James Vincent McMorrow Discusses “How to Waste a Moment,” Remixers, and Breakfast in America [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]


There shouldn’t be any doubt in any of our reader’s minds with regards to our unwavering affinity for Mr. James Vincent McMorrow, or JVM, as so many of you lovingly call him. Dating all the way back to April of 2011, we’ve been enamored with his unique, intoxicating, and highly addictive vocal tone and style, continually waiting for each and every new release.

After seeing JVM a few times in different cities across the states, we were finally able to catch up with him and have a quick chat about his marathon of touring, the upcoming album, and, of course, breakfast food in America.

TMN: Hey James. Thanks for sitting down with us tonight. Is this your first time in the Mile High City?

JVM: Yeah. Is that what you call it? Mile High City?

TMN: Yep. We’re 5,280 feet above sea level. You just performed at Mishawaka, which we’ve somehow never been to. How was your experience up there?

JVM: Yeah. Saw a Bear. Played by a roaring river. It was cool…it’s a strange little V. It’s a narrow strip of land because you have the river here, and the road here (gesturing with his hands), and you have this little bar there. Beautiful bar, actually – really good food and nice people. It felt a little bit like playing in Austin, at Stubbs…if you’ve ever been there. Outdoor. Dirt floor. Rickety stage. It was really atmospheric. Once it got dark, it was real cool.

This is the fun period. We’ve done 150 shows since the last record came out. This is the end of the cycle. It wasn’t ever on my bucket list, to play the Mishawaka, but it really cool. It was a co-bill with a band called Dawes, which we don’t overlap crowds a whole lot. My crowd is very different from their crowd. So, that means there’s a lot of people there that are like – “impress me.” Which, I love. It’s cool.

TMN: Over the past few years, you’ve done quite a bit of touring through the states. We’ve had the pleasure of catching you at Coachella and in New York. What have some of your highlights been?

JVM: My highlights are like – in the last two years – playing two nights in the Sydney Opera House. That’s just not something I ever expected to happen. It’s such an iconic place. Selling out two nights there was a real moment for me – a real marker – to a level we had never been before. We had done shows in Australia in January for like 700 people, and we were like “we’ll be back.” Then we came back and sell it (Sydney Opera House) out in super quick time.

Coachella was cool, even though it was a stressful tour to me. That tour was amazing because we sold everything out. Even though crazy stuff was was happening to us logistically, every show was amazing. It was so much fun. It felt like the 70’s or something – shit would go wrong and we couldn’t fix it, so we would just have to roll with it. That whole tour was a whole moment.

There’s a festival in Ireland called Electric Picnic, and we headlined on Saturday night. That was really special for me, because that’s a big festival for an Irish person.

Those are the ones that jump out to me.


TMN: You released “How to Waste A Moment” recently. It’s quite a bit different than most of your other tunes, showcasing a slightly more upbeat sound. What was your inspiration for it?

JVM: I’ve been working on this new record for 6-7 months now. I like to draw a line from where I was and where I’m going to be. Contextually, I think it’s cool.

For that song, I was out in Venice Beach earlier in the year, and I wrote it down there. I got into the car and drove up to the studio in Hollywood, and I started playing the drums and tracked it. I really liked what it was. It was really simple and to the point.

The first two albums, I’m really proud of, but I’m not like “I’ve got to figure it out.” It’s all a process for me. I never just wanted to be a guy with a guitar. I love playing guitar and keyboards and drums..all the instruments – they’re all part of the tapestry. I never want to be defined by one thing. When I put out songs like that, I’m not really registering it as “this is different.” It’s more like “this is where I’m at now. These are the skills that I’ve added.” I wasn’t able to make songs like that four years ago. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t articulate it.

I wanted to share that. While it’s not going to be on the upcoming record, I felt like it was a really nice marker. I like doing what I want to do. I’ve been playing solo on guitar, and that’s worked perfectly. I wanted to articulate this the way I wanted to. That’s what moves me. I think at this point, the idea of me being the guy with the guitar is well dispelled. When I first came out, everyone was fascinated by that and talked about it a lot. The second record, was not about that, and people talked about other things.

For me, that’s not the motivation. I don’t give a shit. I just do what I want to do. You know what I mean? I didn’t grow up listening to one style of music. The idea of cutting myself off from making music that sounds different sounds really sad to me. I just want to make things that energetic, interesting, and at this point in my life I want to make real things. I want them to be lyrically to the point. I want them to have rhythm, because I’m a drummer, and I don’t feel like they’ve ever grasped that part of my musical persona.

So many reasons!

TMN: One thing that we’ve noticed is how effortlessly you transfer over to electronica through remixers. Are you hyper-specific about who you select to work with your stems?

JVM: Absolutely. I have a list of people. People come to me all the time wanting to remix my music, and I’ve shut some down before. Some people who have done some remixes that I haven’t really felt. I think that in this day and age, people put stuff out, and the assumption is that you verified it or approved it. If I’m not into, I’ll shut it down. I know that can sound a bit cold, but I am incredibly particular. With a song like “Cavalier,” at one point, I was getting contacted every single day with people asking to remix it. That’s a huge compliment, but there were only 4-5 people who I really wanted to work on it.

