Five Guys and A Lady: Grace Potter Interviews My Morning Jacket (Relix Revisited)
In anticipation of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals’ Grand Point North Festival and My Morning Jacket’s latest tour, we present this piece which originally ran in the June 2008 issue of Relix.
Photo by Michael Weintrob
Why would any publication want a girl like me to sit down and have a conversation with the bourbon-sipping Vikings of 21st century rock and roll? I don’t conduct interviews for a living, I’ve never been known for recalling things accurately and I tend to veer conversations directly into the gutter whenever possible. I have, however, had some memorable debaucheries with these fine fellows in the last couple years, and, I gather, after a week full of interviews, photo shoots, TV appearances and general overexposure that comes with putting out a new record, My Morning Jacket needed a little break.
I first heard about My Morning Jacket in 2005 from my friend Alex Crothers, the promoter at Higher Ground in Vermont. He’d taken them to this swimming hole in Huntington and the guys just had a wild good time and even though they didn’t sell a million tickets that night, it was just worth it because they’re such good guys. We bought their record It Still Moves a week later. And then followed it up the next day by buying the first two albums and the EPs.
I remember the tone in which that record hit my ears was especially beautiful and ambient because we were driving through northern California. There were Redwoods everywhere, the windows were all down in the RV and we had a crew of like nine people and we were all just kicking our feet up and cranking it through this great sound system.
What struck me first was the guitar, because, at that point, I had just picked up the guitar and I was formulating what kind of guitarist I wanted to be: Did I want to play lead parts or did I want to be a rhythm guitarist? I remember hearing Jim’s style and thinking, “Well, this is exactly what I want to play like.” Except I still haven’t quite gotten there.
We first saw them on the Bonnaroo DVD and it was just mind-blowing. It was just these incredible, hairy beasts. You couldn’t see anybody’s face which was even better because it just let the music do its thing. The hair and the rain at Bonnaroo and just the fierceness of that song “One Big Holiday,” it was killer. I think that’s how a lot of people first heard them—through that song. The puzzle doesn’t really come together until you see the whole package.
It wasn’t until Mountain Jam 2006 when I first saw them in-person and we all met. This is always a good sign: When a band can just kill you and make you feel like you’re in the middle of the ocean in a pitch black world and it’s daylight and raining and you’re on a ski hill. I remember standing side stage with Marco Benevento and watching them and Jim was sliding around on his knees. What was incredible about it is that they’d just come off the Pearl Jam tour and this was their first show where they were the stars.
I like music that can sound big but also sounds like it came from rock and roll. It’s easy to sound big with beautiful, jangly Coldplay chords and a stadium voice all the time with big melodies that everyone wants to sing along to but these guys have more going for them than that. There’s a depth to them: There’s blues, gospel and country. It’s something that they fearlessly attack.
I loved Z, the follow-up to It Still Moves, from the first second I heard it. We were all in the van, it was another group listen. You’ll find that a group listen can change your experience a lot. I was just smitten. I was completely taken aback and did not expect it. I was really blown away with how far they took it. It really made me wonder how much a producer has to do with how a record turns out. And that then it turned me around and made me realize that, no, you have to make a choice to make a record like this. Nobody can make you do it. These guys knew what they were doing and they went for it.
So I was ready for the new album, Evil Urges. I got the sense that they were going to go somewhere totally new, brave and different again. Getting ready to listen to it, I was fully prepared although I had no idea that they were going to have robot voices. That was pretty wild. “High Suspicious” is a highly suspicious song. That’s the key with a song like that: If you can pull it off, more power you to you. I know I couldn’t. Evil Urges proves that there’s really nothing that these guys can’t do well.
I think more than anything, what I get from the Jacket is the hard work they’ve put into it all. They are not a flash in the pan, overnight success band. They’ve gone through member changes, location changes, some pretty serious musical changes and they are still who they are at the core. They’re just very real and at the same time kind of mythical. More than any musical decision they make, that’s what hits me: how they’ve rambled on.
So here I am: A Vermonter in New York City, 20 minutes late, haggling with my cab driver until he kicks me out for not paying with cash. I’ve managed to lose my borrowed cell phone, forgot my camera and my notepad and am now looking for our meeting place, The Slipper Room, along a busy, sign-filled street on the Lower East Side with my very bad eyesight. As I bang on the locked door and pray that I’m on the right island, I think to myself “This whole journalism thing is fuckin’ hard.”
It doesn’t matter though: I know these guys. I can do this without questions and a list in front of me. The second I sit down at the table, it’s a bunch of real people putting their heads together and doing something fun. I think the whiskey probably helped, too.
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