Like Philthy’s recently-featured husband/wife duo, Hank & Cupcakes, Oakland’s (by-way-of Massachusetts) Mornin’ Old Sport’s biggest influence would seem to be literary and not musical. However, band member Scott Nanos (guitar, bass, keys, strings) tells me that since deciding on the band’s moniker, he has been reading less fiction and, “As time goes on, I find myself reading more philosophy.” Kate Smeal (vocals, strings), on the other hand, tells me she finds a lot of inspiration in cinema: “I find a lot of comfort in watching old movies. I feel like, as a woman, I can really relate to people like Doris Day and Faye Dunaway.” But I’m getting quite a bit ahead of myself.
Mornin’ Old Sport’s first full-length, Assets, was released today, courtesy of Misery Loves Co. This spring, during one of Scott’s work breaks, I had the chance to chat with the band about their latest release and what they’re up to in the summer of 2012. They’re currently in the middle of a massive tour, which includes a local stop at PhilaMOCA on July 25th.
“Neo-pre-war Americana,” is what Scott tells me the band’s booking agent has chosen to describe their sound. “Throwback Country Jazz,” is another term that they find follows them… although they don’t necessarily embrace it, as Scott explains, “Jazz can be an interesting term to use… limiting in some ways.” While their sound is certainly along the lines of anthems for Grandparents (And I mean that in the best way possible, their second EP was even entitled “Your Grandparents Will Jam to These Tracks.”), they are imbued with all the passion of three fresh musicians in their early twenties (Which is what they are.) Their songs are just as playful, sassy, organically amorous, and fun to sing-along to as any of 2012’s best indie pop, but it just happens to be sounds nearly a century old that are lighting their fires. However, they’re currently exploring additional sounds. “We’re experimenting with a little more rockabilly, a little more Motown, a little more bluegrass,” Scott tells me. And new recordings aren’t far off. “If we make even a little bit of a dime on tour, we’ll go out and record another EP or album,” he tells me.
Considering their aesthetic, one of the most interesting things about Mornin’ Old Sport is the fanbase they’ve been collecting. “It’s been pretty eclectic,” Kate tells me, “There will be old people who come in because this is the kind of stuff they grew up listening to… a lot of punk kids, a lot of hippies, a lot of, what I guess you’d call, hipsters.” A lot of crusty punks,” Scott adds, going on to clarify, “Three-chord punk is a lot like three-chord folk.”
In addition to the three full-time members, Nanos, Smeal, and drummer Jeff Price, the band will be touring with Mike Schlenoff on guitar and keys and Jack Kodros on bass for the largest lineup the band has taken on yet. And not only are they supplementing their core members, they’re also planning on supplementing their own tunes with a number of classics. Kate tells me fans can potentially expect, “Some Patsy Cline, some Lead Belly, some Gene Autry.”
Mornin’ Old Sport seem to be excited for their show at PhilaMOCA. “We prefer the more underground, unconventional shows,” Scott tells me, going on to say, “I think the more traditional venues are more out of necessity,” whether that be for a little money or some more local write-ups. Kate tells me she prefers playing in basements and on rooftops: “We prefer that audiences feel like they’re one of us.”
*For those who want a cheap and easy taste of Mornin’ Old Sport before they are in town, you’ll be happy to know that they just might be the most generous band I’ve talked to all year. Scott tells me, “Literally, strangers can E-mail us (at [email protected]) and we’ll give them our music for free. They can literally just E-mail us personally and we’ll give them like half of our album.”