I wanted to do certain things. And when the guys from The 1975 asked to do it…I love Matt and George, and think they’re fantastic musicians. I had heard a lot of the stuff they were doing but weren’t sharing. I think they got tagged with a certain brush when they first came out, as being shallow and quite poppy. I think that’s a complete misrepresentation. They’re two of the best musicians I’ve ever been around, and when they release more music, people will catch that more.

They were making this incredible electronic music – really textured – and I wanted people to hear it. They approached me and that was an easy “yes.” Then things like DPAT, who I’m a really big fan of. I think he gets where I’m coming from. With Atu, he just had some chords that I really wanted to hear, because I can’t phrase piano like he can. And, he nailed it.

I’m really very meticulous about that. And, nothing gets past me, so if it’s not good, I won’t say yes to it.

On then some fun shit! Adventure Club’s remix was crazy! Then a video was made with these clowns, and it was nuts! That was just wicked. When I first heard that, I loved it, and everyone else around me was like “I don’t know if this is a good idea.” But, I loved it. I thought it was really cool and they are really sweet guys. They had real heart for it.

It’s a good way to get to know musicians from a different world too, you know? You realize that everyone’s pretty much the same too. Everyone resonates on the same level, musically. People want to do great things.

TMN: One of our favorite remixes has to be from Moors, especially after seeing the live collaboration between you two in NYC. How did that seemingly unlikely pairing come to be?

JVM: My friend Jeremy, who works at Vagrant and put out my first two records, was very good at seeking out people. He was great at curating that type of stuff. So, he would be my filter for people wanting to remix. He came to me and played a sound of theirs (Moors), and I can’t remember the name. But the video is Keith out in the water…

TMN: “Asphyxiated?”

JVM: Yeah. I loved that song. But, they just did it. Jeremy sent them the stems. I was actually in Paris in a dressing room when I got it and I was just blown away. It was so cool. I like those guys a lot. Keith has some very intense energy. He’s not messing around. Brilliant actor. Cool dude. He’s so meticulous.

Again, those things, on paper, seem strange. But, I’m a hip hop guy. I grew up around it. My world is based around it. It makes perfect sense for me, and when it came together, I think it made perfect sense. And, I actually had to push them! I wanted them to do more and extend the verse. I was like “no, scoop out that second section and put yourself in.” I wanted more of it! I wanted more Moors.

TMN: We spoke with Keith at that show, and it was one of the most raw, powerful interviews we’ve done.

JVM: He’s a great guy and he’s going to go places. As an actor, he’s amazing. Even the small bits that he does, like in Selma, he nails it. He’s in the new Oliver Stone movie too. Just great.


TMN: One thing we have to know is…why all the dark music videos? We were browsing through them today and had to switch over to some fail videos to lighten our moods.

JVM: Some of them are down and depressing. Some of them aren’t. The “Gold” video is pretty bright. I love that video. That was on that 6-week tour we talked about. Emma, my girlfriend, just went and found this guy, the film crew flew to Vancouver, and we shot it in a day. I love that! It’s just a guy listening to music and responding, which is what I wanted.

Aoife’s videos are pretty dark. That’s her persona. That’s her reaction to the songs, and that’s the point.

TMN: It’s an interesting juxtaposition from your voice and your music. You have a gorgeous voice, and all your music has an uplifting feeling, so it’s an interesting play to see the darkness.

JVM: I think those things resonate with me. I like death, personally. I was watching a lot of really dark videos, but with a lighter hue to them. And, my videos ended up being dark dark, but I love Flying Lotus, and the videos he was releasing around “When the Quiet Comes” were really magnificent. I loved those videos, and I loved what he was doing. He added such a rich, cinematic element to it. And, I think cinematic tends to be heavy. I think a lot of directors tend towards the heaviness.

That was more the director, than any guidance from me. Aoife heard it and went with it. I love them. The first time I saw the “Cavalier” video, it blew my mind. It’s blew me away that my music will exist with that video for all of time. The “Red Dust” video was amazing as well. The “Glacier” video was too dark, but Aoife is very entrenched. She wouldn’t change it. I fought with her for a little bit, but I felt…if I were in her position…I have to be respectful to other artists. If I bring someone in to do something, I have to put it out. And, I said that when it came out – that this isn’t the video that I would put with this, but she made a trilogy, and I wanted to be respectful to her.

I think it’s a fine line between the perfect amount of dark, and just too dark. I think that last one was a little too dark for me. But, you can dress a song up any way. That’s the beauty of it.

TMN: In all honesty, any fan of your music already has the preconceived concept of what that song means. That’s one reason why we never like asking an artist what a song means. It’s half the fun of listening to music, and we don’t want to take that away from anyone.

