Analogue Music | Morningsiders


By Matt Conner

If you're curious to know more about The Morningsiders, just peruse their album titles.

Every release from Morningsiders features an apt description of the music inside it. A Little Lift or Easy Does it serves the music contained therein as accurate labels for the NYC-based trio's music—intimate, lovely indie folk tunes that carry the listener forward.

Easy Does It is Morningsiders' latest EP, a quick and breezy set that leaves the listener wanting more. That was certainly true for us here at Analogue as we wanted to get the inside story on the band's past and present, from their early days at Columbia to weathering a pandemic.

Analogue: I’d love to start by just getting a better sense of how you all came together in the first place and what you brought to the music yourselves.

Magnus Ferguson: We met in college. We were all the same year at Columbia and Reid [Jenkins] and Rob and I started playing our freshman year—really early. I was writing a lot of songs. Reid was actively looking for a songwriter to play with, and Rob is always looking to play piano with anyone. We quickly gravitated together and played some college parties. It was a supportive scene then, so we’d play Mardi Gras parties at frat houses or downtown a bit.

Then after college, we felt like we’d have some songs do well. We had that momentum and we put our hearts into it and kept at it. We traveled around for a while and were able to follow some great bands and put out some more music.

In 2018, I went to grad school in Boston where I’m still at, and so we switched over to a really recording-focused group—even before the pandemic. For years even before, we were meeting up before breaks and having video calls, and sharing audio files to build songs that way.

Analogue: So you were pandemic before the pandemic.

Magnus: Yeah, totally by accident. Rob can speak more to this, but I do feel like our story is luckily, by chance, falling into a good model for being a band at this time.

Rob Frech: Yeah, we were literally hooking up our recording software to DropBox and whatever. It’s pretty jerry-rigged but it works.

"I do feel like our story is luckily, by chance, falling into a good model for being a band at this time."

Analogue: So how much time did you have pre-pandemic or current isolated set-up did you have to develop together?

Rob: Since 2011.

Analogue: So you haven’t found that making music at a distance now has created a challenge?

Magnus: You might get different answers, but I think it’s made the creative process way easier, honestly. We each have time to digest stuff that others bring up. When you’re writing together in a room, the yeses and nos, you have five seconds to decide if it sounds good or doesn’t sound good. It’s just a recipe for something really messy when people bring different visions and you have to argue through your visions.

Here, I can get new string arrangements from Reid—since that’s what we’re working on right now for our new record—and listen to them and go to sleep and then wake up and think about them and change my mind. I think it’s a luxury, like having each other on speed dial. But it also gives us the space where we’re not clashing in the writing room.

Rob: It’s allowed us to try and do a lot of new stuff because the computer itself is its own instrument. There are a lot of things we can do recording this way. It’s not that we couldn’t do those things before, but we just didn’t think to because we weren’t making music in the same way.

I would say some things are the same and some are different. The yeses and nos aren’t five seconds apart but they’re still there. [Laughs] We’re still collaborating and having debates. You still have those moments, so it doesn’t detract from the magic in any way.

Magnus: I think there’s been an evolution that really intensified when we started collaborating remotely. Early on, I think our goal was just to record the stuff that sounded like we were playing in the room. We used to talk about “folk glow,” this idea of what you’re listening to when the instruments are five feet away from you and people are singing. There’s a natural tingle or wash to it, a watercolor.

Early on, we were always pushing our producers and engineers to make it sound like we’re playing live, which is incredibly hard to do. Now I think because we’re all moving through production software, we’re taking that in stride. We’re still insisting on those plucks and imperfect scratches and the things that happen with acoustic instruments, but there are other instruments that have now made their way in.

Analogue: I love the new EP but it also sounds like you’ve a full-length or something on the way. So how do you decide to package these four together or where do they come from?

Magnus: We started writing a new batch of songs two years ago, and we really wanted to work with Peter Katis, who is this incredible producer. We love so much of his other music. As soon as we started talking to him, we realized that we really wanted to write toward him a little bit, a little toward his sensibilities in the studio.

I think these four songs are the forerunners for the next six that we’re about to go back in and finish off. All of them are very new with the exception of two that we recovered. They’re some of the oldest songs we’ve been playing since college but they never quite made it onto a record. Finally we went back to them and cut away the parts that we thought were written by college students and we kept the parts that moved us.

"There’s tiers to the sound, so you’ll go from a very intimate sound straight into a very rich wall of sound and then you’ll drop back down."

Analogue: That makes me want to ask a couple questions here, but first, how was it to actually work with someone you’ve admired. Was your experience in the studio congruent with what you hoped it would be?

Magnus: I think we were just really inspired by Peter’s music. One thing he’s amazing at is that he creates a typography in the music. There’s tiers to the sound, so you’ll go from a very intimate sound straight into a very rich wall of sound and then you’ll drop back down. There’s a shape to it in that way. That wasn’t always the way we thought about music before, but we started talking about that a lot as we were arranging these songs.

It was great to work with Peter and I think it lived up to it, but I’m talking a lot. Rob, what do you think?

Rob: You mentioned that we were writing at him or toward him, but when we were with him, he’s then mixing back at us or toward us. We give him our stuff and then he has to wrestle with it. So it is very much a collaboration for sure. That’s really special.

Because it was the height of the pandemic, he has this amazing house in Bridgeport, Connecticut that we literally just lived at for almost two weeks, I think. We couldn’t leave because of quarantine rules, so we got to know each other pretty well. [Laughs] We were literally there together for two weeks making music. And we’re going back on Monday to work on the next batch of tunes.

Analogue: Is that nice to have a break there? Like you know what it will be like or have learned some things, so you get a chance to breathe and then go back and maybe apply some things.

Magnus: I think that’s just the way we’ve been working for forever is in one-to-two week bursts because of the shape of the band and that we’re in different places doing different things. I think it ends up being great for the recording process. Sometimes recording can unnecessarily turn into a marathon, an endurance battle of how many days can I go before I snap? Everyone’s ears are totally shot by the end and you totally limp over the finish line.

So the space was great. I think as much as we’re inspired by collaborating with Peter, there’s so much that really doesn’t have to happen in the studio. Having a couple months has allowed us to make those creative decisions at a slow pace. Like I took three weeks and didn’t listen to any of the songs. Then I went back and realized, ‘Oh, that’s totally wrong!’

VISIT: Morningsiders

Photos: Shervin Lainez