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Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby tickets at The Vic Theatre in Chicago
Thu Nov 11, 2021 - 7:30 PM

Jam Presents

Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby

Fall Mixer
The Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL Ages: 18 & Over

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Jam Presents

Jam Presents

Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby

Fall Mixer

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The Vic Theatre
3145 North Sheffield Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
773-472-0449
Thu Nov 11, 2021 - 7:30 PM
Ages: 18 & Over
Doors Open: 6:30 PM
Door Price: $29.00 - $44.00
Onsale: Fri May 21, 2021 - 10:00 AM
No backpacks, bags, laptops or tablets allowed in the venue. For a full list of prohibited items, please visit jamusa.com/venues/the-vic.

Bio: Hamilton Leithauser

To Whom It May Concern, I am here to announce that my new album, Sundowner, will be out October 16th, 2020 via Dead Oceans. THE WRITING: (KANSAS CITY, KANSAS) In the winter of 2017 I moved back to my hometown of Kansas City from Los Angeles. The move was sudden and unforeseen, just as I was tying a bow on the writing process for what would become my 2019 album, Oh My God. I bought a Four Track Tascam model 424 of an old friend to help me get to the finish line, but much to my surprise and excitement, this new piece of equipment in my all-but-bare home didn't help complete one album but rather inspire another: Sundowner. The new collection of songs came quickly and effortlessly as I did my best not to resist or refine the songs, but instead let them take shape all on their own. As the songs kept coming I cleared out the crowded shed that was sitting dormant in my backyard and built a makeshift studio before adding drums, lead guitar and piano to complete the demos. The shed had no cooling or heating unit at the time, so perhaps it is important to note that during the writing of this album I was either wearing multiple layers of clothing, or hardly any at all, season depending. Which is to say, it is an album written during extremes and subjected to the elements. In the summer, brown recluse spiders would scatter from beneath the Tascam when I entered the studio and in the winter, long glassy icicles hung from the storm drain as if the shed was wearing jewelry. Each day I would teach myself basic recording techniques, watching the channels illuminate and pulse as if the machine were breathing, and then emerge in the evenings as the sun was getting low: - around 5:30 in the winter, when the Kansan sunsets look icy and distant, like a pink ember inside of a display case, and 9 o'clock in the summer, when the sunsets are warm and abstract. I wrote the entire album wearing headphones, hunched over the 424, letting my voice and guitar pass through the machine, getting lost in the warmth of the tape as if another version of myself was living on the inside, singing back at me. I was mesmerized by the magic of the four track not only as a recording device, but also an instrument, and considered it my songwriting partner throughout the whole process. The weeks spent at home moved slow and easy with this simple routine, living back in a city I had feverishly escaped at 18. Landing back home felt jarring juxtaposed with a life full of chaos and adventure with my band on the road. But at the very least, I was happy to have - for the first time in my adulthood - a place to close the door, with no temptations other than to work on music and reflect on what I had built since I left. It was a new form of isolation, one I had never explored or expected to experience. Not ready to let go of the hand of the California desert, I spent the winter decorating the best I knew how; with mementos from my previous home, cactus and aloe vera and covering the walls in pinewood - immediately earning my house it’s nickname, The Little Los Angeles. The 1940’s era downtown of my suburb was quaint and warm, and though most businesses on the strip were often closed, I found joy in nightly walks past the one room movie theatre and the clock tower. It was, in its ways, my own anonymous and lonely oasis, giving me a clear view in which I could look back into my past with precision. I saw images of friends and landmarks morph in and out of one another before disappearing altogether, leaving me to wonder where everyone, and everything, eventually ends up. Over the span of one year the world saw the passing of Jessi Zazu, Richard Swift and Anthony Bourdain. I also mourned the 10 year death anniversary of a best friend and forever muse, Jamie Ewing. I had first seen Jessi perform in a bar when she was 17 singing with her band Those Darlins. Hovering around five feet tall, her stage presence was larger than life, an icon ahead of her time. Richard Swift was a genius producer, musician and friend who helped me complete my album City Music and whose laugh I will forever