to call them. I've never been interested in being confined to a genre because the music I'm hearing in my head isn't confined to a genre.
I read somewhere that you said this new album "must be made." What did you mean by that?
Did I say that? Um, I guess I might have said that [laughs]. I guess the reason I might have said that is because the Poets record wasn't my best work and I really wanted to get a more definitive sound out of the band, and for that reason I really wanted to make this record to prove to other people, and to myself, that we had something that wasn't as scattered, and something that really sounds like Morning Glory. I feel like all of these songs fit together in a cohesive manner. I didn't want Poets to be our last record because it was just so scattered.
I'm sure being clean has something to do with it, but why do you think the new album is so much more cohesive?
I feel like writing music and making a record can really be a direct reflection of what's going on in your life. It's like if your apartment or your house is all messy, that's sort of a reflection of your own life in chaos or whatever. And for me the Poets record was a reflection of all the things I was feeling and the issues I was going through in my life at the time, they were going up and down, and some of them were sad and personal and some of them were political. This new album is a few years down the road where things are more together.
I was watching some live clips of the band and I noticed a lot of your shows get busted up by cops. It seems like you guys have more trouble with that than most bands and I was wondering why?
I don't know, to be honest with you. I think Leftöver Crack had more problems with the cops than we do. We don't really have any problems with them now, at this point. We played a Fat Wreck showcase a few months ago and the fire department showed up to that one, but that wasn't our fault. When Leftöver Crack was having all of those problems it was mainly due to the audiences that were coming out to see them. And wasn't even that kids were doing anything wrong, people in the neighbourhood would just freak out and call the cops because there's a bunch of all-dressed-in-black motherfuckers lined down the block and that would always be enough for the fire department or the cops to come out and shut it down.
Do you get a lot of flack for your lyrics?
Hmm, no, I wouldn't say I've had a lot of negative feedback about the lyrics. In fact, it's probably all been positive at this point. But Morning Glory has a much more optimistic view of the world than my previous bands. And that was one of my big problems with Leftöver Crack, and it's one of the reasons that I quit the band. The message became distorted after a while. When I first started playing in that band I really believed in the message and then it just changed over time and got more jaded, and after a while I just didn't believe in it anymore. In Morning Glory I wanted to write my own words about things that I really do believe in and I don't mind saying to the world. We still have some grit and fire in our lyrical content, but it's not anything that's mega-controversial or anything. I don't think I'm saying anything that people don't already feel.
You worked with Jesse Cannon (Man Overboard, the Menzingers) again on this record. Is he sort of your mainstay now for producing?
He has been. He's so easy to work with, even the first time I worked with him on recording vocals, so I kept going back to him. He's just one of those guys that's really good at what he does and there's a really limited amount of communication between us because I already know what he's thinking, and I already know what his ideas are for the track and what he wants to do with it, and he already knows how I want it to turn out. So we save a ton of money in not arguing with somebody over things. Jesse just has a similar vision and it has made it really easy to work with him. But for our next record we'll probably branch out a try somebody different, just to switch it up a little bit.
What else do you have planned besides the release of this album?
I'm working on some acoustic and piano songs right now, so I'm going to be putting out a… I guess, for lack of a better word, it's a "solo" record, although I hate using that term. This is the gestation period where you wait — between the time you record an album and get it out to print, it's usually about three months, so we got three months off to chill and do nothing, and that's when I start working on other stuff. So right now I'm working on some other tunes for an acoustic record that I've been meaning to do for forever and a day, so I'm really excited for that to come out, actually.
What kind of stuff would it be? Piano and guitar?
Yeah, it's a little of both. During the period that I was writing all of these songs for the War Psalms record on piano, which is kind of a first for me because I only just learned how to play piano. A lot of them didn't fit, so I'm just taking those songs and putting them on this other record. But a lot of them are acoustic guitar songs, too, so I'm thinking I'll just split them up and make half the record piano and half the record acoustic guitar. I'm not really sure how I'm gonna mix them up yet, but I'm just happy because it's simple and I don't have to deal with anybody. I can just track them on my own: just one instrument track and one vocal track and that's it. It makes it really simple. I have maybe 20 or 30 songs for that record already, so it's just a matter of picking out the good ones, you know?