Best of What's Next: Morning Teleportation

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Hometown: Bowling Green, Ky.
Band Members: Tiger Merritt, Travis Goodwin, Tres Coker
Album: Expanding Anyway
For Fans Of: Modest Mouse, bourbon

“We were in a bar in Nashville and we were just kind of hanging out. I was picking a guitar and then he just kind of shoveled us into a taxi and was like, ‘Hey, c’mon, let’s party. Let’s hang out.’”

This, according to Morning Teleportation’s Tiger Merritt, was the beginning of the band’s relationship with Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock. At that point, Brock didn’t even know that the group of colorfully dressed, long-haired kids from Bowling Green, Ky., he had befriended were in a band—they were just some guys a mutual friend had introduced that were down to have a good time. It wasn’t until well into their friendship that he found out that they played music—and played it well.

“He heard me playing guitar and our friend had shown him [our] music,” remembers Merritt. “He came out to our show in Cincinnati after his show. He played in Cincinnati and we played in Cincinnati the same night. And he came out to the show and kind of stuck around and dug the music.”

Brock dug the band’s unhinged Southern psych-rock so much that he offered to help them record an album. Soon after, they relocated to Portland where they recorded with Brock and spent the next few years touring incessantly. “We averaged around 180 or 200 dates a year,” recalls keyboardist Travis Goodwin.

Most bands who have achieved some level of success can look back and point to a few key moments or breaks in their career that helped them make the leap. For some it might be catching the ear of the right record executive at the right time; for others it could be a publication of influence deciding to take up their cause. For Morning Teleportation it was meeting Isaac Brock. But it would be wrong to tie the band’s success to a chance encounter with the Modest Mouse frontman. He didn’t mold or shape them into anything they didn’t already exist as; he simply gave them a place to record.

“We already had the songs written and ready to go,” explains Merritt. “I think we changed the arrangement of one. He just set us in there and wanted to do a live record. We were all in the same room with everyone playing just like we do live. One of the songs was on one take. One of them was on the second take.”

The result was Expanding Anyway, which was released on Brock’s own Glacial Pace Recordings in March of 2011. The album is freewheeling, incredibly diverse and sees the band showcasing a number of different styles from funk to Southern rock to psychedelia. It’s all executed with a frenetic, youthful spirit that’s led by Merritt’s primal, sing-songy vocal lines that Brock undoubtedly heard himself in. Behind the strength of the title track and single, the band followed up the release with an appearance on Letterman, hit the summer festival circuit and played alongside the likes of The Flaming Lips and fellow Bowling Green natives Cage The Elephant.

“I definitely noticed that more people were coming out to the shows,” remembers Goodwin. “And I was kind of taken aback at all the people singing along in different cities that we hadn’t been to.”

“People were following along, going to four or five shows in a row,” adds Merritt. “It was pretty cool.”

A year later, Morning Teleportation, now a three-piece, have moved back to Bowling Green, where they are spending time with family and concentrating on writing their next album, which they hope will be ready early next year. Though their touring schedule is the lightest it’s been in years, the band is enjoying the break.

“Right now we’re trying to settle down a little bit and work on the record,” says Goodwin.

Settling down, however, is not in Morning Teleportation’s DNA. Since they formed, the band has operated out of Bowling Green, Austin and Portland. Earlier this year they spent an extended period of time in New York, partially to work on their next record. This peripatetic nature imbues their music with a sense of urgency and unrelenting momentum. There is a constant sense of stirring in their songs, as if the band is furiously churning away to prevent their music and themselves from hardening into any definable shape.

But even though they’re seemingly content living back in their hometown, fans shouldn’t worry about the band’s members or their sound becoming too comfortable or static. “We’re still not totally settled anywhere,” admits Merritt.

Wherever Morning Teleportation do end up in the future, we know we’ll be listening.