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Most of you probably remember my good friend and ex-Creative Director Chris Morris. Unfortunately he had to resign his position from the site a few months ago to devote more time to fatherhood and his new band Our Western Sky. If you haven’t heard them yet, they’re the closest thing Greenville has to a super group as it features him and bassist Matt Mashburn from long-running post-rock band East North, as well as Michael Barksdale of Culture Prophet, Exploding Clouds, Exaggeration Eddie and probably a few dozen others I neglected to mention on guitar. Since their inception the band has gigged hard locally and spent months writing new songs, perfecting them and then writing even more. You can catch the band this Friday at The Radio Room in Greenville along with Eat Lighting and The Unawares. You can read my interview with Chris below as well as stream some of their tracks.
Wes Gilliam: Ok since this is the first time you’ve been extensively covered on the website, can you tell us a little bit about how the band was formed?
Chris Morris: It was kinda funny how it all got started. I received a message on Facebook from Michael, and all itsaid was,”Do you like The Appleseed Cast?” Obviously, I replied and we corresponded for a while. There were supposed to beother members originally, but every time we tried to line something up, the other guys flaked. Dead set on getting this project off the ground, Michael asked if there was anyone I knew who would be sympathetic to the sound we were going for and had proper equipment. The only person I could think of was Matt. We had an impromptu practice and wrote three songs in that first practice. That pretty much solidified our lineup. We tried out a few other guitarists, but nothing clicked like when it was just the three of us, so we took that as a sign. The rest is history.
WG: One of the first things I noticed that was although you had all been playing live music for years. as soon as you guys started OWS you were ALL immediately pumped and felt like you were on to something. Do you attribute that to the song-writing or the chemistry between the members? I know you guys have been known to practice extensively into the wee hours of the morning etc.
CM: The chemistry we have is what allows the songwriting to just flow. We’re all confident on our respective instruments, so the actual playing isn’t something we have to worry about. We can just focus on what the song we’re writing really needs in the moment.
As for the long practices, that is no myth. A usual practice for us is roughly six to seven hours, if we’re writing. It’s cathartic. We play. We hang out. We play some more. The chemistry carries throughout the whole process.
WG: Another thing I noticed was that the collective sound of the group was way different than either members’ past projects or anything I’d really expect any of the members to be listening to on the regular. As I know, you in particular are more into electronic/ambient music as well as hip-hop generally. You managed to go from aband with no vocals to a band with three vocals!
CM: Well, the intention was to write music inspired by our youth, and in those days, we all listened to similar music — stuff like Sonic Youth, Appleseed Cast, Sebadoh, The Pixies, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Teenage Fanclub. Eventually, we settled on our current sound. We jokingly call it “Twinklecore.” Even though wemay be rockin’ there is definitely a little twinkle at the core of everythingwe do; hence the name.
WG: How does thesong-writing work in the group? I noticed that there are “Matt” songs and “Michael” songs. Do you write together or does each memberbring a song from their personal collection into practice?
CM: It’s a combination of the two. Sometimes, someone will come in with an idea, but when the rest of us get our hands on it, it becomes a whole new thing — usually for the better. Then again, we’ll be just relaxing in practice, and someone willbe riffing on something and we will run with it. However it happens, we run through it enough times to feel comfortable with capturing a quick recording. Then, when we reconvene, we rework the parts we feel weren’t successful, and then move forward with tightening up the song.
As for “Matt”songs or “Michael” songs, it basically comes down to who has the least complicated part to play. If someone writes a part that they can’t sing and play at the same time, the other will pick up the slack. We’re all really huge into melody/counter-melody and try to make that the focus ofall our songs. We want to bring the musicianship back into music asopposed to just relying on brilliant sound design. Also, we don’t want anything to be overly complicated or stagnant, so we try to decide what will be best for each song then go from there.
WG: You recently said something to the effect that the group had written a whole new setlist worth of material. For a newer band, that’s always pretty impressive. As I know that sometimes the writing and arranging process can be tedious and time-sucking. When the band does a “proper”release can we expect any early songs on there, or do you expect to have a whole new batch of songs by then? haha.
CM: It kinda depends on how much longer we decide to hold off on recording. It’s like trying to hit a moving target. The longer we wait to record, the more songs we write. This, in turn, lessens the chance of older songs making it onto the new album. We originally were going to do another EP, but we wrote too many songs. LOL! We plan to do a full length album which may have one or two older songs, but we feel like we’ve hit our stride, stylistically, and want to continue writing until we’ve exhausted that inspiration.
WG: What’s the band’s plan for the rest of the year? I ran into Matt not long ago and he said something about the band taking more serious strides towards making it as a regional-type band. It seems like Michael’s always doing 50 differentmusical projects and you’re a relatively new father, are those factors you have to consciously take into consideration?
CM: It definitely forces us to carefully consider our options. Ideally, we want to record this album ourselves, give it the full treatment, and then find some representation. In the meantime, we’ll continue to do shows and hone our craft. As forplaying regionally, it’s definitely in the cards. We want to give this band a fair shake and see where it can take us.
WG: Since you’re a site alum,let’s do what we did best. Let’s rap about local music. Here’s a two-parterfor you: 1. What local band is currently on your radar? Is anyone making you feel all tingly inside currently? and 2.If you could resurrect any Upstate band of the last 10-15 years, who would it be and why?
CM: As for bands that make me tingly, there is this all girl band, Joie. They have this amazing sound. It’s ethereal and vast and droning. They also combine traditional instrumentation with electronic drums. I can’t help but love that. Also, I’ve not been shy about hiding my affection for We Roll Like Madmen, so I can’t help but mention them here. I played live drums with them at the Clemson Spring Fest, and it was surreal to say the least. Being able to play alongside with one of my favorite bands in front ofthat many people with that much energy; it was definitely a high point in my musical career. Last, and certainly not least, I’m really proud of the accomplishments of Modern Man and hope to see them grow into somethingreally huge.
If I had to resurrect somebands from our past from the Upstate… All of them! Here is what I hope is a comprehensive list in no particular order: Throw Out the Obvious, Le Chevre, The Yurricks, The Savvys, Mer de Blanc, The Sharpest Knivesin the Drawer, Preachersgun, Shutter, Gentle Suit, Secret Vessels, map/map, TheDisease, Debaser, and so on and so on. A lot of the people who were in the bands I just listed have gone on to still create music in some way, shape,or form, and I hope they [we] continue to do so.
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