Class Photo frontman Patrick Morris has always been eager to march to the beat of his own drum. He chose to depart from his previous band, STRFKR, out of a desire to flex his songwriting muscles once more. Embarking on a solo project what is daunting in certain aspects – he still gets nervous about stepping up to the mic – but Patrick feels at home in the 90s sound and infections indie beats of his debut album, Light Years Later. The bouncy tracks navigate surprisingly heavy themes has Patrick attempts to come to terms with heartbreak and loss. The album drops November 8th and you can listen to his new track “Yeah You Break (My Heart)” below!
Cliché: What prompted the decision to leave STRFKR and pursue your own solo project?
Patrick Morris: There were several factors in my decision, but at the time I left STRFKR, we had just finished touring for the album Miracle Mile. It was a more collaborative album than STRFKR had ever done. But I felt that it was still mainly Josh Hodges’ music, who founded the band and who wrote the first STRFKR record entirely himself. I had started to miss the challenge of working on my own stuff. I had that feeling in my old band, Strength, where everybody held equal weight in the writing process.
How would you say your sound has evolved or diversified since your time with STRFKR?
I don’t know if ‘evolved’ is the right word, but I had to shift my focus more to vocals and lyrics. In STRFKR and my old band Strength, I had always been behind an instrument. Stepping up to the microphone, going to lead vocals, was something I needed some getting used to, and still feel quite timid about sometimes. Singing is such a vulnerable space to inhabit, but I feel like I learned a lot in the process of recording an entire album as lead vocalist (my wife sings on one track).
Do you find the creative process to be easier now that you are collaborating with fewer people or more difficult because you have less of a sounding board?
I learned the importance of bouncing ideas off of people while making this record. Even hitting the send button when you email a track to someone you trust can be enlightening. That feeling of, “oh my god what was I thinking?” can tell you all you need to know. On the other hand, I think ‘less cooks in the kitchen’ can be a good thing in certain scenarios for sure. I recorded all of my own vocals, and I think I needed that freedom to work things out.
Explain the meaning behind the name Class Photo.
I wanted to have something catchy and universal. At some point I just needed to decide on something, and on the long list of names, Class Photo just felt right. Almost everybody has a class picture, and they tend to be revealing and/or nostalgic.
You’ve relocated from Los Angeles to Norway! What’s the Norwegian music scene like? How is the move impacting your career?
There’s a lot of incredible music coming out of Norway! There are some amazing electronic artists, as well as experimental, and straight up pop. There are a lot of rad artists on the label that is putting out my record, Jansen Records. Norwegian seasons are bold, and I suspect that that’s why people spend more time indoors reading synthesizer manuals and dedicating themselves to an instrument. I have met many musicians in Oslo who just seem to be cut from a finer cloth. I think they teach musical appreciation at an earlier age here. Or maybe it’s the cod liver oil.
Talk about your debut album, Light Years Later.
I began writing LYL after leaving STRFKR, my final show with them being at Coachella. It took me about a year before I really began writing something I liked, so I would say I had a bit of a writer’s block. I was dealing with some heavy stuff, and at first it was hard to put that into songs. The first song I finished was “I’ve Been Cleaning Your Room,” which was very inspired by Weezer and The Rentals, who I grew up listening to. I felt more freedom than I had in awhile- I’d been writing collaboratively for years, and the bands I was in weren’t really going for that 90’s sound. Some of LYL is more in the direction of Daft Punk (electro-funk), for example with the singles “Yeah You Break (My Heart)” and “Hard Conversation.”
Tell us about the inspiration behind your new single, “Yeah You Break (My Heart).”
I started writing this song on my 33rd birthday when I was living in Los Angeles. For my birthday, I decided to rent an old synthesizer from a shop in Los Angeles that rents out gear. I spent the day playing my birthday synth, and the chords ended up being the foundation for the song.
What did you set out to accomplish with the album? Are you happy with the results?
To me the goal was to have fun playing electric guitar, and write something I that excited me or was meaningful. If synths and grunge guitar could sit together happily on the same track, that would satisfy me. There was also the goal to have someone else mix it. I really like how Rian O’Connell Lewis mixed it. I’m happy with it, yeah!
One of the tracks off of the album, “Hard Conversation,” deals with the loss of a parent. How do you channel such a devastating tragedy into creative expression?
The challenge of writing about that sort of loss is that it could come off as sad, sappy depressive music. Instead, I tried to focus on the mundane aspects of the loss or ‘tragedy.’ LYL ended up with many songs about some form of loss, though not all about death. Art is a great way to process feelings. Even if the art doesn’t directly reference the loss, it is a way to help you get through it.
What advice do you have for those currently experiencing grief and loss?
I have a dear friend who recently lost someone, and I told him to expect all the emotions right now and for awhile, and they’re all okay. If he feels mad, sad, numb, confused, happy, busy, exhausted, etc… just remember that it’s normal. If you are experiencing grief and loss, go easy on yourself. And, when you’re ready to talk about it, try to find someone who is truly good at listening.
What’s next for you?
Class Photo is playing an album release show in Oslo next month. That will be November 15th at Revolver. We’re gearing up for some shows outside of Oslo early next year. It’ll be nice to have the vinyl with us! I’ve been writing new songs recently too which continues to be the most interesting part of the process! I’ve been getting into the studio lately with both of the musicians who play in the live show (Tage Lægreid Olsen and Henrik Lødøen), so I’m looking forward to more collaboration in the future.
Read more Music Interviews at ClicheMag.com
Class Photo Shows The Sunny Side of Loss in Their New Album, Light Years Later. Photo Credit: Jonathan Vivaas Kise and Eric Schwabel.