When we floated our weekly “Reggae Friday” tradition at Topo HQ over to Mike (MC) Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, it turned out he was simultaneously building up a playlist fine-tuned just for us, and now, you.
Hailing from Durham, North Carolina, it’s hard to list the number of influences that go into the Hiss Golden Messenger sound. Think of a little bit of everything, mix it together and you’ve got this richly unique product bending towards Americana, yet adding in so much more. Their 2019 album Terms of Surrender earned them a Grammy nomination, and the brand new Quietly Blowing It comes out on June 25 (It’s fantastic, by the way).
Sink deep into Mike’s roots reggae Stumbling Block picks below & read on for an interview. Is that our Field Jacket on the new album cover? Indeed. Well done, Mike. Thank you.
A note on the cover art: “Incidentally the Binson Echorec is a legendary and rare tape echo unit that Lee Scratch Perry apparently used. I’ve not seen one in person before.” – Mike Taylor, Hiss Golden Messenger
Tell us a bit more about Stumbling Block...
Stumbling Block is a collection of mostly roots reggae recorded between 1972 and 1982, something like that. I'm a big reggae fan, and these are some of the songs that have bent my ear recently.
What have you missed most about not being able to tour the past year plus?
I think I've missed having a routine to my day. When I was on the road, as grueling as it sometimes felt, there was a rhythm to how I lived. I really felt its absence and have struggled to fill that hole with other regularity. And, of course, it sort of goes without saying that I miss playing music for people.
Do you have any new hobbies you've picked up while spending so much time around home?
Yes, I've spent a lot of time making visual art. Mixed media stuff, wood, paint, twine, rust. Stuff that feels like it communicates something back to me. Maybe I'll share some of it one day.
What are 3 things you always have with you on the road?
A coffee making rig, including a collapsible coffee grinder and dripper, with good beans from wherever we might be. A portable record player paired with a Bluetooth speaker—we hit a lot of record stores when we're on the road. A set of either tarot or Oblique Strategies cards or small King James Bible or book of poetry, just as some sort of idea or thought to push back against throughout the day.
Your new album titled 'Quietly Blowing It' (out 6/25) — what's the meaning behind that?
I suppose it just an articulation of how I feel myself—and the human species, maybe—falling short of where it seems like we should be every day. It's also sort of a funny title, not meant to be so cynical. I also feel a lot of joy and hope in the world.