“Music is obtainable by anybody and everybody who has a desire to play it! […] Don’t let anything or anyone get in your way.” -Travis
It feels like a billion years ago when Travis Ewing and I met through Myspace (yes, it was during the Myspace days- my gosh). Ever since then, we’ve stayed in touch and I am happy to introduce this band to Montreal; the band he and his friend Kevin Knudsen, have formed based in Michigan. They were just featured on their local radio station and I’m so excited for them. I enjoy every interview I get to do, but I must be honest- this was one of those moments where they said exactly what I would say if I were talented enough to be a musician and was doing an interview for my band. You HAVE to check it out. Here’s the interview I had with Travis and with the help of Kevin.
Thanks for being part of Joanna the Montrealer guys!
How did The Morels come to be? / How did you first meet?
The Morels is the latest project from long-time friends Kevin Knudsen and Travis Ewing. We met when I (Travis) moved to Ludington, Michigan from Kalamazoo, Michigan in the 7th grade. It was difficult for me to meet friends at first but after getting a snare drum for Christmas that year, I would ask other kids if anyone in the school played an instrument, and they would all say, “Talk to Kevin Knudsen, he’s a taller kid with big hair and glasses, I think he plays the bass”. From that time on we have been in six bands together (some only lasting a few months or so) and this is our seventh. We started it as a side project from our last band called Nematoad. We recently asked our friend Steve Alvesteffer to play bass with us for our live shows.
How did you come up with the name?
Well one of the cool things about Michigan, is that in the spring there’s a certain kind of mushroom that sprouts up called Morels. They are insanely good to eat, but hard to find. One day we were trying to decide on a name for the new project and there happened to be a picture on Kevin’s computer of some Morels we had found. I can’t remember who said it first but someone said “Let’s just be The Morels”- it was the greatest idea in the world!
Who writes the lyrics?
I’d say it’s about half and half. There are some we write together and some that we write on our own individually.
What is different about being a part of The Morels compared to other bands you may have been in or solo careers?
I think the main thing that’s different is the style of music we play. In other bands it was usually just one certain style (punk or blues or classic rock), where The Morels is kind of a blend of all of our influences and we’re not afraid to mix genres on an album or live.
What music/ which artists inspire you?
Anything and everything. We could be listening to a Neil Young or Tom Petty record one minute, a funk record the next, and checking out a local blues or rock band live later that night. Any artist or band, no matter the genre, who is passionate about what they are doing is very inspiring to us.
What was the first musical experience that really touched you?
It might sound crazy, but it was the same thing for the both of us. When I (Travis) was a little kid, I would sit at the top of the basement stairs and listen to my dad and uncle jam together in the basement and I would envy them so much. I wanted to be just like both of them and I’ve always loved sounds. For Kevin, his dad was in a band ever since he can remember and so was his brother. He would listen to them and want to be just like them too. It’s crazy how similar our childhoods were while growing up in completely different cities!
Which relatively new musicians have you been listening to or enjoying recently?
Lately I’ve been getting really into Thee Oh Sees..well I guess for the last couple years. I just really love them! Also other garage rock bands like Ty Segall. There’s a really cool band from San Antonio, TX called The Rich Hands and there’s an awesome band from El Paso, TX called Nalgadas! I could go on and on. Kevin has been really into Ty Segall, Mac DeMarco (fellow Canadian), and The Black Keys.
Did you come from musical families?
We did. My dad has been a bass player since he was in high school and one of my uncles can play guitar, bass, drums, and sing. They both have been huge inspirations to me and I was lucky enough to be in a band with both of them together for a long time. Kevin’s dad is a blues/classic rock guitar player and his older brother is a drummer. Right now he’s in a band with both of them and I know they’ve been major inspirations to him.
What started your individual musical careers?
I’d have to say the first band where we started playing local shows is what started our musical adventures. We were both in that band with a couple of our friends and as soon as we hit the stage for the first time, I think we both knew that that’s what we wanted to do.
How has the process of making music changed for you over the years?
