Interview with Ezra Kire | By Ricky Frankel
Ezra Kire of Morning Glory (ex-Leftover Crack, ex-INDK) has been pretty quiet since the band’s (extremely great) EP Post-War Psalms was released in early 2016. He talked about the possible release of a solo album on Ryan Young’s (Off With Their Heads) Anxious And Angry podcast, but that was back in late 2015. Fast forward to the present day and we are only a few weeks away from his debut solo album’s release! September 26, 2017 to be exact. Speakers In the Sky will be out, like Post-War Pslams, through Ryan Young’s Anxious And Angry label. The vinyl pre-order is available here and the digital pre-order can be found on Kire’s Bandcamp page.
Even though we won’t get to hear all of the album until later this month, New Noise Magazine has got your back. Today we are very excited to premiere the lyric video for the title track of Speakers In The Sky, plus features editor Ricky Frankel spoke with Ezra about the upcoming record, what is going on with Morning Glory, becoming a pilot, the development of his musical style and a lot more. Check it all out below.
We haven’t heard too much from you or Morning Glory since you released Post-War Pslams last year (also through Anxious and Angry). Is the band on hiatus?
Yeah we’ve been taking a break so everyone can do other things. I never liked saying we “broke up” because then if you play some show you have to bill it as a reunion. And we all know reunions are fucking bullshit. “Yeah, we broke up, but yah know, that job at the factory wasn’t working out so we figured we’d give it another shot… oh, you’ve been here all along?” Reunions mean whatever else you went off to do didn’t work out and now you’re back asking your fans who’ve been there all along to come out and give you a second chance, at double the old ticket price of course. It’s like you broke up with the love of your life to date some rich banker chick but that didn’t work out and now your back. Will you take us back pleeeease? But just for a one night stand? Our hearts really aren’t in it anymore but will you buy a teeshirt on the way out? I have a kid now.
I heard that you are becoming (or have become) an airplane pilot. What made you want to pursue that? What does that mean for your music career?
Well that’s half a rumor. I will probably run drugs in South America or fly aid in Africa. Maybe cargo planes or fly for Doctors without Borders. Something which allows me to give back a little.
When do you think we will get more Morning Glory material or live shows?
When Brett (our drummer) returns from being a rockstar with his other band Astronoid. Typical drummer/guitarist/singer — he just couldn’t keep it to one band. I believe he found the overly simplistic scope of our music stifling to his delicate creative sensibilities. He’s a very talented jerk.
Do you think there will ever be plans to press the pre-Poets Were My Heroes Morning Glory material on vinyl?
I think we do have some extras floating around, but if there is going to be any other MG releases of older material it will be a remaster of the first No Time To Sleep record with a proper studio mix on vinyl picture disc only. The problem has been that that record was recorded on 8-track tape reel-to-reel, so a bit hard to re-mix. Those machines are all but obsolete.
This is the second release you have put on through Ryan Young’s (Off With Their Heads) Anxious and Angry label. What made you want to work with him rather than Fat Wreck Chords where Morning Glory put out War Pslams?
Well Fat didn’t want to/couldn’t put it out and Anxious and Angry is way cooler. Ryan and his label give us the attention we deserve and the quick responses that really speed things up. I originally asked Fat Wreck if they wanted to put out the Post-War Psalms record and they said they already had too many upcoming releases that year. I know that’s industry code for “sorry, your last record didn’t sell well enough.” And that’s cool, I totally understand. I don’t take those things personally. I love Fat, and I’ll always be a part of the Fat family. I just like to talk shit sometimes (in good fun). The truth is that while they believe in their products they also have a multi-million dollar business to run and that’s what you’re dealing with with them. They have to make good business decisions to maintain their presence and preserve their legacy and the legacy of their bands. In that business model you can’t always put out records just because you like them. Ryan is in it for the art and nothing more. And there’s great satisfaction in that style of model. He knows there is no money in music anymore yet he does it anyway. Personally I think he does it just to get away from his girl for a few hours. Let’s face it, the ease of dealing with a smaller label is awesome. If there’s an issue I just text him and he responds right away (when he’s not on tour). Plus I get to split any money down the road with someone I talk to regularly. Pretty cool. My girlfriend really wants me to do a split solo with him. She loves him. That handsome charming bastard.