miss. Anthony Bourdain, perhaps the last honorable spokesmen for America, left when we needed his voice most. The trifecta of these deaths dealt us all a sudden and devastating blow, leaving a void in the universe where their irreplaceable talent and personalities once were. But I soon saw them again, woven into the fabric of the new songs as their names fell out of my mouth and into the Tascam. If I had learned anything in the decade that Jamie had been gone from this earth, it’s that the fire of one's life continues to billow long after it goes out. During that summer my isolation was given a subtle lift when Katie Crutchfield, who I had toured with the year previous, began visiting. A musician like me, she would stay weeks at a time, living quietly beside me - our love taking shape in a quiet refuge from our lives on the road. But as the summer pressed on it was soon time for me to leave for an extensive tour that would take me to the end of 2018. Nearly a year had passed since moving back home - twice as long as I had planned on staying, and the road beckoned. I left the new collection of songs, now a whole album's worth, resting quietly inside the four track, back at home in The Little Los Angeles. THE RECORDING: Sonic Ranch, Neve Room, Tornillo, Texas In January 2019 I contacted my friend and producer Brad Cook to help recreate what I had made in my shed. My end goal was to capture the cadence of what I had found inside the four track but make it three dimensional, and Brad seemed perfect for the job. We chose to work in Texas; we wanted to make sure the record was done far away from any coastline, and in the heart of America. And though neither of us had been to Sonic Ranch, we had heard enough mystifying tales surrounding this magical studio that sits surrounded by 3,000 acres of Pecan Trees on the border of Mexico. Brad and I would begin each day with a walk around the property and let the barren West Texas landscape and stray cats that loitered the studio grounds be a source of inspiration. Brad played bass and some keys on the album, but beyond that he encouraged and inspired me to play almost everything else. All lead guitar, proper drums (save the drums on “A Night At The Little Los Angeles”), mellotron and what I believe to be the albums secret weapon - a WWII era collapsible and slightly out-of-tune pump organ - were performed by me. We did, however, bring in James Krivchenia towards the end of the session to fill out the percussion. It was an honor to work with him as he built maracas from pecans and played on the floor of the live room, adding flourish wherever he saw fit. On the last evening of the session, after everything had wrapped, we all climbed on top of an empty water tower on the property, giving us a view in all directions. To the North you could see an endless Texas, with long wisps of cirrus clouds above the desert floor, and to the South there was Mexico, the recent detention camps only a mile beyond, with large cumulus clouds hovering over, bringing us to an ominous pause. To the West, towards the setting sun, the two families of clouds merged, holding the last light of the day in purple and orange. Below, a freight train cut the landscape in half as it whistled in the distance. AFTER Almost as soon as the session wrapped, I was off and away on press trips and then proper tours for Oh My God, which came out in April that same year. Sundowner sat inside of a hard drive back at Sonic Ranch and did not see the light of day until I found myself, as did the rest of the world, stuck inside their home and in quarantine in March 2020. My second year of touring for Oh My God was cancelled. Brad, Jerry and I worked from our respective homes, sending notes back and forth as we worked alone but together to mix the album, and suddenly, just like that, Sundowner was finished. It is not lost on me that my life in quarantine has many parallels to my life when I wrote Sundowner. Katie and I spend our days in isolation, just as we did then. One of us often tucked away in the shed, working alongside the various insects - the tape of the four track as warm as the mid-July air. Songs, like sunsets, are fleeting, and it's only due to a willingness and desire to catch them that you ever, if even only for a moment, grab a hold of one. When writing Sundowner, I was lucky to have had the Tascam 424 there to help capture both. Sundowner is my attempt to put the Middle American twilight -- it’s beauty profound, though not always immediate -- into sound. It is a depiction of isolation. Of the past. Of an uncertain future. Of provisions. Of an omen. Of a dead deer. Of an icon. Of a Los Angeles themed hotel in rural Kansas. Of billowing campfires, a mermaid and a highway lined in rabbit fur. It is a depiction of the nervous feeling that comes with the sky’s proud announcement that another day will be soon coming to a close as the pink light recedes and the street lamps and house lights suddenly click on. Kevin Morby, Kansas, 2020.

