We recently had the pleasure of speaking with guitarist Ryan Morgan – founding member of Misery Signals – about their newly released documentary, “Yesterday Was Everything.” We talk about the motives behind the documentary, the subjectivity of music, and the risks and rewards of pursuing your passions. Read below!
It Djents: So, your documentary came out today. Congratulations on the release!
Ryan Morgan: Thank you so much, man. Yeah, it feels good to finally have it out!
ID: Watching it was definitely an emotional experience, and it was kind of like jumping in a time machine. What inspired you guys to film this documentary and talk about the fatal accident and Jesse’s departure nearly a decade after the fact?
RM: We kind of ended up happening upon the production of it by accident. We didn’t really set out to film what became the movie. We just had a friend along with us with a camera. He was filming to put out some of the shows, some of the footage of us hanging out, just as sort of a simple tour style DVD – for the people who weren’t able to make it to the shows or lived in places where we weren’t playing. And then, I think a lot of things started to unfold in front of his eyes, as far as the back story. We were dealing with a lot of that looking backwards simply because it was a reunion show. Also, he found that he was on that sort of sensitive ground where we were coming back together; old members that had left on shaky terms – and some of that shakiness was still there – and I think he just left the camera running. I talked to him quite a bit about that decision, right? Because that was part of the decision once he sort of realized the story in front of him that was worth telling. So yeah, from there we were just off to the races and he just started filming everything and interviewing us. By the end of the tour, it was something that we felt was a complete story and that’s how it became what it is.
ID: One thing I found interesting was that the documentary kind of plays chronologically out of order. First you talk about the departure of Jesse. Then you work towards the fatal accident. Was there a specific reason you and director Matthew Mixon chose to unfold the story this way?
RM: Yeah, that’s all Matt’s vision. That’s all his call. I feel like it’s just because he was following the tour and each place that we played seemed to have some kind of a back story, or played into the origin of the band in some way, or the narrative of what was going on between us as members. Like, when we get to Dallas: The venue we played in Dallas was the same place that we had played with Jesse with his last show in his original run with the band. We didn’t even really know that that was going to happen – that was sort of just fortuitous. But, that naturally led to telling that story. The same way that when we were in Edmonton, we were hanging out with Jesse’s mom and a lot of friends of the band Compromise. So, that sort of led to telling the story of the Compromise van crash. So each thing flashed back to something else and a lot of detail matches what was happening during the reunion. You know, the origin story of the band and the things that led up to where we were at. It kind of broadened the scope just to dig into each place, and find out what was behind each place.
ID: So – in my small corner of the world – after you guys first parted ways, all we ever heard was that Jesse quit to go into a different band. I’m sure there have been tons of rumors and conspiracies for years. What’s the craziest one you’ve ever heard?
RM: The craziest rumor? I don’t know, man. The thing that’s crazy to me was that I was talking to Brandon Best, our merch guy and our roadie for a long time, and he felt that the public story about Jesse leaving the band never really was told before. And I guess that’s true, but I didn’t really ever consciously have a talk with anyone in the band and we were never like, “Well, we’re not gonna talk about this.” I guess I felt like we said he left the band and we didn’t want to necessarily air any dirty laundry about that. I didn’t realize there was so much mystery surrounding that…I’m glad it gets addressed now publicly…I guess I was really caught up in repairing the band, moving forward, and finding a new singer. And that’s kind of the first time we publicly talked about Jesse being gone. We’re already saying, “We’re looking for somebody to be our singer.” It’s interesting. I wasn’t really tuned into that whole notion that people didn’t know what was going on, or that they were making up their own stories, or there were rumors at all.
ID: I know you’ve been asked about Jesse’s departure a million times in interviews, but was it a weight off your chest to talk about it publicly in more of an ‘official’ capacity?
RM: There’s a lot of things like that in the movie where I just feel like there’s a lot more understanding of where we were at, where we are at now, what it means to be the band that we are, and why things are difficult or can be the way that they are. I think there’s a really, really much deeper understanding of the band that you come away with after the movie and I’m happy that you get that really intimate, candid look at us. So that’s among many of the things that people will understand better once they’ve seen the documentary.
ID: Another driving theme of the documentary was really just showing viewers how hard life on the road actually is. Stresses aside, do you have an absolute favorite tour you’ve done with Misery Signals?
RM: I can remember the first one that I did that I felt like I was touring with bands that were some of my favorite bands. It was with Every Time I Die, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Zao. Those are all bands that I listened to all the time and was really into. I still didn’t feel like I was in league with those bands. I felt like I was sneaking into the show every night, you know what I mean? Because I had a tour claim in it. Yeah, that tour was pretty amazing. It definitely stands out.