JVM: Absolutely. I think by grounding a song in reality, kind of defeats the purpose. It can be good to let people in, a little bit. I’ve course corrected some people on some songs of mine. There are certain songs of mine where people have taken something from it, and really ran with it, and brought it to me after a show. I respect anyone’s opinion, but it’s moreso if they think that’s what I was talking about in the song. “We Don’t Eat,” in particular, tends to elicit a reaction from a lot of people, especially in North America. When I first put that song out, I had a lot of people come up to me and say, “we sing that song at our worship meetings.”

I have faith, for sure. But, I’m not a religious guy. I was like, “listen, that’s totally fine, but that’s not what it’s about.” I would say that, if you’re listening to it, and thinking that it’s a worship song, you are wrong. It’s a deeper song, about other things and ideas. It’s about God, for sure. But, if anyone’s ever thinking that’s what I’m saying, specifically, I would say that it wasn’t. It’s not purely what it’s about. It’s about more than that.

TMN: When did you figure out you had your voice.?

JVM: I was maybe 17 or 18. I thought that I could be good. My voice gets better the more that I work at it. I think that I’m lucky for that. 10 years ago, when I was in my early 20’s, I couldn’t sing very well. I could hold some notes and do some stuff, but I wasn’t dexterous. I couldn’t move around in the melodies how I wanted to. So, it’s taken 10 years to kind of get my voice to a place where I feel in control of it. And, I still don’t feel like I’m in control of it. I don’t think I’ve “found it,” but I think it’s slowly evolving and growing.

But, I love that went like that. I would have been fucked had I been 21 and had the voice that I have. I don’t know what I would have done. I think it’s taken me 10 years to get in and dig around in music, and fuck up without people paying attention to me. I love that too. My voice has been a slow evolution.

TMN: Before we head into some random questions, is there anything you’d like to share with your fans? Upcoming releases? More touring? Thank you message?

JVM: Not gonna tour for the rest of the year, but we’ll get back to it early next year. I haven’t had a break in a while, so I’m going to take a break. But, I’m not a “sit around and do nothing” guy. I have this new record that I’m going to record, and I’m really excited about it. I’m having fun making music. I’ve never had this much fun before. This one, I’ve been doing at a good pace, and it’s showing. I’m excited for people to hear it.

TMN: Alright, we always like to wrap up with some random questions, just to get to know you outside of your music. Let’s kick it off with one of our favorites – what was your very first job growing up?

JVM: I worked in a bar before I was legally allowed to work in a bar. In my hometown, I worked there serving drinks and pouring pints. Everyone in my hometown did it.

TMN: It’s like a right of passage.

JVM: Pretty much. It was a fun time…so much fun. It was a great job.

TMN: What kind of band posters did you have on your walls as a kid?

JVM: I had all the covers of Rolling Stone. I used to collect that magazine obsessively, and I would clip off the covers and hang them on my wall. So, I had everybody. I think it’s a good representation for my musical tastes. I had everyone up there. I was indiscriminate. It was an aspiration to me.

TMN: What’s your guilty food or drink indulgence when you’re on tour?

JVM: I’m pretty clean, food and drink goes, at the moment. I am a demon, though, for a good breakfast waffle. That’s the one thing – I love breakfast. And, you guys kill it with breakfast over here. The other day, we were in…shit. Where were we? Anyways, it was this place that did this unbelievable food. It opened at 6AM and closed at 2PM. It just did breakfast. It was unbelievable! It was so good.

TMN: Have you ever kissed the Blarney Stone?

JVM: I have, to my shame. (Laughs)

TMN: Favorite Irish band of all time.

JVM: I never was into that many Irish bands. I love Thin Lizzy, but I don’t own all their records. I love U2, and I listened to that as a kid. I loved Achtung Baby, because that’s when I was getting into music. But, I don’t listen to them anymore. I think they’re awesome dudes. I do love Irish music generally. I always get a kick out of Irish bands doing well. It’s a small country, and we put out these massive world beaters. Even now, one of the biggest pop stars is Hozier, and it’s just crazy. It’s just a dude from Ireland.

There’s a band called Girl Band, and their one of my favorite bands in the world. Their album is mind blowing, and they’re my favorite band from Ireland, at the moment.

TMN: If you could only see one act play, past or present, who would it be?

JVM: Bruce Springsteen or Paul McCartney. I would see Paul now. I wouldn’t need to see him 30 years ago. Same with Springsteen. I think he still gets it done every night. I would love if Metallica were better, now. I love them, but they just cannot play anymore. It’s so depressing. Lars just can’t keep a backbeat. I always wish I would have seen Pantera because that was big to me when I was a kid. Vulgar Display of Power was a real important to me, so I would have loved to seen them at the height of their powers.

TMN: Do any of your friends call you JVM, or is that strictly an internet/blogosphere thing?

JVM: Most people do, if they’re talking about me. In the last couple of years, it’s become much more prevalent. Most people call me James. James Vincent never happens. JV or JVM is much more succinct. In fact, I wanted to put JVM on the last record, and the label fought me on it. I like it though. I have it on all my backdrops and such. I like that people know me for that.

TMN: That’s all we have for you. Thank you so much for your time.

JVM: Thank you!