Melanie Mae Williamson

If "Pop Goes Punk" Were a Band: An Interview with MORNING IN MAY

Music Scene Media
May 5, 2023
13 min read

by Melanie Bryan

Hailing for Cleveland, OH, meet emo-core/pop-rock band Morning In May. You'll be drawn in by their 2008-era looks and witty song titles, but stay for the catchy hooks. The emo revival is in full swing, and Morning In May is at the forefront of its revolution. The band is currently on their headlining tour, It's Gonna Be May, and released their latest single today, "Table Etiquette". Read on for our interview with frontman Jake Bartolic to learn about the interesting way that he's discovered a lot of new music, what it's like working with Matt Malpass (Blink-182, MGK), why you should check out Morning In May, and more!

MSM: Hi, I'm Melanie, and I'm here with Jake of Morning In May.

JAKE: Hello

MSM: Would you like to introduce yourself and just explain your sound for any potential new fans?

JAKE: Yeah, absolutely. So we are like a, kind of like a pop rock band. We used to be pop-punk when we were in our very, very early twenties. And then we did the metalcore thing. We did a metalcore record on Tragic Hero, and then we were like, let's do some poppy stuff. So now we're like a poppy boy band. We're kind of like Fall Out Boy or All Time Low with a little bit of screaming.

MSM: You've definitely got the early Fall Out Boy-esque song titles.

JAKE: Yep, for sure.

MSM: So tell me about your journey with creating music. How did you get started and was it something that you always knew you wanted to do?

JAKE: I'm gonna be all of the guys right now. To sum up most of the guys, we all started playing when we were like around 13. Andrew and I picked up our stuff and we got in it for girls and it just stuck. And then we were like, now we can get girls. I'm like, wait, girls? I was like, we're working on records now. Yeah. So that's, that's kind of how that happened. Andrew's big into like old eighties bands like Motley Crue and stuff like that, which is kind of where our aesthetic ended up being. I have super blonde hair, and all the guys have dark black hair and stuff and it's all moppy and all long now in our old age. <laugh> I started listening to Nirvana, All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens, and like the Warped Tour scene. John (bassist) likes From First to Last, like the real old-school emo stuff. John and I bond over The Used, and then Joe likes Killswitch Engage, Currents, and bands like that…he’s our heavier guy.

MSM: Yeah. So you kind of bring all that to the table.

JAKE: Yeah, we kind of take all of that and put it together and that's what it ends up sounding like.

MSM: Yeah. So how long have you guys been together as Morning In May?

JAKE: So I started it as an acoustic project back in 2010. So when I was a teenager, like 14, 15, I was playing bars and stuff by myself and I would just play acoustic shows everywhere I could by myself trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And then of the guys that I have now, Andrew is the longest-running member. He joined back in 2018 and we did like the metalcore stuff together. And then the new guys, I got John and Joe probably a year and a half ago now. We did a whole album and I think that's it. We started touring in 2016. I've been through like 14 or 15 members, but the guys now are the golden dream team.

MSM: Yeah. It just kind of clicks now.

JAKE: Yeah. It's so much better than it was, like we went from like being homeless and sleeping on floors just in between tours, finding wherever we could go and not knowing what we were doing. And we didn't really have any lives established or anything. We were just trying to figure everything out. And now all of us live in houses! <laugh> We go out and tour a lot. We actually tour more now.

MSM: And you got to work with Matt Malpass!

JAKE: Yes, we got to work with Matt Malpass. So we went from homeless to working with the guy who does Blink and MGK and all that stuff. Matt's amazing. Matt is a wonderful human being and he knows what's up. He knows the sound. He grew up in the scene and he’s been in bands and stuff like that. He knows how to make the song sound what we like, and he didn't change anything, really. He added, but he didn't really change anything. So I'm gonna say it was 75% us, and then he was like, all right, let me just, so he just like sat back, cracked his fingers, and is like, lemme make this cool.

MSM: That's awesome. So what do you hope to achieve with creating music? Is there anything in particular that you might want people to take away from your songs?

JAKE: Yeah, I try so hard to convey it in the lyrics and stuff, but everybody's like, oh, I'm sad. Let's deal with this sadness together and all of that stuff. And growing up in Northeast Ohio, you have no support group, you have nobody, you have friends and stuff but that's nonexistent. Friends can't help you, family can't help you, and it's really kind of up to you to figure out your game plan, who you're gonna be, and how you're gonna get out of your mess. And like, especially in music, you can't wait on anybody to do anything. You have to do it yourself. You have to figure a way out. So instead of sitting and just being sad, you're just so tired and exhausted of being depressed all the time that you're like, you know what? Instead of that, just do the opposite. Like, you know what, I'm the best, I'm the best thing you'll ever see, the best music you'll ever hear, the best person you'll ever meet. I was like, I think if you say that enough times in a song, and if people are singing along and doing that, they might just start believing that themselves.

MSM: Yeah. That can't hurt.

