Musician Sean McMorris derives inspiration from post-punk and pop rock from the 80s and early 90s, and has been creating his versions of original music for many years now. McMorris is also a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar and drums, not only solo, but also for punk icon Richard Lloyd, and other classic rock musicians. On his latest album, C’est la Vie, McMorris features guest musician, XTC’s Dave Gregory on guitar. Besides pursuing his own music, McMorris also plays drums for local LA band, Billy Joseph & The Army of Love.
With his latest music video for “Vortex,” he focuses on the tightwire push-pull relationship between man and his own creations. With “C’est la Vie” he uses catchy lyrics and memorable guitar licks to keep this music video at the forefront of the viewers mind. Find out what McMorris has to say about blending different music genres, growing up in Paris, France then relocating to the States, solo and band work, and much more.
You enjoy blending different genres of rock, especially alt-rock and power pop. What is it about those genres that draws you in?
As a teen in the 80’s, I was drawn to The Police, Joe Jackson, The Ruts, The Pretenders, XTC and others. I appreciated their exuberance, thrust and vitality. On my latest record, C’est la Vie, I wanted a bit more drive and brighter tempos so I tapped into some of that energy for a few songs.
In general, if I cover a lot of ground stylistically, it’s simply because I’m on an expansive musical diet. I naturally ingest and I digest what I listen to. I realize that it creates a bit of a challenge but it also allows for an album worth listening to in its entirety without getting bored.
You grew up in Paris, France and came over to the US as a teenager…what influences growing up had a profound impact on you and your musical style?
What made growing up in Paris unique in the 70’s and early 80’s was that radio had not yet been as rigidly formatted as it would become, especially compared to the United States. Some radio stations were apt to segue jazz into country, blues into disco, rock into variety. It exposed me to so much music without boundaries, prejudice or marketing. I fell equally in love with Zappa, Bowie, Stevie Wonder, King Crimson, and Pat Metheny.
Growing up in France also helps explain my subtle (or not-so-subtle) European and British leanings. It’s in my cultural DNA, as opposed to being borrowed or appropriated.
You relocated to LA in 2017, playing drums for Billy Joseph & The Army of Love, along with your solo work. What creative satisfaction does pursuing solo work along with playing in a band bring you?
Being new in town, I decided to attend the ASCAP Expo to meet new people, look for drumming gigs, and promote my new record C’est la Vie. At the event, I exchanged business cards with a female singer/songwriter who handed my card to Billy the next day when he hit on her hoping she would be Sheila E! It turns out she wasn’t and I landed the gig. Whoever and wherever you are, thank you!
Billy Joseph is a gifted writer who has put together an ace band. We perform mostly originals, combining elements of folk, classic southern California rock, old school R&B, soul, blues and funk. It’s a great vehicle for me as a drummer and background singer (with an occasional lead vocal here and there for good measure!) I get to explore my skills with drumsticks, brushes, mallets, shakers, bells, etc. It’s a lot of fun and there’s a lot of room for personal expression. It’s making me feel a bit like Glenn Kotche, Wilco’s super talented drummer.
My solo work is the main conduit for my songwriting. I’ve accumulated a sizable catalogue over the years and after the birth of my daughter, I realized I owed it to myself to record my own material for posterity. My father passed away young and I’ve now practically outlived him. My albums are unique, intense, personal, artistic statements. They’re for the album lovers who enjoy total immersion in LPs.
I don’t have a psychic need to front a band or tour as a solo act. In a live context, I love being the drummer in the band.
Your singles and music video for “Vortex” and “C’est la Vie” each have their own styles and visions. What was the idea for both videos, and did you have a lot of input involved with the direction/production of them?
I conceived, produced, and edited both videos. I knew I wanted to feature a dancer and I found Lily on the website Fiverr. She did all of her own choreography and filmed herself. I took this footage and built the videos around it. I filmed myself, talking-head style, lip-synching to each song. Once I had those two elements running through the entire songs, I spliced in additional footage that helped the story line. Many of the frames were drawn by hand using paper, pencils, crayons. I used a lot of filters to distort and color every frame, using effects like a musician.
I had a great time putting these videos together. They give insight into the songs you might not get from listening to the album. I kept it playful, dynamic, and light in order to bring out the ironies inherent in the material. There’s a lot of substance behind the thought-provoking lyrics but it’s also engaging and entertaining without getting too heavy or taking itself too seriously.
What’s next throughout the year for you?
More videos, more writing, more drumming, more singing, more recording, more of everything!
Who was your first concert, and which one has been your favorite so far?
My mother took me to Paris’ iconic Olympia theater in the mid 70’s to see John Denver. I must have been around 10 years old. I fell in love with the experience before the musicians even made their entrance. I was mesmerized by the soft lights glowing on stage. They revealed the magnificent tools of the trade in all their glory, an armada of instruments waiting to sing: acoustic & electric guitars on their stands, amplifiers, keyboards, microphones, a lone pedal steel. It all created such a magical vibe for me. I was hooked.
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
My first album was Elvis Presley’s first full length LP released by RCA/Victor in 1956. My favorite cut was the yearnful “Tryin’ To Get To You.” I believe this is the same LP that won John Lennon over.
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
This type of question is kind of agonizing for me because I hate to leave out anyone! There can’t possibly be any definitive answer. It’s also a time sensitive operation. But, taking the plunge, I would say that I couldn’t live without The Beatles, Neil Finn, Pink Floyd, Jacques Brel, Miles Davis.
Name your top three influences in writing and creating music.
The Beatles for their songwriting. Neil Finn for his sense of melody. Pink Floyd for their existential explorations and their sound. And hopefully, the listener is never able to pinpoint exactly how these influences are present in my own material.
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
I’m a huge fan of the movie “Singing in The Rain.” I’ve seen it a dozen times and probably have it memorized scene by scene, if not frame by frame. It never fails to engage and entertain me. I think it’s the perfectly crafted musical, which is not a genre that I naturally gravitate to. Most musicals do not stand the test of time. This one does.