Mar 2, 2023
Sometimes a girl just needs to listen to some good ole fuzzy indie rock, and this next band I’m about to hit you with has mastered that catchy indie-rock vibe made famous in the mid-90s by many notable acts. Morbid Orchid is their name, and they are based out of Nashville, TN.
Formed in 2019 with core members Taylor Santangelo on guitar and Joel Murray on vocals and drums, these two almost didn't meet. It was after a few failed attempts, and one dick pic, that Taylor almost deleted a Craiglist ad he had posted in hopes of finding bandmates. As a last-ditch effort, he said to himself, “just one more week.” Endurance paid off when Joel responded, “hey, I live 20 minutes away.” The two would soon meet, and find the chemistry between them to be nothing short of palpable.
I just want to note that Joel makes playing drums and singing seem flawless and effortless, and I must give mad props to anyone who can do both of those with ease. Their newest release is titled Siamese TV Lamp, and this album jams from start to finish. These guys are on to something with their Grunge-gaze sound, swooping chords, and their secret weapon producer, Tom Whall, who not only played bass on their debut but also gave the recording that extra TLC it needed to define their sound.
From the bluesy guitar opening on “Like Moths” to the fuzz explosion on “Couldn’t Be Better,” these guys rock it way out there and back.
Be sure to check out their music and show some love right after you read this interview.
MaM: Good Morning! How are ya’ll doing today?
TS & JM: Hey! We’re good!
MaM: Guys, I just want to break the ice and start by telling you how impressed I am with your music. I made a note that your sound is Mudhoney meets The Breeders meets Hum meets My Bloody Valentine. Would you agree with that? I know that is all over the place, but I hear so many hints and nods to acts from the past. Influence is everywhere!
TS: I’m not too familiar with Mudhoney.
MaM: Really?!? You need to put them on your list and go check them out.
TS: I know that they are a Grunge band, but I’ve never really listened to them. The other two bands—I am flattered to be put in the same category as them, so thanks for that.
MaM: Who gave you the inspiration for the name Morbid Orchid, and where did it come from?
TS: So, it was actually inspired by Marilyn Manson, and I am a fan of his music, but his philosophy was combining a negative thing with a positive thing to form the names of the band members and the band name itself and hearing that kind of stuck with me over the years.
JM: The whole ugly/beautiful dichotomy. We thought it was a cool name, but it’s been a guiding principle in the band, too, with Taylor’s guitar tones being a little more aggressive, grungy, and dark, while my voice kind of naturally is lighter and prettier, and all of those elements kind of make up the sound.
MaM: So as far as influences go, is your music taste all over the place? I would think with Marilyn Manson being an influence that your taste is very diverse. Who’s the big Manson fan?
JM: Taylor more than me.
TS: One of the things when we met, that we actually bonded over, was just how broad and diverse our music tastes were. My only litmus for if something is good or bad is that good music can exist in any genre.
MaM: If the music resonates with you on a certain level, then that’s all you need. So, current line-up: Give me the rundown on who all is involved in Morbid Orchid. Is it just you two? I could have sworn I saw two other band members in pictures.
JM: Taylor and I are the core of the band. We do all the songwriting and recording. We’ve used a producer, but it’s mainly the two of us, but then for live shows, we have a bassist who is named Alex Aer and then a back-up singer, I guess … or co-singer?
TS: A provider of harmony. (laughs)
MaM: A provider of harmony … (laughs) … I like that. That works.
JM: Her name is Loee Murray actually. It’s her nickname.
MaM: So, you guys are based in Nashville. Tell us a little more about that. Born and raised there?
JM: We both moved here. Taylor is originally from kind of all over, but mostly from Philadelphia, and you’ve been here, what, five years?
TS: I think four years and some change.
JM: I’ve lived here for three years, and I moved from L.A., but I’m originally from upstate New York.
MaM: So, what brought you both to Nashville? Strictly music or something else?
JM: Yeah, that was part of it.
TS: For me, music didn’t really factor into the decision at all. I was fresh out of college and had a job that was fine enough, but nothing to stick around for, and then I went on a vacation to Nashville … where I had never been … and really loved it. At the time, my girlfriend and I wanted to do something crazy and a month later, we were living in Nashville. It wasn’t the most thought-out thing, but it’s really worked out.
MaM: So, a spontaneous move led to Morbid Orchid.
TS: Yeah, it’s funny how you think your life is this big grand plan, but a lot of it is just coincidence, and I’m very lucky to have met Joel just based off a random move that turned into something important to me.
MaM: So according to your bio, you two met on Craig’s List, right? A shining light in a sea of dick pics. (laughs) See, I never trusted it. I always thought some weirdo might come to chop me up or something if I responded to an ad on there. (laughs)
TS: Yeah, you have to wade through the dicks to find you a Joel. (laughs)
MaM: So, what was the official year you guys formed?
TS: Late 2019 and then we worked together for a few months and were put on hold because of COVID-19, so it wasn’t until 2020 when we truly got started.
MaM: What led to wanting to form the band?