Bio: Kevin Morby

With his four acclaimed solo albums and myriad records of various collaboration, Kevin Morby has become a true musical auteur. His singular vision, evocative lyrics, and aptitude for catchy, dense songwriting has placed him firmly among the ranks of modern icons like Bill Callahan, Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, Will Oldham, and Jeff Tweedy. Each Morby record possesses its own unique persona and explores intriguing themes and fertile terrain through shifting, focused textures and dexterous, dedicated skill. And now, with the lavish, resplendent, career-best double LP Oh My God, Morby delivers a grandiose director’s cut of his biggest statement to date, epic in scope as well as sound.

Throughout his past work, Morby has noticed the ubiquity of an apparent religious theme. Though not identifying as “religious”, Morby—the globetrotting son of Kansas City who has made music while living on both coasts before recently returning to his Midwestern stomping grounds—recognizes in himself a somewhat spiritual being with a secular attitude towards the soulful. And so, in an effort to tackle that notion head-on and once-and-for-all, he sat down in his form of church—on planes and in beds—and wrote what would become his first true concept album. “This one feels full circle, my most realized record yet,” says Morby. “It’s a cohesive piece; all the songs fit under the umbrella of this weird religious theme. I was able to write and record the album I wanted to make. It’s one of those marks of a life: this is why I slept on floors for seven years. I’ve now gotten the keys to my own little kingdom, and I’m devoting so much of my life to music that I just want to keep it interesting.” 

Morby admits he has viewed the world through a skewed spiritual lens his entire life. As a kid he was told by his working-class parents that he was a Methodist, though the family rarely if ever made good on that claim come Sunday, and he saw fire-and-brimstone billboards on Kansas roadways with the aim of scaring heathens straight. Despite his ignorance and indifference, religion seemed to be everywhere, and as Morby grew as a musician—playing bass for Woods, fronting The Babies, and with his solo career—he embraced its influence with his work. In 2016, on the heels of a trio of critically-acclaimed albums, he wrote the protest song “Beautiful Strangers” about the devastating world events of that year, and in it he inserted multiple “oh my god”s as pleas of desperation. The song became his most celebrated work to date and the phrase became a mantra for Morby, inspiring him to weave the exclamation conceptually into the fabric of an entire album. In effect, he sought to highlight how that immortal turn of phrase embodies so much of our relationship with the sacred and profane—how religion is all around us, always, and that by simply uttering an OMG we enforce its ubiquity and ability to endure while humanizing its reach.

“Religion is around all of us,” Morby says. “It’s a universal language and there is profound beauty in it. I’ve found it a useful tool within songwriting, as it’s something everyone can relate to on some level. There are religious themes or imagery in a lot of what I’ve done, so I wanted to get all of that out and speak only that language for a whole record. It’s not a born-again thing; it’s more that ‘oh my god’ is such a profound statement we all use multiple times a day and means so many different things. It’s not about an actual god but a perceived one, and it’s an outsider’s view of the human experience in terms of religion.”

In January 2017, preceding the release of his fourth solo record City Music, Morby went into producer Sam Cohen’s Brooklyn studio for four days to record a handful of material written with his usual folk-meets-lo-fi-electric-guitar sound in mind. Cohen, with whom Morby made his 2016 breakthrough Singing Saw, had started recording the new songs with a business-as-usual mentality when on the third day he was struck with an idea: Rather than create what was becoming Singing Saw: Part 2, what if they stripped everything back and instead of the entire Morby rock palette used only a few colors at a time, focusing on Morby as hyper-literate singer instead of guitar-slinging troubadour?

“Sam suggested that we make songs that sound like sonic pop-art that only have a few colors, like a Keith Haring piece,” Morby says. “My other records had tons of colors, so we decided to keep this stark, like a painting that’s black-and-white with one vibrant blue. We went back to the drawing board and thought about what we wanted to do conceptually across an entire piece. And for the first time I could do exactly what I wanted, as I had time and the ability to get everything precise. Sam encouraged me to let my lyrics sit on top of everything else, and that discovery and the confidence that came with making my fifth record helped me realize the new direction was exactly where we needed to be. We opened it up completely and set out to make something in its own universe.”

Over the remaining day-and-a-half, Morby and Cohen recorded new versions of four songs—“Oh My God,” “No Halo,” “Savannah,” and “Nothing Sacred/All Things Wild,” the latter becoming a mission statement for the new sound and featuring Morby singing, Cohen playing a subtle organ part, and Morby’s drummer Nick Kinsey on congas. Breaking the songs down into their separate parts served Morby’s religious theme perfectly, as did the blueprint of “Beautiful Strangers,” a song that would serve as a skeleton key of sorts for everything that was to come. Over the course of 2017, he wrote an album’s worth of songs modeled after “Strangers” while on tour.

