Rise and shine
It’s breakfast with the Good Mornings!
Despite naming their band the Good Mornings, Ben Hoke, Jim Davis and Russ Thompson show no affinity for even early afternoon. “So, this is what noon looks like,” said Hoke as the three sat down to, well, breakfast. Before long, they had launched into a friendly repartee, untainted in a way that only the first moments of morning consciousness—or utter fatigue—can provide. (“I used to not do drugs before I discovered music.” “Those were crazy times,” the bandmates bantered.) Maybe they were just tired. After all, they’re each holding down “real” jobs while simultaneously working on their debut record.
Depending upon whom you ask, the Good Mornings have been together for “two years” (Davis) or “a year-and-a-half. It’s actually been about four weeks. We’re just really good” (Hoke). Guitarist and vocalist Davis is from Philadelphia; Hoke, who also plays guitar and sings, hails from Houston; and Thompson, known for his keyboard playing and bright smile, calls Wisconsin home. They found refuge—and each other—in Sacramento.
The Good Mornings create music that demands close listening before it blossoms. “42nd Street” demonstrates the band’s attention to detail with simple guitar lines that intertwine with the vocal melody instead of over it, reminiscent of the Band.
Like many bands, the Good Mornings wish to avoid categorization, but the comparison seems simple; they have a country sound, but they often transcend the label. Their songs stand on solid songwriting and use subtle noise textures for emphasis. The sound is a cross section of American music, but it’s equally reflective of the band’s other influences. Their lyrical stories offer another level of intrigue. In short, it’s punk, country, pop, rock, poetry, struggle, broken hearts, coffee and late nights. “I learned a lot from punk music,” Davis explained. “It’s three chords and the truth. Country music is the same way.”
Take “Open Up Your Heart,” which hints at the David Bowie influence Davis said dominated the band’s early sound. On the track, Davis’ voice is reminiscent of the Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz. It’s a three-chord song—clean guitar arpeggios complemented by what sounds like a jet airplane constantly landing. A keyboard drops notes like beads of water between the vocal melody.
“Good Mornings started out as something else completely,” said Davis, poking unconsciously at a piece of chicken. “It’s like the simpler it got, the better it got. I wouldn’t say simpler, I would say …”
“Better,” Hoke concluded. “The better it got, the better it got.”
The band is halfway done with Black Gold, Texas Gold, its debut recording with local producer Dana Gumbiner. The record features Golden Shoulders drummer Neal Morgan and, for its upcoming live performances, Gumbiner on bass and Todd Lewis (who plays with Amee Chapman and Richard March) on drums for departing member Anthony Ordonez. As for a release date, “We’re looking at early to mid-fall—2009,” Hoke joked.
Recording has been an adventure for the band. “It’s been great working with Dana, showing us the rock ’n’ roll ropes,” Hoke said. Anyone who has delved into the creative process knows the back-and-forth struggle between too much and not enough. “Every other recording we’ve done has ended up being really busy with string arrangements and other unnecessary stuff,” Hoke admitted.
Still, the band’s range of influences seems to create musical depth, rather than random recorder-and-pan-flute harmonies. “Now, we don’t care; if it doesn’t work, we pull it,” said Davis. “The less crap we tried to pile on, the better the songs sounded. I think it’s classy music—like Aimee Mann or the less-artsy Wilco stuff.” The Aimee Mann comparison was quietly accepted by Hoke and Thompson.
The Good Mornings will perform at the Fox & Goose on July 15 and at Old Ironsides on July 29 for a CD-release party. The band also is looking for a new name and is soliciting ideas from the public. Currently in the mix: Pigeon Business. Please help by visiting www.myspace.com/goodmornings.