The cover art for Blue Blood’s debut album, This Is the Life, features a ghostly set of two superimposed photographs: the glow of fog-drenched trees at dawn, the outline of a lone figure in the distance. It’s gorgeous but unsettling, at odds with the title’s blithe sunniness.
“I have a great life,” says Hunter Morris, the songwriter and central force behind Blue Blood. “There is a lot of truth [to the title].”
Yet there is also an undercurrent of irony, a note-to-self that the day-to-day pursuit of a quixotic dream can become drudgery. For Morris, a well-established figure in Athens music known for his work with the psych-rock group Gift Horse, Blue Blood is a monument to creative and personal stability.
Four years ago, shortly before the dissolution of Gift Horse (“There was no bad blood,” Morris says, “it just kind of ran its course”), Morris, a longtime fly-fishing enthusiast, started Fly Fishing North Georgia, a guide service that offers boat trips on area rivers for experienced trout anglers and curious beginners alike. Now, he says, business is booming: “It’s just to the point where I do all my trips through my own company.”
Even as Morris began to enjoy professional success in another field, music remained his first love. With assistance from his friend Hank Sullivant (MGMT, Kuroma), he began exploring new ways to present material intended for an unrecorded Gift Horse release.
“There wasn’t really a lot of doubt that I was gonna keep going” after Gift Horse, says Morris. “It just needed to be done a different way.”
This Is the Life, produced by Sullivant and out this week via thriving Atlanta imprint This Is American Music, consists of two sets of studio recordings. “One half was done a couple years ago,” Morris explains. “The other one, by the time it got recorded, it was considerably later.”
Indeed, though much of Blue Blood’s debut was conceived nearly three years ago, the album’s official release was delayed several times: first, when the label signed on; then, while it waited to secure a new distribution deal; and finally, while the vinyl-pressing plant worked through its massive backlog.
Morris cops to some frustration, though he also admits the lengthy gestation period was a blessing in disguise—a chance to self-edit, a welcome distillation period. This Is the Life’s lush, layered psych-pop is more balanced than Gift Horse’s comparatively chaotic approach. The record feels both eager and unguarded, aware of its influences (early-era Bowie and latter-period Elephant 6 among them), but not slavishly so.
The album’s poised, polished sound is given a looser, louder update by Blue Blood’s live lineup, which features Athens musicians Nick Robbins, Michael Gonzalez, Noel Brown and Sullivant.
“There were several incarnations of the live band. It was ever-changing for the first year,” says Morris. “Now, we have a pretty consistent lineup.”
The group exclusively features players Morris also counts as close friends offstage, which he says is key to understanding Blue Blood. Though the band plans to tour this summer and is hard at work on a followup to This Is the Life, its frontman says he will continue taking a measured approach to his current project.
“I just want to make good records and play them live. I don’t want to force the issue on how that plays out,” he says. “After working so hard at music for so long, you want to have fun and enjoy playing, always. If you’re gonna work that hard in such a tough business, you want to enjoy it.”
WHO: Blue Blood, T. Hardy Morris, Grand Vapids, Purses
WHERE: 40 Watt Club
WHEN: Thursday, Apr. 30, 9 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $5
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