My Morning Jacket: On The Circuit Singer-songwriter Jim James discusses the origins of the band's sixth studio album, Circuital.

My Morning Jacket: On The Circuit

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(Soundbite of song, "Circuital")

MY MORNING JACKET (Music Group): (Singing) Spinning out gracefully.


My Morning Jacket has been called a lot of things over the years: the American Radiohead, the jam band for people who don't like jam bands, even Led Zeppelin meet Pink Floyd.

(Soundbite of song, "Circuital")

MY MORNING JACKET (Music Group): (Singing) Well anyway you cut it we're just spinning around, out on the circuits, over the hollow grounds.

MARTIN: The band's new record is called "Circuital." It's their sixth studio album in 12 years, and it digs back into their roots.

Jim James, singer and songwriter for My Morning Jacket, joins us now from the studios of WFPK in Louisville, Kentucky, which happens to be his hometown.

Jim, thanks for being here.

Mr. JIM JAMES (Musician): Thank you. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So the new album, called "Circuital," how come? Is there a story in that name?

Mr. JAMES: Well, I had been thinking about just the nature of what we do as a band, and I've always loved the phrase out on the circuit. You know, when people ask us: You guys are out on the circuit, making the rounds? And it always makes me feel...

MARTIN: Yeah, like the rodeo or something.

Mr. JAMES: Exactly, like we're rodeo riders out on the circuit. And I was kind of thinking about that a lot as we had ended up back here in Kentucky kind of working on the record. And while we were talking about the song, working on the song in the studio, Tucker Martine, who we were working on the record with, was just like: Why don't we just call the record that? It kind of makes sense. It kind of sums up the whole thing of what we're working on here. And we all thought that was a really good idea.

MARTIN: The sound on this new album is really different, though, from previous records, "Evil Urges," which you made in 2008, and that album had this more kind of funky R&B sound, kind of a departure from what you're typically doing, folksy kind of psychedelic stuff. What ultimately brought you back to this place? Was it a conscious decision?

Mr. JAMES: Well, I mean, we've always loved exploring a lot of different styles of music. And I feel like we've done that from the beginning. I guess there are these labels and phrases like back to your roots, just another...

MARTIN: Did I just say that probably?

Mr. JAMES: No, I don't - well, I mean, I've kind of said it, too, because it is part of what we did. I mean, in some ways, we did go back to our roots because we did kind of come. But at the same time, we were still looking to make a different record than we've ever made before and a different sound. But it was still an effort to do something that we hadn't done because this is the first record we've made in Louisville proper. So that was like a new, kind of exciting challenge for us.

MARTIN: One of the songs on this new album is called "The Day is Coming," and its lyrics really struck me. Let's listen to a little bit of it.

(Soundbite of song, "The Day Is Coming")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) You need it, that's for sure. You receive but always want more. Take it for granted, this lifetime and what's up ahead. The day is coming, the day is near. The day is coming. You know what I mean. The day is coming...

MARTIN: Now, there is a chance I have had way too much rapture on the brain in recent days, but it does...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JAMES: Haven't we all?

MARTIN: Yeah. It does sound, though, that you are talking about judgment day here, some of those other bigger themes.

Mr. JAMES: I was directly talking about the rapture. I know that song has been proven wrong.

MARTIN: In all seriousness, what's kind of the story of where that comes from?

Mr. JAMES: I mean, it's just kind of thinking about modern consumption and the speed of modern life. And it seems like everything is moving so fast, and it's almost like nobody takes anything in anymore. It's like, something blurts out of their computer screen, they analyze it for five seconds, they move on. Something else blurts out, they analyze it, move on, and you're doing all these things at once.

You're trying to talk to your friend, and you're trying to check your email on your phone, and you're trying to watch a basketball game on your phone. I don't know. I just find myself frustrated with it most of the time.

I mean, I find myself looking at this screen in my pocket and, like, checking my email on it or something and being kind of, like, glad that I can take care of business while I'm sitting in the backseat of somebody's car, but also kind of mad at myself because I'm kind of distracted.

MARTIN: We're speaking with My Morning Jacket front man Jim James. The band's new album, "Circuital," will come out this Tuesday.

One of the tracks off of this new album is called "Slow, Slow Tune" and has a very different feel to this. It sounds like you took "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells, slowed it way down and gave the lead vocal to maybe Roy Orbison. Let's take a listen.

(Soundbite of song, "Slow, Slow Tune")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Slow, not the meter of today, but I'm not singing for night anyway this slow, slow tune.

MARTIN: Now, this to me is very high school slow dance, and I mean that in a good way, by the way. So what was going on here? What kind of influences did you draw on?

Mr. JAMES: For this song, I just kind of had this vision of some kid, you know, in the year 4030 being in some digital Goodwill somewhere, finding a copy of our record and putting in their new, light-blasting music player or whatever they have at that time and listening to this song and just thinking about me now singing to them then and just about what the future is like and what their life will be like as they take control of it, you know, when the kids of the future are running the show.

MARTIN: So it's - I have to say that it's so weird that that's how you describe it because when I say high school slow dance, I was specifically conjuring up "Back to the Future" with Michael J. Fox when his parents are slow dancing in that gym. I'm not even kidding.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: There's something to that sense, though, of timelessness but also very specifically placed in time. So I want to go to a track that has a completely different vibe than what we just heard. This one's called "Holding on to Black Metal." And before we talk about it, let's hear a little bit.

(Soundbite of song, "Holding on to Black Metal")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Oh oh oh wowowwowow, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah yo. It's a darkness you can't deny, but it don't belong in the ground at night.

MARTIN: So full disclosure, I love the baseline in this song. It's - it feels kind of old-school, and I would dare someone to listen to that and try not to, like, bop your head back and forth or something. Like, you've just got to move to that sound.

How did you build that? Did you start with that baseline and build from there?

Mr. JAMES: Well, that song was inspired by a song from a '60s, kind of lost, forgotten Thai pop compilation, spectacular. There's a really cool label called Sublime Frequencies that releases a lot of kind of strange, forgotten music.

And I was in Los Angeles at the time working on a project and had picked up this CD at Amoeba Records and was driving around in my car listening to it, and this song came on that kind of hypnotized me, that was the inspiration for "Black Metal." And I listened to it on repeat for a week or so, just kind of nothing else, listening to the song, and gradually, these words start popping out of my head and melodies and lyrics and girls shouting black metal and all this stuff.

MARTIN: I've got to tell you, of all the influences you could have named, Thai pop is not somewhere I thought you were going to go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JAMES: You've got to check out...

MARTIN: Yeah, who knew?

Mr. JAMES: They're unbelievable.

(Soundbite of song, "Holding on to Black Metal")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Holding on to black metal. Black metal, black metal.

MARTIN: That's My Morning Jacket's lead singer Jim James. The band's new album is called "Circuital." It will be released this Tuesday.

Jim, thanks for talking with us.

Mr. JAMES: Thanks so much.

(Soundbite of song, "Holding on to Black Metal")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Oh oh oh wowowwowow yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yo.

MARTIN: And for Sunday, that's WEEKENDS ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Remember, you can hear the best of this program on our podcast. Subscribe or listen at iTunes or at We post a new episode Sunday night. We're back on the radio next weekend. Until then, thanks for listening. Have a great week.

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