Kevin Morby tackles his inner demons and fear of failure on “Rock Bottom,” the newest offering from the singer-songwriter’s upcoming album, This Is a Photograph, out May 13 via Dead Oceans.
“Rock Bottom” is accompanied by a campy video — which the singer describes as an “ice cream-themed nunchucking Western” — directed by frequent Morby collaborator Johnny Eastlund and featuring appearances by comedian Tim Heidecker and artist Ariel Kellogg. It follows Morby and Kellogg as they set out across Los Angeles, nunchucks in tow, to face a sinister talent agent in a delightfully silly no-holds-barred beatdown.
The song, driven by a fuzz-laden guitar riff and endearingly scrappy sing-song vocals reminiscent of Morby’s lo-fi punk outfit the Babies, is a subtle ode to the late James Lee Lindsey Jr., better known as Jay Reatard — the prolific Memphis-based garage rock trailblazer who died from an overdose at the age of 29 in 2010. Morby wrote much of This Is a Photograph during a sabbatical in Memphis, and the looming spectre of both Reatard and countless other cultural visionaries from the city provided constant inspiration for the record.
“I was taken by how similar his story was to that of many other American icons that were ahead of their time and too quickly rose from the bottom to the top, inevitably burning out,” Morby said of Reatard in a release. “I read that his stage name, Jay Reatard, was worn as a badge of honor after years of being picked on in grade school — which may or may not be why on the cover of his seminal album Blood Visions he’s covered in blood as a nod to Sissy Spacek’s character in Carrie. Because of this I chose to begin the song by repeating ‘they’re all gonna laugh at you!'” The Kansas-based singer added that Reatard’s 1999 album, Grown Up, Fucked Up, served as sonic inspiration during the recording process for This is a Photograph.
Morby also announced Wednesday that he is launching a Substack, where he will offer fans a glimpse at “all the puzzle pieces that go into eventually, somehow, magically creating an album of music that I don’t usually share with the public,” he said. “As one who loves to share their experiences and creations with others while here on planet earth, I’m looking forward to having this newsletter to help do just that.”
Morby will tour Europe and North America through the majority of 2022 in support of This Is a Photograph, beginning May 20 in Madrid, Spain, and wrapping Nov. 12 in Vancouver, BC.