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Friday, November 17, 2006

My A.V. Club interview with My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan

Despite putting a relatively modern pop sheen on its dreamy guitar jams for 2005’s Z, My Morning Jacket has always been a classic rock band. Which is why it makes perfect sense that the Louisville, Ky.-based fivepiece recently released Okonokos, a double live album and concept DVD. Double live albums, even for the most galvanizing stage performers, often are too much of a good thing. But Okonokos is an exhilarating listen that never overstays its welcome over 21 tracks. In fact, the infusion of energy, clarity and volume into the band’s sometimes sleepy, always reverb-heavy songs make Okonokos the definitive My Morning Jacket album. The DVD is a treat, too, interspersing terrific footage from The Fillmore in San Francisco with a campy storyline involving a social outcast lost in the 19th century, a mystical llama and other Songs Remains The Same-style nonsense. Hard-hitting drummer Patrick Hallahan recently spoke with The A.V. Club about Okonokos, his favorite live albums of all-time, and whether he wishes he were dead.

The A.V. Club: What are some of your favorite live albums?

Patrick Hallahan: For my 4th birthday my parents bought me my first album ever, Simon & Garfunkel – The Concert In Central Park. That one has always been a love of mine. There’s always (The Who’s) Live At Leeds. KISS’ Alive!, I thought it was amazing that it was a live album and it outsold their other albums. I have a lot of great Neil Young bootlegs and some awesome live albums.

AVC: Why do a live My Morning Jacket CD/DVD now?

PH: It just felt right. We were in a really good headspace. The band has grown so close together. We started taking it more seriously, that we need to capture this moment, so when we’re older we can look back and show our kids.

AVC: There are fake obituaries for each band member in the liner notes. Any significance to that?

PH: You know, we all joked about dying at 27 and we made it happen. [Laughs.] It was just a joke.

AVC: I was going to ask a pretentious question about whether this album represents the end of a chapter for the band, and if the obituaries imply a rebirth.

PH: I think you’re reading way too much into it. We like to make ourselves laugh. [Laughs] That’s pretty much it.

AVC: There are a number of My Morning Jacket bootlegs floating around. How do you feel about concert tapers?

PH: There’s an open invitation for audio recording at our shows. It’s nice to keep a little slice of your night, something you can go back to and trade with your friends. I think it’s good karma to keep tapers in the mix because they keep this whole thing alive.

AVC: My Morning Jacket has played with jam bands and indie rock bands. Do you feel like you belong to either scene, or is the band separate from both?

PH: I don’t think we’re necessarily separate from what’s going on, but we’re not really lumped into one scene, which I think is both a blessing and a curse. The curse is that it’s probably harder for journalists such as yourself to label us and convey to people who haven’t heard us what we sound like. But it’s a blessing in that we get to play with so many bands and we get to experience so many great festivals. We look out at the audience and have such as array of fans.

AVC: Is the band working on a new album?

PH: We’re going to tour for the rest of this year, and then we’re going to take an indefinite period of time off to write an album. We haven’t started anything yet.

AVC: From 1999’s The Tennessee Fire to 2005’s Z, there has been a clear evolution in My Morning Jacket’s sound. Where’s the band headed creatively after this?

PH: I have no idea. We keep that open and relative to what is going on around us. I think the band is always in a constant state of evolution, and where and when that evolution happens isn’t really up to us. I have no idea what it will sound like. I know the core of it will still be there and it will probably be drenched in reverb.

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