Rollo & Grady Interview // Mike Barker – American Dad

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Jim James and Mike Barker – Image Rollo & Grady

In several hours My Morning Jacket will make their prime-time television debut on American Dad. I recently caught up with the show’s co-creator Mike Barker, who penned the episode titled “My Morning Straitjacket,” to discuss his inspiration for writing the script.

Stan and Jim

R&G: How did you first discover My Morning Jacket?

MB: One of my writers, Matt Fusfeld, turned me onto them. He played “Bermuda Highway” for me in the office one day and I was instantly transfixed.

R&G: Tell me about your experience at Bonnaroo 2008?

MB: At Bonnaroo, I’m watching these guys create this lush, intense sound as the rain is washing over them… and as the sheet of rain attacks the stage, the raindrops are being illuminated by the multi-colored stage lights, and it was just… biblical. (note: Mike was not on mushrooms or acid). And it was one of those moments — and by moment I don’t mean during a certain chorus or something, I mean the ENTIRE time the guys are playing — it was one of those moments where everyone in attendance realized they were witnessing something really special. No one’s worried about getting wet, or getting their shoes muddy, or needing to sit down after standing shoulder to shoulder with wet strangers for four straight hours. And I actually remember having the thought, “If lightening strikes these guys dead, there’s not a thing tragic about that.” Seriously, can you tell me a better way for a musician to go? Because I can’t think of it.

Stan

But during the show, I start to become aware of how intensely I loved this music, and by extension, these guys for playing it. And I thought to myself, “What if I try to SHARE this experience through the characters in American Dad? Is it possible to translate how much I love this music to a large portion of American Dad’s audience that presently has no idea that this band even exits?” That would be my way of giving back, I suppose. My Morning Jacket is one of the greatest bands of all time, so why wouldn’t I try to share that fact?

R&G: Did you have any anxiety about the way the band would react to the episode?

MB: I was definitely conscious of the fact that the band could end up hating this episode and resenting me for not delivering like I had assured them I would. I mean, it’s tricky. Normally when we (the writers) make our episodes, our primary rule is that we have to make ourselves laugh. We have to find the episode interesting and funny. Because if we’re laughing, then there’s a good chance our audience is laughing, too. But with this episode… well, suddenly there’s this entirely new segment of people that will be watching the show, many of them for the first time, and that’s the My Morning Jacket fans. And the fans have certain thoughts and feelings about both the music, as well as the guys making it. The last thing I want is for my episode — which is really a pretty personal creative experiment — is for it to somehow reflect negatively back on the band. Jim and the guys were really great at respecting my autonomy throughout the process. This is a story I wanted to tell, and basically they took a big leap of faith by entrusting me, this absolute stranger, with their music, their voices, and ultimately, their image. So perhaps the most important thing for me in regards to the band was to do everything in my power to make sure that the episode didn’t suck. Because if it’s bad, or embarrassing, then that leads to questions from the fans like “Why would MMJ do this?” and suddenly this incredibly thoughtful and principled band is on the firing line for selling out or something.

R&G: Did the band have input on how they were animated?

MB: We gave the band customary consultation and they signed off on all of the artwork we ran by them. It’s always tricky animating real people. Because you’re not just animating them to resemble who they are in real life, you also have to make sure they resemble characters that live in the American Dad universe, and that carries with it a whole host of challenging parameters for our animators. But I think our character designers did a great job at capturing Jim and the guys.

R&G: What’s your favorite MMJ album?

MB: It Still Moves is probably my favorite MMJ album. “Golden”, “One Big Holiday”, “Run Thru”, “Just One Thing”, “I Will Sing You Songs”, “Rollin’ Back”, “Steam Engine”… Did I just name virtually every song on that album? It’s crazy how many great songs there are on that one.

**Tune in tonight at 9:30PM on FOX.

Related Post:
Behind The Scenes – MMJ on American Dad (click here)

Download:
My Morning Jacket – American Dad: My Morning Straightjacket Soundtrack (iTunes)

MP3: Jim James – Bermuda Highway (Live)
MP3: Jim James – I Will Be There When You Die (Live)