As Morby jetted around the world playing shows, he came to realize that all that air travel was making its way into his music, too. He had always used his time in the sky to work on songs and listen to demos he had recorded, but he began noticing an aero-dynamic emerging in his lyrics as well. “Flying can be something of a religious experience for many people, myself included,” he says. “It’s unnatural, and it can be so scary being that high up—a few big bumps can even make an atheist pray. You’re anxious as you take off and thinking about death, then you level off and suddenly you’re in this kingdom above the clouds. There’s a holy feeling, and a big part of the record’s theme is being above the weather. The first song, ‘Oh My God,’ starts with chaotic hammering on a piano and then smooths out with a choir singing; it’s meant to mimic how I feel on an airplane.”

All that flying also meant Morby was sleeping in a new place each night, a situation he also learned to embrace creatively—most of Oh My God’s songs were written from beds. Morby typically starts and ends each day by playing guitar or writing songs while under the covers, a practice that mimics prayer in myriad ways. “There’s something sacred about working from bed,” he says. “It’s where you make love and where you dream. I always write just before I go to sleep and right when I wake up. It’s where I can access that feeling of dreams. Any bed is always a sanctuary, but my bed at home is the Holy Grail.”

Morby sought to represent these sentiments visually for the release of Oh My God. In addition to using a portrait of him reclining in his own fluffy-white bed at home in Kansas City on the album cover, he also worked with the filmmaker Chris Good on a short film to accompany the release. The film stars Morby as he wanders through a dream-like series of encounters—on planes, in cars, in a diner, at home in his back yard—and presents a Gondry-esque vision of the album and its holy mood.

Meanwhile, in January of 2018, a full year after their initial session, Morby and Cohen returned to the studio together to complete the album’s recording. They fine-tuned the rollicking opening trio—starting with the title track, then first single “No Halo,” and “Nothing Sacred/All is Wild”— and played with various styles and techniques throughout. The ethereal “Congratulations” was written in a dream, a first for Morby. (“Someone had been singing the chorus to me over and over, and I woke up in the morning and walked to my piano and wrote it then and there.”) “Seven Devils” features a ripping guitar solo by Morby’s bandmate Meg Duffy that evokes a distorted hellfire, and “Piss River” is a stream-of-consciousness, poetic and profound tune featuring harp played by Morby’s friend Mary Lattimore while the singer has a call-and-response conversation with himself. Saxophone duties throughout the record were handled largely by Cochemea Gastelum, and a seven-member choir appears as well. Morby directed Cohen in the creation of a track called “Storm (Beneath the Weather),” a 90-second ambient instrumental piece made with synthesizers to mimic what it can feel like under the clouds. “Above the weather, you’re safe and nothing can get to you; it’s heavenly, like you achieved peace,” Morby says. “Below that you’re subject to the insanity of humanity, or Mother Nature. I wanted a weird, atonal sound on the record to represent a storm, which feels in-line with the pop-art idea.”

Hail Mary” may be the album’s grandest moment and is recognizable as one of the few guitar-driven songs that hearkens back to his previous work. Its heavy scope is still apparent despite the fact that Morby and Cohen edited it down from its original 15-minute-long, multiple-verse version into a concise five minutes and three verses. And as the final song, “O Behold,” makes a familiar, just-in-case farewell from an airplane seat (“If the plane’s on fire/know I love you”), the listener can sense the credits rolling as the clouds begin to break, grips loosen, and the kingdom comes into view. At 14 tracks and four sides, Oh My God is an actualized concept album with a contemporary feel that is sure to find itself on the shelf next to classic double-LPs like Blonde on Blonde, Exile on Main St, London Calling, and Zen Arcade with its maker planted firmly in a window seat at the front of the plane. Morby has graduated from the DIY beginnings and warehouse shows of his early days to become an admired, impassioned auteur who retains firm control of his vision as his stages only continue to grow. “At the end of the day,” says Morby, “the only thing I don’t want is to be bored. If someone wants to get in my face about writing a non-religious religious record? Thank god. That’s all I gotta say.”

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