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James Vincent McMorrow Talks Booting the Bottle, Post Tropical and Game of Thrones

The Irish native checked in from Dublin ahead of his highly-anticipated Australian tour.

By Jasmine Crittenden
May 20, 2014

James Vincent McMorrow Talks Booting the Bottle, Post Tropical and Game of Thrones

The Irish native checked in from Dublin ahead of his highly-anticipated Australian tour.

By Jasmine Crittenden
May 20, 2014

"Touring is the only job in the world, I think, where you are a professional and you drink," James Vincent McMorrow muses from a phone somewhere in Dublin. "If you were an accountant or even if you were an actor and you drank at the levels that some touring bands do, you wouldn't be able to function."

Two years ago, he decided to give the bottle the boot. Not because he had an uncontrollable drinking problem, but because he wanted to "see what would happen".

"At that point in my career, everything was on a really intense upswing and I was playing big shows. It's not that I wasn't enjoying [drinking], it's just that I didn't feel that I was in control of what I was doing. I didn't think I was doing it justice in the way that I wanted to." In a January 2014 Guardian interview, McMorrow identified a packed-out show at London's Festival Hall as a turning point. "The biggest show I'd ever played in this country... I got off stage and thought — did that go well? I don't know," he told journo Tom Lamont.

At first, the sobriety inspired a sizeable dose of performance nerves. "I became incredibly aware of my hands and started making mistakes again," he recalls. "I used to think that you needed to drink to get out of your own way mentally and create. But it actually made me think from a much clearer perspective."


When work began on second album, Post Tropical, the music flew thick and fast. "I had better ideas than ever before... I was much more ambitious."

Where 2011 debut Early in the Morning was folk-ish and harmony-fuelled, Post Tropical sees McMorrow delve into new territory – R&B influences, dashes of Rhodes, electronica and intricate layering. There's hardly an acoustic guitar to be heard. The songs were assembled over the course of eight months and recorded "on a pecan farm half a mile from the Mexican border" — where the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Animal Collective, Beach House and At The Drive In have laid down tracks. "It's the perfect place to make music... I don't think I'll record anywhere else again. I came for the equipment and stayed for the view," he adds, laughing.

McMorrow sees putting together a song is akin to solving a Rubik's Cube. "Every time I look at it, there's a couple less red squares. Then I keep going and I take a look at the other side. It might go the wrong way, or it might get better. And one day, it's just done. I'll listen to it and there'll be nothing in it that doesn't make me happy."


The songwriting process wasn't always so intuitive for the Irish native. McMorrow remembers a younger and much more serious version of himself. "I think I went from trying to be a musician to being a musician and that was a very big change. I don't examine music anymore; I follow it where it leads me. I used to question — you'd worry about whether you were good enough, or whether you could do the things that needed to be done. But I don't worry about that anymore. I still challenge myself every day and push myself infinitely harder than I ever did, but I do it with a sense of knowing what I'm doing and how to get there."

Back in his worrying days, he spent hours reading some pretty meaty literature. "I became really obsessed with people like John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner and the American idea — between 1900 and the 1930s and '40s. It's quite funny, because if I examine the books I read and where I was at musically, I can connect the dots quite quickly. I read a lot of heavy books like The Sound and The Fury, and because I was writing music there was a certain element: 'if I read these serious things then I want to write about serious things.'"


These days, however, he'll "read anything that's put in front of [him]". Even if the writing isn't quite up to scratch. "I just read the entire Game of Thrones, everything up to the point where it finishes," he explains. "I read it because I started watching the series and I got annoyed because it was ending, so I thought I'd read the book. But then I realised the books were really, really long and kind of weirdly written. I don't know if you've read fantasy novels before but they're kind of... they're not the most amazing writing in the world, even though the story is obviously compelling. And when I started reading them I didn't realise that [George R. R. Martin] hadn't finished the series. So I got to the last book and found out he had two more to write still!"

Fortunately, he's moved onto Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin, which he describes as "really beautiful". And McMorrow has a plethora of tour dates to keep him busy between reads.


Wednesday 21 May — Astor Theatre, Perth

Friday 23 May — Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane

Tuesday 27 May — Forum, Melbourne

Thursday 29 May — Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House (Vivid LIVE)

Saturday 31 May — Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House (Vivid LIVE)

Published on May 20, 2014 by Jasmine Crittenden


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