ID: I know lyrically “The Year’s Summer Ended In June” is probably the most emotionally meaningful song on Of Malice and the Magnum Heart. But from a musical standpoint, is there a song that specifically means the most to you?
RM: Musically I feel like “Five Years” is a pretty important one. Just because a lot of people latched on to the outro to that song – that guitar lead. And that’s something that I wrote and I get to do live every time we play it. So, I think that stands out to me. And, one that I think a lot of people associate with the band.
ID: At one point you talk about how music that was once personal to you becomes public and is no longer just for you. You said, “The life of the song is beyond just your experience with it.” That’s amazingly put, and so true. You’re providing an an emotional outlet for people to get through their baggage in life. Do you often have fans expressing to you how your music has affected them or helped them get through hard times? And how does that feel?
RM: Yeah, it’s crazy how that works. A song might be about something really specific in your life, but that doesn’t mean that’s all the song has to be about. I can think of a really good example; it was not too long ago, we were playing a show and a young woman came up to me beforehand – it was right after Absent Light had come out. She said that she had lost her brother, and that one of those things that she cherished with him was driving around and they would listen to Misery Signals all the time. He never got to hear that record, he didn’t live long enough to do so. She said she went and listened to the album at his grave when it first came out, she brought it there and played that first song, “A glimmer of hope.” It’s not about me specifically losing someone – when I wrote that song. But thinking about it in her context just made imagining that scene a powerful story to me. I always think about that when I hear that song now. It was written about something completely different but it just matches up so completely. It’s crazy.
ID: If there’s only one thing you want fans to take away from this documentary, or Misery Signals as a whole, what would it be? What is Misery Signals?
RM: If I could have people take one thing away from it, it would be the spirit of reckless adventure. You know, if you want something good to happen or if there’s a goal that you really have, just recklessly dive into it with both feet. That’s what happened with our band. We just kind of went for it and we started touring and playing. The documentary starts to show how much we actually did at the beginning; what we were willing to do. It wasn’t really that we were trying to tour to make some kind of crazy success or money. Because that was never really the goal. The goal was just to get out and play as many shows for as many people as we could. And to jump into something that hard, without really knowing where that road is going to take you, takes a sort of naivety, you know? But that’s been something that’s rewarded me hugely in life – all of us in the band. If we weren’t willing to just go for it all the way, without reservation, I wouldn’t have any of the things that I value in life. Like, any of the experiences I’ve had with the band, or any of the skills that I’ve learned from trying to manage the shit-show circus that is touring in a band. It’s rewarded me in so many different ways; that willingness to just get out there and recklessly try this thing that sounds crazy and probably not a good idea. So maybe people can find some sort of inspiration in that from the film.
ID: So, was there anything that didn’t make it into the documentary that you would like to express or share to the public now?
RM: Well, I wish Karl had a moment in there. We were going to interview Karl for it. We met up with him in Regina on the tour. We’d just been driving all day and I know Matt was filming stuff and was just beat. We just walked into our friends house with glazed over eyes and tried to eat some food before we fell asleep (laughter). It just didn’t end up happening which kinda sucks, because he’s a big part of the story and he doesn’t really have a chance for a rebuttal or anything in there. So, it would have been cool to have his two cents as part of the film as well.
I’m trying to think what else didn’t make it. I know Matt had planned to follow up and get more interviews with people like Jordan and Daniel’s families – the guys from Compromise that died. I know he wanted to go back and travel and get into that story a little more. But the decision was made at some point just to keep it in the container of the tour that we were actually on, because everything that you see that’s not flashing back to another story happened on the reunion tour. So it kind of fits nicely into that container. If we did venture out to a different time period, its because, you know, Jesse’s mom was hanging out and she was telling her story of the accident. So we were looking back at that…It would have been hard to know where to stop if we started chasing down every story and every loose end that wasn’t tied up neatly in the footage that we got from the tour.
ID: Well, it was an excellent documentary. And it’s good to know more of what makes you guys up and it was good to see something new from Misery Signals. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and I hope we get to hear some new music from you guys sometime soon!
RM: For sure, I hope so too!
If you’re a musician, or a fan out in the crowd, ‘Yesterday Was Everything’ is not to be missed. You’ll see an intimate and candid look into the daily lives of touring musicians, and the hardships they endure to perform music close to their hearts. Stream the documentary now on Amazon, Google Play, or YouTube. Be sure to follow Misery Signals on their official page, Facebook, and Twitter!