All of Fuzz Steilacoom’sbest qualities are revealed in “Alabama Movies” and “A Little Late,” the opening and closing tracks of the Oklahoma City duo’s third full-length. The relationship between them unveils the worst.
Jake Morisse’s bumped all around Enid, working as a car salesman, a farmer and a bartender. But through all that, he’s been a musician, and a damn good one.
I first met him last winter when Nathan Poppe and I shot his band, which then featured his good friend Jordan Herrera, performing a themed collection of songs around their hometown. Through all that, we drank some beers and played old-school NES “Donkey Kong,” ate some of the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever tried, caught a freezing-cold sunrise and got attacked by horses. It was a great bit of fun.
Only 24, Jake’s got a great folk/country/rock songwriting career both behind and ahead of him. A revamped Black Canyon is about to release its debut album, “Battlefield Darlins,” and he’s already eyeing a horizon that’s filled with new songs. Here’s us chatting about it.
OKS: Tell me a little bit about the personnel changes you guys went through and how that affected some of the songs between when you played them for the documentary and what we have on “Battlefield Darlins.”
Morisse: That’s a big one. There were a lot of changes, obviously. As of now, me and Riley (Jantzen, ex-Mayola) are the only guys left since the documentary. Dallas Tidwell (Red City Radio) started drumming, and he’s a phenomenal drummer. Tyler Hopkins from The Nghiems is playing bass.
I love Jordan, he and I are both friends. I can say that when Jordan left, there was a time when I was angry and I was upset and I was hurt. I was upset ’cause I didn’t get to play music with my friend. Probably part of him leaving was me because I’m an intense person to deal with. I probably could’ve communicated things better. It was a tough thing. But we love each other and everything’s OK.
The music changed. I’m a very abrasive personality and have a background in country music. The new stuff I’ve been listening to is stomp-hillbilly music and that got incorporated with the Wilco and the Dawes that I love, so it’s more abrasive, honky-tonk, indie country.
I felt for the first time that there was no one else to tell me how to write my songs. Riley helped and (friend) Sam Lamb wrote a song for the record, this beautiful song that Sherree (Chamberlain) sang, but what was great was I felt free to do whatever I wanted.
It’s been a tough change. It’s been a long year with re-writing the record. It drove me nuts. But when it came out, it was a huge weight off my shoulders, and now I’m on to the next one, I guess.
OKS: What are you guys planning for the fall? Are you going to tour around or play a couple shows locally or what?
Morisse: Tyler’s going to law school, and Dallas is getting ready to tour Europe with Red City Radio. So I’ll be playing solo shows and duo shows with Riley. I am planning on doing a Midwestern tour from Sept. 30 through Oct. 8 that’ll cover Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas.
Then, when Dallas gets back, we’ll hopefully start laying down tracks for drums.
OKS: For a new album?
Morisse: Yep. Anybody who comes to the record release will hear brand-new songs we’ve been working on. I don’t want to say it’s themed, but it really kinda is.
The truth is that there’s a lot of stuff I don’t talk about or show to people. A lot of these songs are about me thinking that I drink too much or about these women that I’ll run away from. I’m trying to talk about things that I don’t want people to know, but want to talk about with these songs. I’m really excited about these new songs.
OKS: Talk a little bit about Riley’s contribution to the record. What did he do to make it what it is?
Morisse: He was a huge part of it. Riley and I have known each other since we were 17, 18 years old. We started playing music in his attic. I started writing songs because I would listen to Riley play these crazy-good folk songs.
I remember feeling like I wanted to do this and I would listen to him, trying to figure it out. A lot of my early songs are like really bad imitations of early Riley Jantzen songs. He was always there, and more than willing to give me help recording.
When we started out ,we didn’t use any click-tracks — we wanted it all to be in-time and real. I don’t want to record anything I can’t perform. Most of it was tracked in this loft studio, when the heat was unbearable.
OKS: Where is this studio?
Morisse: It’s the loft above The Felt Bird (Riley’s store in Enid, which he owns with his fiancée). Then we tracked it in Underladder Studios (owned by Justin Blaiser in Enid).
OKS: It sounds like you guys put it together pretty quickly. Was that because of the heat?
Morisse: The heat, yeah. We told ourselves after Norman Music Festival that we were going to go in and start tracking. Basically, we just went in every night and work and work, then re-work. The funny thing about this record is that the last song we recorded was “Our Wedding Song Sounded Like Marching Boots,” and I recorded that the day before we started mixing. And that was because I wasn’t happy with the song I had in place of it. So I just grabbed my ukulele and had this idea and started playing, and it just sorta came out. That’s what I liked. We had fun and we did it. It wasn’t overthought.
Don’t get me wrong: We put a lot in it. There’s a lot of cool song form in this one. Riley’s so good at saying, “This goes here, this goes here, and this is what we do, let’s do it.” Especially in practices and stuff, he’s so good at saying, “This is where the buildup needs to be; this is where the bridge needs to be.” The guy’s mind just works insanely well. He was my producer. And I wouldn’t rather do it with anybody else.
OKS: Tell me about Sherree’s role. You guys sounded pretty natural complements together, but you couldn’t have had that much time to practice.
Morisse: We hadn’t ever practiced those songs together ’til we did the video with Nathan.
Sherree’s really awesome and I didn’t expect her to be interested. I thought it’d be a long shot ’cause she’s so great and her voice would be perfect. She said “yes,” and (Riley) and I were so excited. Originally on “Bottle of Shine,” it was supposed to be both of us singing the song, but we liked her part so much that we cut everything but her voice and the guitar. It had such a beautiful ring to it, especially since it went with the story
OKS: Has it got you thinking about working with other artists around here?
Morisse: Yeah, I’m trying to do some stuff with Cody Ingram. We’ve talked about it. I just want to work with other people. I love collaborations — I think it’s so awesome that we can do that since such cool music comes out of it.