Why did you decide to name your solo record (and the title track) Speakers In The Sky? Is it an allusion to Norm Greenbaum’s song “Spirit In the Sky?”
Actually I never liked that song. It sounded like ZZ-Top to me, only with Christian overtones. Now if they had used the word “fucking” in there it would’ve had some credence. You know something like “maaan, if they ever get me I’m going on up to that fuckin spirit in the fuckin sky, man.” That would’ve given it some street cred; a bit of criminal grit. No, my title comes from a selfish vision I had. In junior high I’d walk to school and imagine my Walkman headphones were actually giant speakers accompanying me to class — like there was a way to force the world into dancing and performing their tasks to my music — like a big musical based on my current mood. The teacher would have to chalk out math equations to Reign In Blood. The garbageman would wave and bang his can in time. It was a fantasy. See if I have giant speakers up in the sky blasting my own music (usually Slayer) then everywhere i went people would have to listen to my music and the world would have a uniform emotion, a sort of interconnectedness. Like an unrelenting soundtrack to which everyone must acquiesce… I’m a music megalomaniac and everyone must bow! A fantasy I’m sure everyone has had at some point.
Did you play all of the instruments on this record?
Well my buddy Brett played drums. Except for one track which I attempted to play the drums on — “Artificial End.” I was behind the kit on that one. Huffing and puffing and cursing the nicotine companies. It was terrible. I had a new respect for drummers after that 30 seconds of recording. But besides Brett’s drum tracks, yes I played every other instrument. I think my friend Grace came and sang some back ups on few tunes just for fun. That gave a very round sound texture to some of the choruses. Actually I got that from Faith No More who had a female track a lot of the backups on their album The Real Thing. A choice trick!
I remember hearing you talk about your solo record about year ago on the Anxious and Angry podcast and you even played “Let It Go” on it. What made you want to write a solo record? Why is now the right time to release it?
Well it should have come out years ago but it got held up by the art. I’m not good at art. But then I like to think that everything happens at the time it is meant to. Maybe it wouldn’t have done well a few years ago. I didn’t mean to write a “solo” record (I always resented the solo moniker), it just kind of happened. I had songs, I tracked them for fun, Ryan asked if I would be interested in putting them out, and I said, “Sure — why not?” But since it wasn’t really intended as a public release it had no artwork. I hate the artwork part. I’m not good at it… did it mention that?
“Let It Go” is magnificently written song, but why are the lyrics so pessimistic? What are you “letting go”?
You know in my mind the overall tone of that song is actually very optimistic, so I sent it to my good friend at work who wanted to play it for his five young kids on the big screen at home. I thought, “well there’s no cussing so it must be kid-friendly.” But he came in the next day and didn’t say a word to me. I realized then that there may be more pessimism involved than I realized. Hahaha. But it’s supposed to be humorous. The second verse is about the devil being too overwhelmed by old malignant rockstars for him to cut any more rock and roll contracts, like he made a few too many bad deals that he’s paying for now. What seemed like good steals turned out to be raw deals that backfired and now he knows he’s gonna be stuck in hell with Kieth Richards for eternity. That’s enough for him to cancel all future soul-for-fame contracts. Basically every musician is assed out because Kieth Richards ruined it for everyone. I thought it was quite a funny verse. But i guess everyone interprets things their own way and if you write a verse about the devil that makes it devil music somehow? By the way, I don’t believe in the devil.
Your ability to combine piano and distorted guitars is one of the many aspects of your music that makes it so unique. How did you develop that sound?
I tried to keep it bare and not do too much overdubbing. There’s only so much sonic space available and guitars and pianos ride in the same frequency, so I tried to keep it bare bones. I basically went with the Rick Rubin “less is more” school of thought. But that’s probably nerdy producer talk for another interview.
You have said in other interviews that you are basically done with ska punk. You accomplished quite a lot in that sub genre with early Morning Glory, INDK and Leftover Crack songs. Why did you decide to move on from it?
