Released September 4th of this year, “Only Believe in Love” is the first full-length album by Morningbird. Based out of Boston, Morningbird is comprised of Max Challis and John Cattini. Both students at Berklee College of Music, the pair has been making music together for about three years now. Self identified under the Alternative/Indie Rock type genre, Morningbird’s first album reads more like a book than a playlist. Following their album release, they were kind enough to answer some questions about their tunes, student-hood and killing John Mayer…
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Interview by Daisy Barker
So, Tell us about your meet cute.
M: We met Summer 2012 at Berklee’s 5-week summer performance program; we met pretty casually through a mutual friend at a lunch table, but we were more just acquaintances then. John and I and a couple other guys from the program had a bunch of jam sessions and we ended up finding a lot of common ground with our musical tastes. We ended up playing together a lot during the program, but the real friendship formed when John let me borrow his guitar for a songwriter performance. My guitar didn’t have an input jack and his did.
Would you say that there are significant influences, musical or otherwise, in either of your guy’s lives that contribute to Morningbird?
J: Yeah totally, I would say a lot of life experiences influenced this album specifically. A lot of emotions and things we were learning ended up happening at the same time for us, which influenced not only our songwriting but also the music we shared with each other.
M: Artists specifically, John showed me Electric Light Orchestra, which ended up having a huge impact on our sound and the album. The way those guys include orchestral elements into their arrangements of classic rock songs really resonated with us; it was all the beauty of an orchestra with all the badass aspects of an awesome rock song. Additionally, Queen and Freddy Mercury had a big impact on the vocal arrangements throughout, and our guitar arrangements were definitely inspired by George Harrison from the Beatles.
J: We’re also super into David Bowie; his ability to convey a story in a song is something we aspired to achieve, as well as the concept of an album as a whole. We didn’t just want to make a bunch of songs; we wanted it to be a cohesive piece of art the whole way through.
Spending a year with something is a big commitment; time wise, emotionally etc. How did this impact the music – were there a lot of changes made, or was it more of a growth thing?
J: It’s hard to say, because the songs are written from a bunch of different times, like “The World” was some casual thing I wrote back in high school, but “Love In Reverse” and “Hate It” both were written last April. Some of the songs didn’t make a lot of sense at the time when we wrote them, but as we kept writing and designing the whole album the pieces started to fall into place. It sort of seemed like we had been telling the story of the album from a subconscious place all along, even though we didn’t really know it at the time.
M: From the production side, and especially being relatively new to writing and production, we were both growing as writers and producers at an insanely fast rate. It seemed like we kept getting better and better as we wrote and produced more of the songs. I think being at school for music plays into this as well; we’re always trying to improve. As far as the time commitment, I don’t think we ever really thought about how long it would take. To be honest, I think had we known the songs we were writing at the time wouldn’t get released for an entire year, we would have been a little discouraged. We just wanted to put out something that we were really proud of, and it didn’t ever matter how long it was going to take us. There were definitely edits going back, but at some point you have to just put a stamp on what you have and call it done, or else you could spend an entire year making just one album.
Is there a specific end goal in mind with this project? (i.e. world domination)
J: Morningbird is cool to me because the whole reason we created it and the album was to satisfy our creative urges, not necessarily to gain some sort of social or financial standing. I think as long as we make music like that, it will remain genuine and find its course.
M: For me, world domination… Seriously though, I think John put it really well. It was just about trying to get the thoughts and ideas that were floating around in our head into some tangible form. Now that it’s finished though, I just want to share it with as many people as possible and do it all over again.
For you guys, what’s the ideal way for people to consume your music?
J: We hope people can listen to the album in a way that they can appreciate all of the intricacies we tried to include. We put a lot of time and a lot of ourselves into it. That being said, at the end of the day I just hope people can enjoy the tunes and find some meaning of their own in it.
M: Totally. Everyone enjoys listening in their own way; I personally like to sit down and listen to albums all the way through on a good pair of speakers, but I know everyone has their own favorite way to tune in, whether it be in the car, some earbuds on the train, even off your phone while you’re cooking dinner; whatever floats your boat. As long as people are listening we don’t really mind.
Being students, is it hard to prioritize personal artistic endeavors? Or does studying in the same field as your artistic passion make it easier?
M: I’ve actually tried to make a bunch of my regular coursework and projects here at Berklee into Morningbird songs. I think actually 3 songs of the album were final projects for a bunch of my classes; I’m in a production-heavy major so it was pretty easy to balance the two when they coincide with each other. It was never a drag to do my homework because it was just working on our passion.
J: I would say studying in the same field makes it easier because you’re surrounded by people and professors who are constantly inspiring you and teaching you new things that you can apply to your own music. At the same time though, sometimes I just want to pull a Justin Vernon and live in a cabin making music out of what I know now, just to see where I’m at and what we’re capable of.
Marry, Do + Die – John Mayer, Daughter and St. Paul and the Broken Bones?
M: I think we’ve stolen enough from John Mayer that it’s pretty safe to give him the “die” slot now… I’d definitely say marry Daughter. Their music is super cool and I could definitely see keeping them in my life for while, maybe settling down, finding a nice home off in the mountains somewhere. In all seriousness though, their sound is super cool and it’s an area I’ve started to explore musically. Do St. Paul; their stuff reminds me of Amy Winehouse a lot. It takes me back to the Motown era of Marvin Gaye and Al Green when every song was about love and happiness. I’m pretty sure John would do all 3 to John Mayer though.
J: Yep. Well maybe just marry. I need him around for a while so I can steal his guitar licks.