MORSIFIRE: bound by authenticity rather than genres
INTERVIEW BY PETAR PETROV
If you had to tick off only a single genre box to sum up Morsifire, or Andrew Seely as is his real name, as a musician, you’d find it hard. Even though rap is his primary outlet, his love and talent for indie and alternative rock never stay far behind. His debut LP, Metanoia, is a constant dance between his different musical callings.
We sit down with him to talk about his creative process behind putting such a diverse and genre-bending album together, as well as writing music in general, his musical influences, the significance of purely instrumental songs, the difficulties of not being a more traditional musician who sticks to one genre, and more.
Your album is very diverse in terms of songs’ feel and music style. How do you put together such an eclectic album, is there an overarching theme, or you take it one song at a time? What's the process like?
I think with this particular project, the thing that weaved the whole album together was the narrative. I tried to assemble the songs in almost a chronological way, so that a story could unfold throughout. I didn’t necessarily write the songs in that order, but for the message I’m trying to deliver with this record, it made sense for me to organize it that way. In the beginning, I just kind of let myself run wild and create whatever came to me. I later zoomed out and tried to thread things together sonically, so that the album experience wouldn’t feel totally non-sequitur. I’d be lying if I said I’m not still a little self-conscious about the genre-bending, but I honestly can’t help it. It’s what comes out.
What comes first, a song's idea/feeling behind it or the genre? In other words, does an idea/feeling you have determine its genre or vice versa? Not only does your album encompass rap and indie, but some songs in themselves as well. What is your songwriting process?
Nine times out of ten I start with writing the music. I’ll either be sitting at my computer doing something with synths or drums, or noodling on my guitar. A lot of where I take a song vocally has to do with the groove that I lay down. Sometimes I’ll be writing and throw in a percussion part and start bobbing my head and words will just start flying around in my brain. I’ll know that a rap verse is being born in that moment. Other times, for songs like Graves and I Can’t Stay, it’s a bit more straightforward. Generally speaking, if I’m sitting down writing with a guitar it’ll probably have more singing than rapping.
Besides guitar, do you play any other musical instruments, and if so, how does that influence your rap style? There are some very interesting sound effects and melodic sections in your rap songs, are they glimpses of your passion for indie music?
I play guitar and a little bit of keys, enough to produce stuff on my laptop. When I started making music, I was pretty much just making rap beats and not incorporating anything else. It took a little while to muster up the confidence to experiment and lay down guitar, or lean into my indie side a little bit. I definitely love throwing in ear candy all over the place. It makes those repeat listens so much more fulfilling. They’re also just incredibly fun to create. I love taking a sample and mangling it, or doing weird stuff to my vocals, or taking a guitar line and changing it into something totally unrecognizable. I get lost in that process in the best way.
There are a couple of songs on the album that are purely instrumental (one of it has some voice recording, but not lyrics in the traditional sense) How do you decide words aren't needed in a song, what does their lack contribute?
I’m a huge fan of a band called Explosions in the Sky, and they never have vocals in any of their songs. I think there’s something powerful in that. Being able to convey something without words. It allows the listener to lean into the world that you create even further. I think one or two instrumentals can really glue a record together. M83 also does this really well.
Rap and poignant indie music don't exactly go hand in hand. How did you discover your passion for both, and how did you decide you can mix them together? What are your musical influences/idols from each genre, as well as/or ones that experiment with genres like you?
Growing up, I had always been a fan of rock. I listened to Third Eye Blind, The Killers, Green Day as a kid, they were everywhere. But at the same time I was also completely obsessed with this rap group called Nappy Roots. I had an mp3 player that only had enough space for like 30 songs, and every single one was a Nappy Roots tune. I think that idea for mixing them together has always sort of been around, but everyone does it a little bit differently. The artist that showed me it could really be done was Kid Cudi. His first album blew my mind. The narrative was there, the genre-bending, the production, just the whole feeling of it. You see a lot of artists crossing over now though like Lil Peep, Nothing Nowhere, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, and even MGK.
Do you think it's easier or harder to resonate with listeners when you combine such inherently different genres? Does it make your audience broader, or particularly niche?
I think it makes getting off the ground a bit harder, to be honest. People are far more accepting of the scatterbrained genre soup after they’re already a fan. Right now, I feel like it’s kind of a niche thing that I’m trying to figure out how to approach from a more macro angle.
Any other genres you might mix in your music in the future? What do you think the future holds in general?
I’m not so sure about genre, but I definitely want to challenge myself in my approach. I’m really interested in using more hardware to make music, whether that’s synths, or more amps and pedals, or generally weird stuff. I’m currently sitting on a new EP that doesn’t have any rapping on it, but it still has threads of hip hop. I’m super curious to hear how it will be received! It’s a bit more indie-electronic than the album is.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Stream my record, and tell the people you love them. Every single day.