Punk rock has always been a genre that has ample room for expansion and experimentation, and bands like Morning Glory are leading the charge for a more ambitious style of punk that goes beyond simply three chords. With their latest opus, War Psalms, set for release March 4 on Fat Wreck Chords, Morning Glory band leader Ezra Kire explains to Exclaim! that he simply writes the songs he wants to, without worrying about what genre they will fit into.
"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 Kire, an ex-member of punk bands such as Leftöver Crack and Choking Victim. "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."
War Psalms, which can be pre-ordered via Fat here, is a 13-song album that expands on the band's previous record, 2012's Poets Were My Heroes, with big anthems, heavier riffs and a more cohesive sound that reflect a new era for Kire, personally and musically.
"On the Poets record I was just getting my shit together in my personal life, just getting myself clean and all of that," he explains, "so I was a little bit scattered and that's definitely reflected on that record. But on this new album 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."
Known for following Kire's vision since their inception in 2001, Morning Glory have added essential pieces to the band over the years to make it more than an extended side-project for the New York songwriter who has had the "ex-member" tag following him around since he left Leftöver Crack in 2012. In 2010, Kire found a Morning Glory songwriting partner in guitarist Shawn Gardiner, who replaced longtime guitarist Lucky Strano (of the World/Inferno Friendship Society), and the band also added drummer Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, Violent Femmes) for the recording of War Psalms (Viglione won't stay for touring).
"We've actually had a really solid lineup for the past couple of years now. I was sad when Lucky left the band, but we found a solid replacement with Shawn, 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," says Kire. "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 10 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."
With a positive message and outlook, Morning Glory are a punk band that fans of the genre can rally around, something Kire appreciates after seeing how lyrics and messages can be polarized over time.
"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 awhile. 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 awhile 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."
Once again using producer Jesse Cannon (Man Overboard, the Menzingers), Kire and the members of Morning Glory camped out at Cannon's Union City, NJ studio and came out with 27 songs that needed to be whittled down to 13 for the album. It was all part of the process of writing an album that truly represented the band, says Kire.
"The Poets record wasn't my best work and I really wanted to get a more definitive sound out of the band," he says, "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."
Another happy result of the songwriting process for War Psalms was Kire's newfound love for writing songs on the piano, something he started doing on the band's previous album. In fact, his creative juices were flowing so freely that he was able to make some headway on a solo album he's wanted to put out for years.
"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 'solo' record, for lack of a better word," says Kire. "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 have maybe 20 or 30 songs for that record already, so it's just a matter of picking out the good ones, you know?"
Read our full interview with Kire here.