For the most part it has actually stayed pretty similar. Since it’s been us two in previous bands also, we kind of found what worked and just stuck with it. We’ll just get together in the garage or basement, hit the record button, and just start jamming, with nothing planned and no agenda. We’ll play for hours and then go back and listen to what we did, pick out the jams or riffs that we liked, organize them and then over time add something here, something there. The lyrics almost always come last. It’s kind of like putting a musical puzzle together!
Which instruments are used and by whom?
On our recordings Kevin does the rhythm and lead guitar, bass, and lead vocals. I do the drums and back-up vocals. When we play live it’s Kevin on guitar and vocals, Steve on bass and back-ups, and me on drums.
How long have each of you been artists?
I started playing the drums seriously at 13 I think, so about 15 years. I think Kevin started playing bass at 11 or 12…so about 16 years or so for him. Wow that’s crazy to think about…
How do you balance your music careers with other responsibilities? 9-5 jobs, school, etc
It is very tough! We actually both work factory jobs at the same place. By the time we get out we are exhausted, but we have no choice but to practice right after work, and sometimes on the weekends. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else, but it’s what we love! That and where we live also makes it hard to travel to play shows too, but we have some plans abrewin’ right now.
How long does it usually take for you to fully complete a song?
It varies with each song. Sometimes a jam will end up being an almost complete song (minus the lyrics), and for others it might take months until all the pieces fall in place.
What is the hardest part of being artists?
Hmm..that’s a good question! Being a musician starting out definitely has its highs and lows, but I think the hardest part for us right now is that in the town we live in, there aren’t really any bands similar to us that we can play shows with. There are a lot of great artists in Ludington, but there are a lot of cover bands, bluesy bands, and just bands on the lighter side of things. Sticking out has its benefits, but part of us would really love to play with other bands with a similar style of music. Even though we have a lot of support here, it would be nice to be in a bigger area I guess, where there’s a thriving music scene and more opportunity for growth.
What do you enjoy most about being musical artists?
There are so many things we enjoy about it, but we’d have to say the fact that it can bring people together to all have a great time and forget about the everyday stresses that might occur. The last show we played, we could look out in the audience and see kids from 3 years old to older people in their 70’s even, and all ages in between, all coming together and enjoying the same thing. It just happened to be our music and it felt amazing!
What message do you want your music to portray?
We just want to hopefully do for other people what music has done for the both of us. It’s provided an outlet, gotten us through harder times, helped us think and put things in perspective, and made good times even better. It can do so many things for people, and even if it does something positive for only 1 person, it would all be worth it!
What are your music goals in the long run?
Our goals are to play as many live shows as possible, in as many places possible, and just reach as many people as we can!
Are you performing in any events or have any shows coming up?
Right now we are taking a short break from playing shows in order to put together our next album.
What is the best way for fans to contact you?
We can be found on
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/themorels11 or on
ReverbNation at https://www.reverbnation.com/themorels
What would you like your fans to know?
Music is obtainable by anybody and everybody who has a desire to play it! If you have a passion for music in any way, even if it’s not to play an instrument necessarily, know that it will take time and there will be many ups and downs, but it will be worth it! The hard times only make you stronger as an artist. Don’t let anything or anyone get in your way.
What can we expect to see in the near future from you? Another CD?
Big things! We have a few plans up our sleeve so just keep checking in on our pages!
If you could tour anywhere, where would it be?
Well Canada would obviously be #1 (wink), but if we had to choose somewhere else, it would probably be England. It would be awesome to go over-seas and there are so many great bands that have come out of there.
Have either of you traveled to Canada/ Montreal? If so, what was your experience like and if not, would you want to come here?
We would both love to come to Canada!! Being in Michigan we’ve been close to the bridge a few times, but it just hasn’t worked out to go so far. Hopefully in the near future!!
Once again, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed!
I really hope they can at least take a trip to Montreal to visit at some point. If they ever go on tour or come to our area, I will for sure be the first to tell you. Be sure to check out their music and let them know what you think! Follow them, share their page and help this developing band out! In the meantime, check out their video for “And You Know” done with the help of Adrianna Puentes.