For a band like My Morning Jacket, the road to redemption is found night after night, city after city, with a guitar in hand and that lost highway in the rearview mirror. For well over a year, this Louisville, Kentucky five-piece has being touring its most recent full-length It Still Moves. And the band continues to plow forward, only stopping to pick up critical acclaim and stray fanboys and girls along the way.
"This is a seven-week American tour we're on right now," says drummer Patrick Hallahan during the band's third Toronto appearance in less than a year. "We'll have three days off in between and then we tour Europe for two weeks, doing the Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury festivals… plus another couple of festivals in Belgium and Norway."
Touring It Still Moves has been a journey of both addition and subtraction for the band. While MMJ's spacey brand of Southern rock has attracted a motley assortment of indie rockers and Winnebago warriors, the attention has come at a price; namely founding guitarist Johnny Quaid and keyboardist Danny Cash. Both opted to leave MMJ in lieu of keeping up with the band's demanding tour schedule.
"The touring really drove them into the ground after a while," says Hallahan. "That's pretty much it—there's no bad blood at all between us and them. I think it's just some people are programmed for the touring lifestyle and some people aren't. Johnny and Danny are both more private, homebody-type folk and they needed to be with their families more because they were hurting. It's hard to accomplish anything when you're hurting like that."
Their replacements—Carl Broemel and Bo Koster—have since joined the fold and the band continues to soldier on, seemingly no worse for wear and with a renewed sense of vigor to boot.
"The transition has been so seamless, it's almost scary," says Hallahan. "I think the only major difference is that now, we're playing with two people who want to be there. Carl and Bo have definitely brought a new energy to the band."
Make no mistake, MMJ in concert manage to capture the unbridled spirit of everything that is right about rock and roll. However, the band recently released a stripped-down EP entitled Acoustic Citsuoca, recorded last fall in the backwoods of Massachusetts. The five-song live set eschews the band's trademark reverb in favour of a pentameter of songs presented with little more than the base chords and singer Jim James' affected yowl.
"We captured an awesome show we played on Halloween night and it was just one of those great moments in time," says Hallahan. "We had a great time playing that show so we figured we'd put it out. It's not really connected to any of the albums but definitely, it's a 'thank you' to our fans. We're really appreciative; we wouldn't be anywhere without them."
While the band's touring itinerary takes them straight through the summer and into September, Hallahan says they'll finally pull the plug on the touring caravan at that time… so they can get to work on planning the next My Morning Jacket opus, of course.
"We don't know what it's going to sound like but we do have an idea of what direction we want to go. For us, the sound really grows organically. It just kinda happens—it's gotten to the point where the band is bigger than any of us so we just follow it."
Writer: Cameron Gordon