Sometimes only a rude awakening can shake you off a misguided path. That’s what Vancouver based alt-rockers Morning Show received from their producer Colin Stewart in the spring of 2016. Morning Show was busy making gentle, refined tunes peppered with subtleties that the casual listener might never notice. Thankfully, the formidable Stewart (The New Pornographers, Yukon Blonde) bluntly informed them these songs were lousy and that the band sounded “bummed”. They realized that indeed they were “bummed”, changed up their line-up, adopted a new mentality (self-dubbed “freedom train”), “un-bummed” themselves and voila! Out came their debut full-length, “Wine”.
In contrast to 2015’s “Prom Theme” EP, where everything was worked over meticulously until the dynamic and lush indie-rock record was produced, “Wine” was fluid up until the end. With parts and lyrics changing constantly and songs exiting and entering unknowingly, the process went by in a blur, underlined with a lot more fun and excitement than this band was used to having. Newly condensed to a duo, songwriters Ethan Henthorn and Ryan Stephenson (joined on stage and social media by a rotating cast of talented friends) embraced a never-say-die attitude to spur their creative flow. Old songs were cut apart and Frankenstein-ed back together. New songs were written in a fury by rapidly sending ideas back and forth until before they knew it – “hey, I think we’ve got a song man.”
The final song written for “Wine” and lead single “Champions” is indicative of the “freedom train” mentality. Coming in at little over 2 minutes, it’s a whirlwind indie-rock tune highlighted by bombastic drums and fuzzed out, playful guitars while singer Henthorn vents about coping with disconnection and disillusionment from the people and places enveloping him. The band peeled back the layers of polish found on “Prom Theme” to reveal a more candid and authentic Morning Show on this track, while not shying away from the strange blood coursing through their veins. This was captured by videographer Steven Shepherd in the music video for “Champions” that finds Ethan and Ryan performing in a shipping container, wearing backwards hats, lip syncing on the dirty floor of a 70’s era office trailer, and trying to keep their cool on extreme close-ups. “Champions” also captures the raw energy and light-heartedness of the live Morning Show… show. Mixed in with an audible rebellion against their surroundings in lines like: “There’s a weight to this place you could never forget/And it makes you so crazy you’ll just lie in bed”, is a carefree attitude that was previously unheard on “Prom Theme”. Follow-up track “Another One” shows off more layers of “Wine” as it traverses from a noodling intro to an explosive and trudging indie-rock verse littered with layers of dudes shout/singing, then on to a serene and catchy passage where Henthorn quietly executes his disposition in lines like “You’re laughing over the anxious sting in my voice, again”. Oh, to be young and misunderstood.
Morning Show has taken an unusual route through early band-hood that has seen them enter as a young, polished act that promised refined, clean cut indie-rock songs but instead has slowly stripped the paint off and decided to reveal their bumps and bruises a little more. Since they had their epiphany back in early 2016, they redefined their sound in studio and on the road (with a little bit of dabbling in live-scoring films) and have had that sound documented in “Wine”.