By Ariel Thomas
Ever heard of the psychedelic rock band with the “$100 light show” coming out of Gainesville? If not, now you have, and the members of Morningbell are as eccentric as their genre-bending music makes them out to be.
For one, the band has released 6 albums and 3 EPs, though guitarist and singer Travis Atria says none of them are the same.
“One thing I am most proud of is that we've reinvented ourselves a few times,” Atria says. “Our fourth album has nothing to do with our first album. Our sixth album has nothing to do with our fourth album. Our upcoming album will have nothing to do with any of them. I write the songs, so wherever my head is at is the direction we go, and then the band helps me find the parameters that make it Morningbell.”
Though their Facebook page describes them as psychedelic rock, Atria says that’s just where Morningbell started.
“I got heavily into Curtis Mayfield as we were making ‘Sincerely, Severely’ in 2007-2008, and then our music got more soulful,” Atria says. “I started singing in falsetto. We weren't as interested in rock and roll. We spent a few years exploring soul and R&B in our strange way, and then I got really into Claude Debussy, and so for 2013's ‘Boa Noite,’ I tried to write something with movements like a classical piece. We put together a makeshift orchestra and just went nuts--violins, cellos, tubas, trombones, flutes, oboes, and so on. The basis of the music was still the bass and drums, a soulful type of thing, but on top was this orchestral grandeur that we had never played with before.”
From playing Bonnaroo to having a custom star show based on their music at the Santa Fe Planetarium, Morningbell is anything but ordinary. Including that “trademarked $100 light show.”
“When we were first starting, the hardest part was getting the half-soused rabble in various dive bars to pay attention,” Atria says. “My brother's genius is for finding cheap but effective touches to add to the show to make it visually interesting. So, for instance, he'd go to Lowe's and come home with a pair of glasses with little lights attached on the frame, a product meant for people who work in dark spaces. But for us, it became a set piece. We'd all put them on and turn the house lights down, and the audience would just see these dark forms with pins of light coming out of their heads. We looked like aliens on stage. Or, he'd but a few jackets and safety-pin motion Christmas lights to them, and when we put those suckers on, we were this moving freak-out of light. Add in some strobe lights and the effect was devastating. People paid attention. This helped us earn a reputation and gain an audience.”
Morningbell is still together, but Atria admits music is no longer the band’s main purpose. Eric and Stacie Atria (bassist and keyboardist, respectfully) have two kids while Travis is writing books. When asked what the future holds, Atria says there will be more shows and hopefully another album.
“The new album will be another adventure in a different direction, trying to incorporate some modern sounds into what we do,” Atria says. “It has been a struggle to find the heart of it, but struggle is not without its rewards.”
Find Morningbell on Facebook and stream their music on Bandcamp.