JAKE:  Yeah. I wanted to take that approach instead of like, oh, we're so sad. But I'm like, why don't you start saying lines? Start acting a little, not conceited, but more confident, and see how that does instead of just telling yourself, I'm just sad all the time and it's never gonna get better, you're gonna live like that forever. So when you start going, you know what, I think I'm the best. I'm kind of the shit here. If people are listening and saying that more, they're gonna hopefully feel that way.

MSM: So when fans recommend Morning In May to others, what song do you think would be the best introduction?

JAKE: So it's different every time, and I ask people this whenever we go play a show and stuff, I'm always interested and ask, Hey, what song did you gravitate towards? What did you like the best? And it's, it's always different. So, I kind of can tell the type of person by the song that they pick <laugh> So Stacking Limbs is one that everybody just loves cuz it's so chaotic and crazy and it's about just crazy stuff. The people who say that song, I tend to really like. And I know a lot of older people like Everybody's Innocent In Here, which is the song we did at the Mansfield Reformatory, the Shawshank Redemption song. So, older people like that song a lot. I don't know why that stands out. And then there are some songs off of the new album and then there's songs from like way back that people are like, oh yeah, that's like, that's my favorite song. And then it's, it's weird cause it's like, well I don't know why that stands out, but, yeah.

MSM: Maybe it was the first one they heard and they just have that nostalgia.

JAKE: Yeah, I don't know.

MSM: Do you have a favorite?

JAKE: I like the song that comes out May 5th (“Table Etiquette”), the song we did with Matt, because that was like a staple song. The song from zero to a hundred all the way through was all four of us kind of getting together and making that. A lot of the time,  I'll write a lot of this stuff, a lot of the instruments and stuff, and I'll have most of the dictation on everything and then I'm like, all right guys, add your thoughts, what do you think? But with this song I was like, this is my idea for the words. Figure it out. <laugh> And then it was cool and we put it together. We did a music video, which was our first music video as the four of us, and that was kind of cool. I like Jake from State Farm Ruined My Life, too. That's just a good, fun song. And I think I only like that song cuz I know that the guys get really pumped when we play it. So I think that's it. Yeah.

MSM: Do you have a favorite music video that you've done so far?

JAKE: I liked Everybody's Innocent. Shawshank is my favorite movie. It was filmed in Ohio, and I really like Ohio things. I don't know why. I just feel very captivated by any Ohio bands, anything that's Ohio-related, I have an obligation, I think <laugh>. But I liked that it was filmed here. I liked the movie. I liked that we got to shoot a lot of the shots where important parts of the movie were filmed. Almost every part where I'm in a straightjacket is where Morgan Freeman was during the movie.

MSM: Oh wow.

JAKE: Yeah, it's just cool. It was a cool movie. The scene where they say the line of the song, everybody's innocent in here, don't you know that, is where we filmed the full band shots. So it was cool, it was fun.

MSM: Yeah. And more to come!

JAKE: <laugh>. Yeah. For real.

MSM: Okay. So, how do you stay creatively inspired and motivated as a band?

JAKE: So far? It's super easy. Going to shows. I have doing this for a long time. You end up playing with a lot of your favorite bands, you end up meeting a lot of your favorite people, and the more cool stuff you do, the more it keeps you motivated to want to do it. So we just opened up for Every Avenue, which was really cool. That was a band that we grew up listening to on the Warped Tour scene and all that stuff. I ended up talking to David for a long time (the singer) and we bonded then. It was cool. And I was like, you know what, this is cool. We did a song with Craig Mabbitt from Escape the Fate. Like, just things that things happen and then you meet people, and like friends of mine are people that I can text right now are people that I grew up listening to. So it's kind of weird.

MSM: If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be?

JAKE: Josh Ramsey from Mariana's Trench for production and singing and stuff like that. Fall Out Boy would be amazing. That would be cool if we could just do anything with them. Um, and then Lady Gaga.

MSM: So what have you personally been listening to lately?

JAKE:  Oh my goodness. Michelle Branch. Early 2000s pop. So like, uh, early Avril Lavigne, Pink, Michelle Branch, stuff like that. Uh, yeah, so John and Joe listened to heavy stuff. They listen to the screaming and all that stuff, which we do, too. Me and Andrew. Me and Andrew were talking about this last night. We were doing rehearsals for tour and we were in the car, and we were talking about like, we really like pop music and how it is, and that's kind of why we do what we do. I like to write pop songs, and make them heavy. So like, if Pop Goes Punk was a band, that's always been my vision for the band. I also listen to Grayscale, The Story So Far, Neck Deep, the pop-punk bands like that. And Andrew listens to everything. And I listen to a lot of nineties country when we're on tour so we just, it's just like screamy bands all the time and we're just in that scene and we do all of that stuff. And then I just listen to like nineties country and we listen to podcasts, too. Actually, if I'm in the car, I'm just listening to like, podcasts, like Joe Rogan and stuff like that, which I think Andrew is too.

MSM: Okay. So, did you see any new tour announcements today? Speaking of some of what you've mentioned, All Time Low, Grayscale, and Gym Class Heroes are on a tour together coming up.

JAKE: Yeah, I think we're gonna go see them in Detroit in September. I haven't seen All Time Low in a long time. Like last year or the last two years, I had seen All Time Low like four or five times.

