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Kendra Morris M Ross Perkins Cincinnati concerts Thursday, December 14

MOTR Pub Presents:

Date: Thursday, December 14
4-7:30 free admission 
7:30 doors, 8 show
Venue: MOTR Pub | 1345 Main St. Cincinnati, OH 45202
Admission: $13 advance / $17 day of show
Ages: 18+
Event page:

There’s something undeniably out-of-time about both Kendra Morris and her indelibly cool new album I Am What I’m Waiting For (Karma Chief Records). It combines rough-hewn powerhouse vocals with arrangements that betray both an extensive record collection and a whimsical instinct for joyous noises — think Dusty Springfield fronting Spoon circa Kill The Moonlight or a 60s girl group creative directed by Nick Lowe and PeeWee Herman. It’s vibrant and varied and packed with personality.

“How do you put yourself into a record? Torbitt and I wanted to make it feel like you cracked open the ooze in my head,” Morris says, referring to her co-writer and producer Torbitt Schwartz AKA Little Shalimar (Run The Jewels). Morris is an accomplished visual artist and stop-motion animator, so it’s appropriate that I Am What I’m Waiting For takes a collagist approach, mischievously recombining all sorts of rock and roll ingredients — the sass and swagger of Ronnie Spector, the more acid-fried corners of the Nuggets compilations, post-modern interpolations of mid-century exotica music, the cracking snares and sugary urbanity of ESG — while offering moments of vulnerable insight from a life spent in pursuit of creativity.

Morris was a musically precocious child and, after playing in Florida bar bands, moved to New York to chase the dream. Thus began a formative 13-year stint bartending at the beloved Lower East Side dive The Library, which thrust Morris directly into the heart of Manhattan’s fertile post-Strokes creative scene. Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe lived upstairs, music journalist Marc Spitz was a regular, and touring acts would come through to carouse after playing Bowery Ballroom. During those moments, Morris yearned to join the rarefied air of the musicians on the other side of the bar.

All the while, Morris pursued her music dreams. “It was pure, 100% DIY. I never took no for an answer. If I didn’t have the money, I figured out how to make it happen: Videos, artwork, whatever.” After the dissolution of her first band, she recorded 8-track demos and performed solo shows backed by cassette recordings of her own vocal harmonies. Through these shows she connected with longtime producer Jeremy Page. It was kismet.

“I worked with Jeremy for the next 10-plus years,” says Morris. “We worked together through some of the most beautiful and hardest life things I've ever gone through.” It was a fruitful partnership: Morris signed to Wax Poetics for the release of her “seductive, soulful” (Rolling Stone) 2012 debut Banshee and 2013’s Mockingbird, self-released her 2016 EP Babble (reissued earlier this year), and signed to Karma Chief for 2022’s “beautifully sung” (MOJO) Nine Lives. She’s linked up with a murderer’s row of collaborators, including DJ Premier, MF Doom, Ghostface Killah, and David Sitek. Interview Magazine called her “a modern day Janis Joplin,” and NPR praised her “lush, moody mix of neo-soul.”

She connected with Torbitt Schwartz and set about making I Am What I’m Waiting For. Morris was eager to break out of old habits: She started playing guitar again live, realizing that where she saw tics developed to cover up a lack of technical ability, others saw a musician with a distinct and stylish rhythmic signature. She pulled old songs out and reworked them. Less-than-perfect takes were tolerated. She put a moratorium on love songs. As she put it: “I needed to scare myself into growth.”

Luckily, the risk paid off. I Am What I’m Waiting For is not only a sophisticated and joyful sonic reinvention, but an unfiltered expression of Morris’s idiosyncratic worldview. Take “Special,” which takes a bleak approach to coping with fear and statistical unlikelihood. It’s an anthem that revels in contentment, in enjoying the small experiences that texture your life — a salve against self-improvement hacks and motivational influencers infiltrating your feed.

Elsewhere, the bell-laden “Dominoes” turns the mundane conflicts of domesticity and cohabitation into a Ronnettes-worthy rallying cry and the exotica-steeped “All Your Jokes” examines what Morris describes as “the need for vulnerability in a relationship when you have something to lose.” There’s even the smoky, doo-wop-tinted “Birthday Song,” a valiant attempt to expand the birthday song canon.

The almost-title-track “What Are You Waiting For” encapsulates the album’s spirit: Stabs of guitar yield to sirens-and-bongo breakdowns as Morris champions realness and self-reliance. It hits like a conscious statement against algorithmic optimization. “When you introduce yourself to someone,” says Morris, “you can yada yada the broad strokes of your life. But it’s the textures and specific details in life, music or art that gives it meaning.” Fittingly, I Am What I’m Waiting For bravely luxuriates in the little details. It’s the rare record that doubles as self-portrait, unvarnished yet thrilling because of its imperfections.

CHECK OUT this official music video for "Nine Lives":


Like some kind of time-hopping wizard with preternatural melodic sensibilities, M Ross Perkins is back with his sophomore full-length, E Pluribus M Ross. The album, his first for Colemine/Karma Chief Records, is another masterclass in home recording with 12 shimmering slices of purely perfect psychedelic pop.

Perkins fittingly had music journalists in a tizzy when he released his critically acclaimed self-titled full-length on Sofaburn Records in 2016. Record Collector called it “a truly great album filled with late ‘60s and early ‘70s pop goodness,” while High Times praised it as “the kind of good old-fashioned psychedelic-tinged rock & roll that the world could use right now.” Shindig upped the praise, calling Perkins’ music “the perfect percolated distillation of Nilsson and Emitt Rhodes, one minute SoCal harmony pop inspired by the Fabs’ trippy era, the next Merseybeat, and often silly, but biographical, like Harry at his best.”

The critics are right to praise the Ohio-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who conjures up his distinctively imaginative recordings all alone in his home studio. However, one would be missing the point to simply portray Perkins as a man lost in the past. The music of this unique artist is undeniably steeped in the indelible melodic hooks and laidback rhythms of the psychedelic ‘60s, but he’s no copycat.

In describing Perkins, it’s not wrong to namecheck Rhodes and Nilsson, but you have to expand that list of influences to include pop-rock visionaries like Brian Wilson, Colin Blunstone, and even John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Let’s also throw in the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Kinks as well. Perkins clearly learned plenty of helpful tips from these and other legends that made the late 1960s and early 1970s such a magical musical time, but he has charted his own singular path from the past and back again.

Perkins found inspiration when Terry Cole, founder of Colemine Records, signed him to his Karma Chief imprint in the early days of the global pandemic. “After Terry hit me up, I went downstairs and just immediately got to work,” Perkins said. “It was a shot in the arm. I went down and recorded an LP from start to finish. I pulled out a lot of unreleased songs, tried to rethink how to arrange and play them, and turned them into a new album.”

So, take our advice and join Perkins on his magical mystery trip through time, E Pluribus M Ross, coming March 18th on Colemine/Karma Chief Records.


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