Because I hate ska music. I enjoyed playing ska music on guitar because it’s an art which takes years to master… like reggae. But I was always more into thrash, punk, and metal. Growing up in smaller places, where there were just a few of us listening to bands the Dead Boys, I was very attached to those bands. But then I moved to bigger cities and found that there was a lot of exclusion involved in the punk scene, so I felt alienated from the whole thing. I guess I decided i was just going to make the music I was hearing in my head and not copy anyone or cater to an audience which i felt followed a lot of rules after all. I like most punk music and subscribe to the punk ethos, but I won’t follow other people. If The Specials are on in the background I won’t complain, but I don’t own a single ska record.
The album art is quite interesting. Can give some background about it? Did you make it like you made the Poets Were My Heroes album cover?
Actually a friend of mine took that picture and sent it to me randomly for fun. I saw it and immediately thought, “this would work perfect with my title”. It was serendipity. Without telling him my intentions I asked him to color the sky. Which he did. Once it was done I asked him permission to use it. He must have suspected because he did it all without any questions. After years of waiting I had the cover in less than an hour. Again, things happen when they’re supposed to.
Do you plan on touring for this album?
Touring is a young man’s game, unless you have a fetish for the masochism of cheap hotels and living room floors. Actually, I always preferred staying at people’s houses when we toured a lot. Kids at the shows usually had a comfy couch, a fridge full of food, and occasionally a hot mom who’d take pity on you. Those things were absolute gold after weeks in a van full of stinky dudes! Every chance I’d get I’d go off with some group of kids, if only to escape my bandmates for the night. Sometimes that would backfire of course, but we always had a rule — as long as you were at the van the next day you could go wherever you wanted, which I did regularly. I’d say that rule pretty much got me through a gazillion tours. As for solo shows I might do some, but I’m not sure when yet. I’ll be chasing my bandmates carefully, that’s for sure. I only just learned piano and I’m self-taught so I’ll need to stay in practice to play live!
How did you get Jimmy “The Rent’s Too Damn High” McMIllan to do a cameo in the music video for Morning Glory’s “Punx Not Dead, I Am” music video?
Up until last year he lived in my neighborhood, just up the street. Unfortunately, he lost his long battle with his landlord over the rent there being too (damn) high and he was evicted. The day before our shoot I ran into him on the street and asked him if he’d like to stop by the set. I thought he was going to stay for an hour, do his scene, and then go. But after he shot his part he just kept hanging around, creeping on the side lines. We’d be shooting one of the house-party shots and he’d slowly start encroaching from the side, side-stepping into the camera frame, looking directly at the camera and giving the devil horns sign with a big smile. So we just put him in the rest of the video. He was awesome. He signed a lot of autographs and stood for as many pictures as people wanted. Very sweet guy. Apparently he lost his life’s memory in the Vietnam War and everything he knows about the world he learned from books after his tour there. I hope we did his cause some good. I couldn’t think of a more perfect character to go with the theme of that video, so again it was completely random serendipity that I ran into him.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
This record is very different. With the exception of the title track it’s mainly piano ballads, some instrumentation. My friend is a vinyl DJ and I went to his house and spun the entire album backwards, just for kicks, and it sounded as good or better in reverse. You can’t do that with a screamo record! But if you’re a mohawked punker expecting some snotty punk rock, you might be disappointed. I have visions of punk rockers hearing the first couple songs and thinking someone in shipping screwed up their order with a Barry Manilo record (haha). This is a two side story which builds to a climax on side B. It’s not preachy or overtly political. It’s simple and has an ubiquitous message without being watered-down pablum. Topical politics are always changing, but I’d like to think these songs have a timeless sort of relevance which will make them classics years from now. I’ve learned that good songs touch a chord today and great songs will touch that chord again when you hear them 20 years in the future. I think these are great songs. I really hope people enjoy it. See punks never expect to live long, so if you are one of those who makes it past the ripe old age of 28 you can bet you’re going to live forever. That’s why i always say be careful what you say in a punk song… one day you could grow up to be in it.