The Sixties are alive and well!
No, I don’t mean that lovely musical era in the past where everyone was naked and everyone was partying. Well, the EDM craze is pretty much that, but that’s beside the point. The Sixties I’m talking about is a rock band out of Lansdale, PA, and rest assured, they’re not going back.
The Sixties, featuring CJ Morgan on vocals and guitar, Chris “Wags” Wagner on guitar and badass solos, and Chris Mehr on drums, don’t sound like the sixties, but they do hail from a new era of rock that isn’t afraid to dig down to their roots. For 2 years they labored to bring us their most recent album, “There It Isn’t,” and it was well worth the wait.
We had a chance to chat with the unproclaimed front-man of the band, CJ Morgan, to discuss The Sixties band, the sixties era, and another sixty or so things.
Patrick Emmel: The first thing that came to my mind about The Sixties was the decade, but you guys don’t look like you’ve come close to being born in that era. You’ve probably got another twenty years before that. Why did you name the band The Sixties?
CJ Morgan: Obviously it was a huge decade for music, but we had a name that we all really liked, but we got served a “cease and desist” and we had to change the name. Changing the name of a band, and even just naming a band, had become my least favorite thing in the world, and we were literally on a conference call [going]: “How about this?” “No.” How about that?” “No.” I was trying to have my Grateful Dead moment where I was looking through a book for a word or phrase and I was looking through a “Best of Rolling Stone Magazine” interview book. Every other page was “the sixties this” and “the sixties that,” so I said, “What about The Sixties?” And it was the first thing that everyone didn’t go, “No, I hate it.” So we latched onto it. The joke’s become that, every time we play a show, I say we’re a concept band and all of our songs are about people in the sixties.
Patrick: (Laughs) Well I guess it’s better than playing up a joke about being a sixties cover band.
CJ: (Laughs) We’ll play shows and no one the bill will be anything close to a cover band. It’s all sorts of alternative rock bands from Philadelphia or wherever, and still someone will ask: “So you guys play sixties music?” And we’re like: “Well, you’re going to be disappointed…”
Patrick: (Laughs) Well, as far as musical stylings, I heard two songs I though may be leaning towards a sixties influence, but I heard a lot more seventies. But don’t go changing the band’s name again, you know, since you hate naming bands. I even heard a ghost of Stone Temple Pilots. How did you guys find yourself in this genre of music?
CJ: This band was about not paying attention or feeling pressured by any noise outside of our circle. Sometimes you feel pressure to write this way or that way, but we decided to just do what we want to do. If it turns some heads, cool! When we first started, we played that “Remote Control” song a lot and a local magazine wrote us up and compared us to “punk rock CCR [Creedence Clearwater Revival].” (Laughs) I guess that goes with what you were saying about the seventies but that stuck for a little longer than it probably had to. We ended up on flyers: “The punk rock CCR!” I don’t even know what sort of image popped into people’s heads when they saw that. It’s really just about going for music that we would want to go home and listen to.
Patrick: You guys sound like you’re having a lot of fun! The drums, there’s hardly ever a time when they’re not active. You’ve got guitar solos out the #ss… I don’t know how you have the energy to get through a whole show, but I guess I’ll have to see!
CJ: That may be another part of the equation, too. I feel like there’s something to take away from so many different types of music, but some types of music have something that you can’t quite sink your teeth into. We’re in a world that’s too cynical sometimes so maybe a band like Van Halen couldn’t fly anymore with the theatrics and the over-the-top lead singer persona. But at the end of the day, the guitar solo is awesome! We don’t have to be wearing spandex to do that!
As far as the album itself, this album just about figuring out who you are, looking at yourself in the mirror and not completely knowing how you got to where you are, taking ahold of your life and doing what you want to do. Probably very common themes to people in their mid to late twenties.
Patrick: You mentioned a music video earlier. What song?
CJ: We did a music video for “Jean Jacket.”
Patrick: Will you be wearing a jean jacket?
CJ: (Laughs) Okay, I’ve had shouting matches with my dad. Maybe not so much shouting matches, rather my dad shouting at me because we’ll write a song and end up naming it “Illuminati Biscotti” or “Jean Jacket” and he goes, “This is a pretty good song! And you go and name it some stupid thing!” I don’t know why I do that.
The director for the video “Jean Jacket” used a jean jacket in the video to symbolize this thing and tie it all in, so the title “Jean Jacket” will have more of a meaning now than it did.
Patrick: Staying in line with the sixties being prevalent in The Sixties, the first song on your new album There It Isn’t titled “Remote Control” has an interesting vibe to it. Almost like you’re calling out the people of our generation that are trying to latch onto causes like the youth of the sixties did, but not really fully investing themselves into those causes. Is there any correlation between that idea and the song?
CJ: Yeah! When I had written the song, at least lyrically, I was wondering if anyone was going to catch on to that, and that’s awesome that you were able to read into that. To be honest with you, if I’m talking to anybody, it might be myself more than anybody. When we had written the song, the Occupy movement was still going pretty strong. I know there was a ton [of people] that was really invested in that and were prepared to get hurt for it or die for it, but there was a bunch of kids who were kind of latching on to a trend. And you look back on people protesting Vietnam and things of that nature, you realize they were actually doing what we’re trying to say we’re doing now.
It’s funny because, in college, probably like everybody, I had a really politically motivated edge. That was going to be my life: I was going to get into politics, I was going to go to law school, and you find out that too many people that go down that path just enjoy the sound of their own voice, and you end up being turned off by it when you see how things work. It’s almost like the reality of House of Cards.
Patrick: Yeah! And they [Vietnam protesters] had to be in it because they couldn’t just go on the internet and click “Like” on something…
CJ: Right. I’m not trying to separate myself from this at all. If anything, it’s a conflict with myself. You rant and rave and you put up a Facebook post, but what are you actually doing?
Patrick: So how did you guys get the band together? Was it the normal story of childhood friends playing in garages and making a go of it, or was it something different?
CJ: Yeah, it’s basically that story, only if you add some tenuous bulls#*t to it. With Chris Mehr, we’ve been doing this together since we were fifteen. Wags [Chris Wagner], Mehr, and I were all in a group [together] in college, and that kind of dissolved. To be honest with you, I was over it. I had my heart broken by this thing a couple times too many and I kind of put music in the rear view. Wags was the one that knew it wasn’t done yet. He kept nudging me, “Come over and write.” “Come over and write with me.” “Come over and write.” We finally got together and he showed me what he was working on. During the time that I had gotten a job and tried to play real life, he had just been playing guitar. The first time we sat down after hanging out together, we popped out “Warning Label,” which is the last track of our record here [There It Isn’t] and it became a, “Yeah, here we go again” kind of deal.
Patrick: So now the album is out. Are you guys jumping right into a tour, or what?
CJ: That’s the next step. A lot of our energy went into getting this record out and building some excitement for the record. We’re looking to tour in the next few months for sure.
Patrick: Will there be at least a record release party in Philly?
CJ: Yeah, absolutely. We have a really great local scene where we come from, a town called Landsdale outside of Philadelphia, so we’re having a release show here. It’s where we come from, it’s where we love to play. Then, not even two weeks later, we’re going to do a show in Center City, Philadelphia. Then the next step is touring.