JM: I was a drummer first and I always loved to play. I played in bands in high school and college and always seemed to take it more seriously than anyone else. I taught myself to play guitar and sing, too. I saw Taylor’s post with a link to some of his solo material and I really connected with it. At first, I didn’t know what form the band would take and I thought maybe I would just play drums for Taylor’s solo material, and then we had our first couple of sessions … He encouraged me to do more of the singing, and we co-wrote the first song we ever did together. It just became collaborative. In the past, it was always someone else’s project, and you would write your parts and that was that. This is the first time where it has felt like a creative partnership and each song has to make it though the gauntlet of both of our tastes and have both of our fingerprints in terms of the arrangements and the melodies.
MaM: As far as influences on your sound, do you both share similar influences that has led to the sound you have currently?
TS: I would say we have a lot of common ground, and then we have quite a lot of things we bring to the table as far as influences the other person has never heard. I think the first artist that we both agreed on was Death Cab for Cutie. Obviously, Nirvana and all the Grunge bands you can think of, too.
JM: Courtney Barnett, obviously, too. She’s Australian and great. She’s an incredible songwriter and the observations she interjects into her lyrics are oddball, but very relatable. She’s amazing.
MaM: Now, take me through the writing process for your lyrical content. Do you put a heavy emphasis on what you write, or do you just let it flow? How would you describe it?
TS: That’s where our priorities differ. While Joel doesn’t want to write throwaway catchy lyrics, I am a bit more particular with what’s being said. Joel does make it an accessible package that sounds good, so it’s a nice give and take we have.
JM: I focus on melody more, and Taylor focuses more on lyrics, which works out.
MaM: So, you balance each other out. He’s the yin to your yang. In 2020, you released Siamese TV Lamp; is there anything else currently in the queue? What are you working on?
TS: We’re finished with about 11 songs for our follow-up—well, they’re in various forms of completion. We’re getting really close to recording our next effort.
JM: We want the whole record to be written before we go into the studio. We want it to feel like one cohesive statement. Taylor has a cool penchant for writing songs that flow together. There’ s a little of that on the first album where the songs bleed together. It’s fun to go into the studio and have a clear vision of that before the recording process begins. It’s getting there. We’re hoping to start recording this year.
MaM: What’s the anticipated release date for the new material?
JM: I think we’re aiming to record this summer and then release in the fall.
TS: Fall kind of fits our vibe.
MaM: Yeah, it sure does. That’s awesome. As far as local shows, what’s going on with all of that? Do you have anything upcoming?
JM: We played a lot last year, but Taylor is moving this month, so he’s been busy. We do have a gig coming up on March 18th. It’s a St. Patrick’s Day Extravaganza in Manchester, TN (https://stpatricksextravaganza.com/). We are actively booking, though!
MaM: So, guys, a few more questions, and I like to talk gear when I’m honing in on a sound for a band, so give me a rundown of what all you use to achieve your sound.
JM: Taylor is a tone warrior. That’s one of my favorite things about working with him because he has such an amazing ear for those guitar textures.
TS: Thanks, man. So, while I will agree to being a tone warrior, what I am not … well, guitar players actually annoy me, because if it’s not some rare vintage thing, it’s crap, and I don’t subscribe to that at all. So, the first album was an old Aria guitar that was manufactured in Japan. Basically, it was a knockoff Fender Jaguar, and the amp for that first album was a Fender Hot Rod Deville 4 x 10.
As far as pedals go, the philosophy behind that is that I have a medium-sized pedal board and if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t get used, so I have an octave pedal. It’s a Boss OC3 … just a standard octave pedal, but … my favorite pedal is a Stomp Underfoot Black Russian Fuzz. How I got that is that one of my favorite local bands called JEFF the Brotherhood has a great guitar tone, and they use a Big Muff Black Russian, but when I looked to try and buy that pedal, I couldn’t find one used at a reasonable price, so … I found this other manufacturer who makes a great reproduction of that pedal. For my less fuzzy tones, I have a Boss OD-3, which is a pretty time-tested yellow overdrive. I also have an MXR Flanger, and am I missing anything? Joel? Oh, I have an Ibanez Tremolo, which I’ve used on some stuff, but nothing recorded yet.
MaM: So, you use a lot of gear, and you’ve got it all ironed out with what you’re trying to achieve sound-wise. You are a meticulous musician. (laughs)
TS: Yeah, I guess it is a bit overboard. All my pedals have little pieces of tape on them with settings marked for my different tones.
MaM: So, my last question involves future plans. What all do you want to achieve going forward?
JM: Yeah, we’ve talked about this a little bit. We don’t have illusions that the band will last forever. We both have life plans that take us away from Nashville and each other, eventually. I think we’re just trying to enjoy every moment, every show, and just live it. In the short term, we really want to make this new record and just do some short local tours this summer. Some bigger audiences.
TS: It’s a fine balance between having all those crazy dreams but also not knocking where we are at and trying to enjoy what we have achieved and being a little more realistic.
To check out all that is Morbid Orchid, hit one of the links below:
Tik Tok: @morbidorchid_official
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