The Morning Benders Return Home

Tamar McCollom

“There’s a rumor that we’ve moved to New York, but we will always be a San Francisco band. This is our home,” said lead singer Chris Chu to kick off their second show back in the Bay since they began touring a year ago.

What bands do you draw your inspiration from?
Chris Chu: I feel like we are influenced by everything we listen to, and it’s pretty diverse. Lately, I’ve been listening to a ton of modern pop like Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and pretty much anything  produced by Dr. Luke. Also, I’ve started listening to a lot of 90’s pop like TLC and Boys II Men.

Do you think that pop and indie are inherently contradictory or do you think the two can be reconciled?
C.C.: Well, I’m a little confused on what indie is. It used to just mean you were on an indie label, or you were an independent band. The lines of what an indie band is are very blurry. I don’t consider us to be an indie band at all. I would say we are a pop band. I try to write pop songs. Sometimes, they are more subtle. I mean the pop songs I mentioned before might be more blunt, but I’d still call our sound pop.

How do you think you have evolved as a band since your debut album, Talking Through Tin Cans?
C.C.: I’m not sure. Our main goal is just to try to do something different all the time. So I feel like it’s less of us picking this one sound, or having this one vision, and trying to evolve to meet that vision. It’s more of we are just trying to change our vision all the time. On the first album, we had this idea of what we wanted to do, and for the second album, we knew we wanted to totally erase that, and do something completely different. So, for the third album we will do the same thing. It’s more of just trying to keep moving.

How was working with famous producer Chris Taylor on your new album Big Echo?
C.C.: It was great. It was the perfect level of collaboration. I’m kind of scared of collaborating with people, or giving up power, because when I write the songs, a lot of it is kind of fleshed out or just the songs themselves are really personal and precious to me, so I’m scared to give that to someone else. I’m afraid that we might lose the honesty or purity of what we are doing. But with Chris, it was perfect because he knew exactly what we were doing before, and I’d met him a while ago, and we talked about the music. We really had a good link, and we could communicate about what we were doing. He gave the perfect blend of himself and the vision he knew we were going after.

How do you feel about the enormous response you’ve received for Big Echo? Did you expect it when you were recording in the studio?
C.C.: I didn’t really expect anything. You never know what is going to happen. I feel like a lot of what becomes popular is pretty arbitrary. I will say that when we finished the album, we felt like we had accomplished what we had set out to do, and we had created something that was really honest and special. I think that all you can do is create something that is true to what you are about.

What motivated you to move to New York?
C.C.: It’s been written a lot that we moved to New York, but to be honest, we didn’t really move anywhere. In January, I went to New York to work on a record with another band, and I lived in New York for two months. But, then in March, we started touring, and over the course of March, we found out that we would be touring the entire year, so we gave up all of our apartments, and we just live on the road.

After touring for more than a year, do you have any memorable experiences from the road?
C.C.: Well, my most recent favorite memory is playing in Sweden. We had gone there two summers ago, but we hadn’t been there since we did Big Echo. We went back though, and it’s just insane to be in Sweden because it’s this ideal country. It runs the way we think a country should. It’s so clean, and there’s free healthcare and all the stuff that everyone should have, but we don’t have in the States. Everyone is beautiful and smart. It’s also just crazy to play at an exotic place like that, and see people that know our music. It’s just amazing that we have fans that know our songs there. They don’t know English, but they know our songs. It’s weird.

Is there anything that you miss from the Bay Area?
C.C.: I love the Bay Area actually. It’s an amazing place. I miss the ease of getting good food that is locally grown, pesticide-free, organic produce.