My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel has Indiana roots that run deep. Recently, in fact, he was able to revisit some of those roots when he assisted Indy psych-soul band ByBye with their latest album.
“I felt compelled to help out,” Broemel says. “I’ve always loved Marty’s songs. To me, it was just an extension of that time [I spent in Indiana], where everyone was hanging out and talking about music.”
Currently out on the road in support of his 2018 solo album Wished Out, Broemel will return to Indianapolis for a show at HI-FI on Thursday, Nov. 8. Beforehand, we chatted with him about his Indiana music roots and how that led to the ByBye collaboration.
NUVO: Let’s catch NUVO readers up on your ties to Indiana. Give me a rundown of the bands you played in while living in our state.
CARL BROEMEL: I grew up on the northside of Indianapolis and went to Pike High School. One of my first bands was called Old Pike. We had a band in high school called Planet Earth, but I count Old Pike as the first band. [laughs] That continued into college. In high school, we’d set up our own shows, and a bunch of people would come. We’d rent out the India Community Center or something with a bunch of other bands, and 500 kids would show up. So it was kind of a magic time. That would probably be really hard to do now. We never hired security or had insurance. [laughs]
It was hard to play in the bar scene in Indianapolis because it was all cover bands at the time, but we managed to get some gigs with our original music. I moved to Bloomington, and Old Pike ended up getting a record deal towards the end of the time I was at IU studying classical guitar. We made a record, and that kind of petered out.
I ended up moving to L.A. and played with a bunch of people there. I managed to meet up with the My Morning Jacket guys. Once I did that, I decided I didn’t really want to live in L.A. anymore, and I moved to Nashville. So that’s the quick synopsis.
NUVO: I know you’re still a fan of bands from that late ‘90s/early ‘00s era in Bloomington. What about that time was special to you?
BROEMEL: It was really the only time I felt a part of a music scene in the purest sense, where everyone was going to everyone else’s gigs no matter who it was. And, quite honestly, everyone was playing way too much. [laughs] It was fun because everyone was getting to practice, write, and record, and then have to show your work to your peers.
I really looked up to the bands that were a few years older than us, like Sardina [the former band of ByBye’s Marty Green], United States Three, and The Mysteries of Life. I loved all those bands and those songwriters. It was a magical time. Some of the bands in Bloomington ended up getting music industry interest at the time. There were people getting publishing deals or making records. I thought we were off to the races. It was a legitimate musical breeding ground.
NUVO: You worked with Indianapolis band ByBye on their 2018 album Metamorphasize. How did that whole situation unfold?
BROEMEL: I hadn’t heard anything from Marty Green (who was in Sardina) for a long time. We weren’t really close in Bloomington, but I always kind of admired those guys. If Sardina played two shows in one day, I’d be at both shows.
We have a mutual friend, Jeb Banner, who keeps me in the loop on cool things that are happening. He sent me the record that ByBye was working on, and I really loved it. I offered to play on it if they wanted me to try and put some other sounds on it. So I did that, and then I made a suggestion that they work with a friend of mine, Kevin Ratterman, in Louisville.
NUVO: Since the last My Morning Jacket record, both you and Jim James have put out a lot of solo material. Do you guys intentionally set aside time for solo work? Is that a priority of My Morning Jacket?
BROEMEL: The priority of the band is just to be able to do some exploration outside. There was never any, “I’m going to put out two, and now, you put out two.” It just happened that way. We didn’t think we were going to be taking this long of a break. But energetically, it was just the time for it. So there’s not any hidden message.
It’s been such a long-term relationship, so [it’s nice] to free it up and go do some other things. I personally grow a lot trying to do my own music because it’s so much harder in many ways. It’s a little bit more like stepping off the cliff. We’re all going to come back having lived all these unshared experiences that we can bring back to our shared experience.
NUVO: You teamed up with a lot of Nashville musicians on your 2016 album 4th of July. Who did you have involved with your latest record, Wished Out?
BROEMEL: I started it with the idea that I was going to do it all by myself. I built a small studio space in my backyard. The first song I recorded was “Out of Reach,” the last song on the record. That’s me playing everything except for the keyboards. I did that and was like, “This is cool. I think I can do it.” I started working on the song “Dark Matter,” and I could not get the drums right. I was like, “I think my idea needs to be changed.” [laughs]
I recorded that whole song except the keyboards, and then I had my friend Russ [Pollard] come and fix the drums. After Russ came and bailed me out on that, the two of us continued tracking. Then, I brought in Tom Blankenship from My Morning Jacket to play bass on the last couple songs that we worked on.
So it was kind of a studio experiment. I got this new space and was learning how to use it. Once I got six or seven songs done, I was like, “I think this is a record.” When I listen to the record now, I just hear myself trying to learn how to record again. I took recording classes back at IU, but that was back in the time of DA-88 tape machines. It was a different technological era. I’ve been in studios my whole life, but I haven’t been the guy turning on the mics and all that stuff. So I had to get my hands dirty and do it.
NUVO: You’ll be performing alongside Steelism when you come here in support of Wished Out. What do you like about playing with Steelism?
BROEMEL: We started collaborating two years ago at Newport Folk Festival. I had booked a set, and they were going to be there. I had already done a Newport show that was just me solo, so I roped them into backing me. It was great. We rehearsed for like three hours in Nashville, and then, the show happened two weeks later. Those guys managed to come up to the show and played great after minimal rehearsal. That solidified it for me.
We did a tour the following November, just for a week. It’s just really cool because they’re a mostly instrumental band, and I love instrumental music. So I join them during their show. And then, we take a little break and come back to do my set. There are just so many good things about it. They’re really talented musicians. They love great music and are always playing awesome music in the van when we’re driving around. So it’s gelling. It feels like a band in the truest sense right now.
NUVO: You hinted at it earlier, but I would assume that My Morning Jacket has to be cooking up something, right?
BROEMEL: [laughs] We don’t have anything on the schedule. Bu yeah. I think we will at some point. There’s nothing to report yet.