Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Morning Glory’s name is not inspired by an Oasis song, nor does it refer to your granny’s favorite flower. It’s actually in reference to the fact that the majority of the band’s creative output happens shortly after sun-up: “I was always writing songs in the morning, which is kind of a reflection of the attitude of the band and the sound,” says founder/front man Ezra Kire. “I feel like that has something to do with our overall outlook on life and music.”
That philosophy is on full display on the band’s latest full-length, War Psalms, a near-seamless 37 minutes that will alternately assault your senses and lull them; will arouse your consciousness and sometimes even tug your heartstrings. The album includes some of the things you’ve grown to love about the band (strings, horns, piano, chunky metallic riffs) and excludes some of the things Ezra and crew have grown away from (drug references, stridency, the “crack rock steady” ska influence). This is what Ezra calls “revolution rock.”
With Shawn Gardiner filling some very large shoes after guitarist Lucky Strano’s departure in 2012, decade long guitarist Adam Schrager on lead, and the Mediterranean island of Cyprus’s own contribution to rev-rock: Heavy Metal Chris on the bass, the War Psalms record was rounded out with the addition of the powerhouse drum styles of Brian Viglione, founding member of Dresden Dolls and now touring percussionist for the Violent Femmes. Ezra remarks that he had a dream team to execute the new songs.
Though the band’s first release, This Is No Time Ta Sleep (self-recorded and played entirely by Kire in his bedroom) came in 2001, followed two years later by the EP The Whole World Is Watching, Morning Glory was a largely dormant entity for the ensuing decade while Ezra’s energies were devoted to the relentless tour schedule of his other band, Leftover Crack. Upon his departure from LOC several years ago, he devoted all of his creative juices to resuscitating Morning Glory, assembling a band of experienced veterans and releasing their Fat Wreck Chords debut Poets Were My Heroes in 2012.
While proud of his past in-your-face work and its genre-bending moments, he was never actually much of a ska fan (though he found it fun to perform) and felt it was time for his current musical iteration to continue moving away from those roots. “Music is a forward moving journey. I feel like each record should be an evolution. I don’t want to keep writing the same song over and over and releasing the same album year after year,” Kire laughs. “War Psalms was the record that had to be made—I think it’s got the quintessential Morning Glory sound. This is our definitive album. Grit, fire, heaviness, speed and a few singalongs…I was finally able to write the record I’ve been hearing all these years." Kire continues, “We’re a political band, but not in an overt or preachy way—we’re not going to tell you how to think or feel or vote. I’d say it’s more social commentary than anything. And whatever people think of it, this is something I can fully stand behind.”
The literal and figurative centerpiece of the album is “War Dance,” introduced by the tribalesque gang vocals of its counterpart “War Haka.” The song is a social-political manifesto about the interconnectedness of all of humankind. The real standout spoken portion of the track, though, is a diatribe narrated by New York crust icon Peter Missing of the Missing Foundation. “The spoken word piece in the main body of this song was one of the most important parts of the record as I was more or less summing up our message in one broad stroke. The speaker had to be someone with both a musical and political background. I ran into Pete at the coffee shop one morning on the way to the studio so I grabbed him, dragged him back to my apartment, wrote the words on the spot, and tracked it in a few takes on a laptop. The whole thing took a matter of minutes- which is a good example of the stripped down simple approach we were taking,” Ezra emphasizes. “Thankfully Pete seemed to agree with all the lyrics so there was little editing. It was serendipitous!"
Once again working with producer Jesse Cannon, Ezra’s approach to War Psalms was in some ways more similar to Morning Glory’s 2001 debut This Is No Time Ta Sleep than to its immediate predecessor, 2012’s Poets Were My Heroes. “A bunch of these songs we wrote right in the studio, on the spot. During Poets, I really agonized over sounds and all that technical stuff, but with this one I took a simple no-frills approach and there are not a lot of additives or over dubs. Both No Time and Psalms basically wrote themselves, which is a good sign because good songs always write themselves.”
With such an intensive schedule of writing, recording, and releasing, some people might lose sight of their overall goals, but not so for Morning Glory. With all of their output, they’re highly aware that what they’re doing isn’t just a personal creative outlet, but a vehicle to both entertain and to provide a glimmer of light in a world that sometimes seems inescapably dark.