The group is about to release a new record, its sixth studio album in 12 years, titled Circuital. Speaking from his hometown of Louisville, Ky., lead singer and songwriter Jim James tells Weekend All Things Considered guest host Rachel Martin that the name comes from a phrase he's been hearing a lot lately.
"People always ask us, 'You guys out on the circuit? Making the rounds?' Like we're rodeo riders," James says. "I was thinking about that a lot as we had ended up back here in Kentucky working on the record. [Producer] Tucker Martine was like, 'Why don't we just call the record that? It kind of sums up the whole thing of what we're working on here.' "
My Morning Jacket's last album, 2008's Evil Urges, took a turn into funky R&B territory. Circuital finds the band back in its wheelhouse of folksy, psychedelic Southern rock.
"We've always loved exploring a lot of different styles of music," James says. "I feel like we've done that from the beginning." James says he's befuddled by the oft-heard phrase "back to their roots," but admits that where his band is concerned, there's truth to it in this case: "This is the first record we've made in Louisville proper, so that was a new, exciting challenge for us."
One of the standout tracks on the album is "Holding on to Black Metal," which revolves around a danceable bass line. James says the song grew out of a fascination with a super-specific subgenre of music, though not the one in the title.
"That song was inspired by a song from a forgotten '60s Thai pop compilation," James says. "I was in Los Angeles and had picked up this CD at Amoeba Records, and was driving around in my car listening to it, and this song came on that kind of hypnotized me. I listened to it on repeat for a week or so, and gradually these words started popping out in my head."