MSM: You almost bear a resemblance to Alex.

JAKE: So if only you heard that that's how I found out about most of the bands I listened to <laugh>. So when I was in ninth grade and I was playing guitar, my first bassist was like, Hey, you look like All Time Low. And I'm like, what's that? And he showed me and then I was like, oh, this is amazing. I love this. And then we listened to It’s So Wrong, It’s Right. And I was like, cool. And then that's how I found out about like Sleeping With Sirens and stuff - a girlfriend I had at the time, her older brother was like, you sound like Kellen Quinn. And I was like, what's that? <laugh>

MSM: Show me, change my life.

JAKE: <laugh>. Yeah. Right. So I heard it and I was like, oh my God. I was like, not really, but okay, cool. Thanks. Yeah, I get that.

MSM: That’s a really interesting way to discover music.

JAKE: <laugh> It is. It's really weird. <laugh> That’s how I found out about, I call 'em the sleeping bands, but that's how I found out about all of the sleeping bands. So Sleeping with Sirens, um, Sleep Signals, uh, uh, Armor for Sleep. And isn't it For All Those Sleeping or something like that?

MSM: I don't know that one.

JAKE:  All of those bands I found out because they're like, you look like or sound like those bands and I don't know why it's sleepy bands usually, but okay.

MSM: Do you have a motto or some good advice that you live by?

JAKE: <laugh> If you ain't first, you're last? Uh, not, not really. Uh, other than if it makes a cool story, do it. Yeah. Uh, oh yeah, actually, yeah. Kind of. Uh, to have the things, it's something like to have the things you want, do what others want, something like that. Just do the only way you'll get something that other people don't have is doing things that other people want.

MSM: Do you ever sing karaoke? And, if so, do you have a go-to song?

JAKE: Yeah. It gets boring on tour just waiting for the show and stuff like that. So yeah, we will go to the bars or whatever's going on and I've been known to do karaoke, and no, not really. Whatever's on. Creed's always fun. Um, people want me to do Just Dance because we cover it, or Without Me by Halsey cuz we cover it.

MSM: You have a really good cover of that, actually.

JAKE: Thank you!

MSM: So, if someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?

JAKE: Um, probably “that looks like it hurts”.

MSM: <laugh> Okay. Yeah.

JAKE: So yeah, something like that. Cuz we're just, this band has been through so much and there's been so many dark clouds and we've been paying it forward for so long. Uh, we just got our van broken into and they stole $10,000 worth of equipment, guitars, bass cords, and other stuff. So that happened a couple of weeks ago while I was on tour. My roommate's car got smashed into a couple of times, as did mine. Uh, five times I think within the last two months. Um, and my drummer's house just caught on fire two weeks ago, and burned everything. Yeah. So stuff like that happens literally all of the time with the man and yeah. It's, we just, that happens and then we just keep going.

MSM: What a dangerous band to be in!

JAKE: <laugh> Yeah. Right.

MSM: Did you warn the guys when they joined?

JAKE: <laugh> Yeah. I said it's gonna be a nightmare. It's gonna be fun. It's gonna be cool, but it's gonna take a toll on you, so good luck.

MSM: <laugh> So, what are your goals with Morning In May? Where do you see yourselves in the next couple of years?

JAKE: Oh, God. Alive, hopefully.

MSM: Well, that's a good start.

JAKE: Yeah. I have so many five-year plans. What I tell the guys all the time is Whatever you wanna do, just be the best at it. And that's kind of what I would like to do. We just wanna kind of be the best band we can be. It's been really cruising, especially since, so like Covid shut everything down, right? We signed with Tragic Hero, we released an EP, we went on a tour and as soon as we got back it was that February, um, that everything shut down and closed down and everything got weird and all that stuff. So we got out of that deal, we signed another deal, got out of that deal cuz it was just a weird like in limbo time, and then after that, like I got the guys that I did and then we started playing festivals and we started touring again and getting better shows and working with better people and stuff like that. So hopefully that just keeps going. I mean, Prob yeah. I don't know. Just do what we're doing at a bigger, bigger thing. Yeah. Bigger shows, bigger tours, bigger stuff. Always. I mean, that's always gonna be my five-year plan. Yeah. Bigger stuff.

MSM: Do you have any closing messages for your fans?

JAKE: Be awesome to each other. You can check us out on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, Amazon, or whatever you got. Just type it in. We'll probably be there. Tell your mom, tell your dog, tell everybody you can spread the band, spread love. Um, take chances and live life to the fullest. That's all I got.

MSM: Okay. And one last question: For anyone who has not heard of you, why should they listen to Morning In May?

JAKE: Because we say things that other people don't say, we are really fun and it's a different kind of experience and we go about life a little different way. Um, and it's a friendship thing. It's not like a performance/fan weird thing. It's a friendship thing. If you understand the songs and stuff, there's a deep connection there. There's something that we have in common that's way deeper way in here.

MSM: Okay. Yeah. Perfect. Awesome. Well, thanks for chatting.

JAKE: Yeah. Thank you very much. I liked your questions.

MSM: All right. Take care.



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