Album Walkthrough: The Murlocs chat their genre-bending album, Manic Candid Episode

Album Walkthrough: The Murlocs chat their genre-bending album, Manic Candid Episode

The Melbourne-based ensemble will be touring the album around the country this May.

Header photo by Jamie Wdziekonski.

Sharing members with King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Melbourne group The Murlocs are one of the most out-there bands within the Australian indie/rock circuit, offering something different every time as they swerve between sounds, sub-genres and styles - tackling every flavour they attempt with a precise sheen and polish you wouldn't typically expect from a group as versatile as this. Over the past eight years or so, the band - composed of Ambrose Kenny-Smith (vocals/harmonica), Matt Blach (drums), Cook Craig (bass), Cal Shortal (guitar) and Tim Karmouche (keys) - have built themselves a cult-following of kinds, playing alongside legends including The Pixies and Mac DeMarco, while sets at Splendour In The Grass and Gizzfest have put them out to the masses, with anyone attracted to the nostalgic-tinted sounds of blues-infused rock often walking away with The Murlocs being one of their new favourites.

They've become experts at the long-form album format over the years, with each record they've put out since their 2014 debut Loopholes feeling stronger and slicker than the last, something they're continuing with their latest and fourth album, Manic Candid Episode. Across 11 tracks and 40 minutes, Manic Candid Episode is an album that sees The Murlocs really flesh out the versatile and genre-bending sound they've become known for, taking this guitar-driven indie-rock backbone and shading it with different takes of their sound, whether it be moments more country/western-sounding, moments a little more swirling and psychedelic, or songs like Comfort Zone, which are notably more stripped-back and tender as Kenny-Smith's emotive vocal is drawn out over slowly-paced melodies.

There's a lot to tackle in an album like Manic Candid Episode. No two tracks on the album sound the same, and the album's singles tackle topics ranging from "finding shelter from the storm" and withstanding both the low points and the high points in life, right through to moments more socially conscious and political, with Comfort Zone particularly standing out for its meaning, as Kenny-Smith explains in a rhyme:

"Comfort Zone is about finding shelter from the storm.
Whilst others are out making a change
Most of us want to stay the same.
Any fool can throw a punch
But hate and violence won’t solve much.
You can run but you can’t hide
Amongst the comfort zone of your own mind."

In a bid to better understand the record, its creation, and its underlying themes, we got the band's frontman to walk us through the album track-by-track, detailing every last thing that went into The Murlocs' impressive new album and everything it encompasses. Listen to the record below, grab it HERE, and catch the band touring the country this May/June - details, dates and tickets HERE.

1. Problematic Subject

The word ‘problematic’ was the working title for an unreleased King Gizzard song I wrote that never made the cut for Oddments.

I felt like it needed a comeback somewhere and once hearing Cal Shortal’s initial demo of this song it sounded a little evil to me, so I thought this is where it will come into play again. The song's lyrics start off a bit obscure, but once the chorus comes in with ‘anxious irrelevance’, you can start to see how it’s being told through the eyes of an uneasy person surrounded by jaded bitterness. The second verse ‘right wing driving through the night with a mind shield windmill cable tied’ was directed at a tour bus driver we had once in America.

It’s all coming from the point of view of a shocked unstable person in the presence of a narcissist racist that can’t see the light.

2. Withstand

To withstand something means to keep holding onto something you love until it kills you. Quitting will always be the easy way out when times are tough, but when you know you’ve got a good thing going, you’ve got to push through that and give it another chance. This one is our jagged love song as it highlights the challenges you sometimes face in a relationship. When you start to question everything while realising that it’s all going to be ok but have nothing valid left to say.

The music was written by Cook Craig and I wrote the words and the harmonica intro melody in a day. Later on, it was edited a fair bit to the point where it became the disjointed pop dance party that it is today.

3. Manic Candid Episode

The album title-track that chopped and changed the most out of any other tracks on the album before it was ready to record. This was the first track we recorded on the first session at Newmarket studios. After coming home from a tour, there is a week period or so where you can really start to lose touch with reality. Manic Candid Episode summed up all the little tantrums I would throw at myself over the most stupid meaningless things. Whether it was burning my toast in the morning or stubbing my toe in the shower, sometimes you need to take a breathe and figure out what is really eating at you before you completely explode and do something will forever regret.

4. Spun Gun

Around Christmas time in 2017, we had a bunch of family and friends staying at our house. One afternoon on a Saturday we all parted ways for a couple of hours. In that first 40 minutes that no one was in the house and while an auction was being held four doors down, we were broken into.

Someone had kicked in our backdoor and ran through the house tearing everything upside down. It was a classic cash grab. The only things that were stolen were jewellery, foreign cash and my car keys. In these situations, you don’t want to jump to conclusions, but it seemed pretty clear that it was a desperate moment of action. Being surrounded by commission flats and often suss characters lingering in the back alleys behind my house it sure does make you wonder. The song touches areas of drug addiction and the lifestyle that comes with it. In the erratic nature of how the music was coming together in the beginning stages, it seemed quite fitting to paint a picture of a faster-paced perspective.

5. Comfort Zone

I came up with piano chords at home one day around the time when Melbourne’s Bourke St mall attack happened in 2017. Constant violent attacks are a daily occurrence and this is a tragic and terrifying reality all over the world. The song was based around the feeling that it was going to be very heavily dependent on the vocals. I wanted to make a bit of a point on how we are becoming more and more used to these horrible reoccurring events. It’s a reminder to keep your head up, stick together and make peace with all of humanity.

6. Catch 22

I was hearing the term ‘Catch 22’ a lot to the point where it was so relevant in many aspects of my life. Juggling two bands and relationships with friends, family and loved ones can grow to be harder than it was before. As we get older and busier with our routines, you lose time and focus on the more important things. Again this song covers the grounds on which we stand vague and uncertain. I always used to just jump on my skateboard and push around the block when something was getting to me. Running away only makes matters worse. If something doesn’t turn out the way, you wanted it to just start again because you can’t always have the cake and eat it too.

7. Bigger Picture

I wrote this song after listening to the album Mary’s Meth Dream by Dry Ice. The vibe of the record and listening to a bunch of T.Rex as well went on to inspire me to come up with the chord progression. Cal Shortal contributed a killer guitar riff and everyone else put their cherries on top. The first verse is about a frustrating friendship that has grown apart with age. Some people never grow up and stay firm in their opinions despite if they’re are in the wrong. The second verse is about the nightmares I sometimes have about being back in high school.

I started The Murlocs just before my year 12 exams took off and I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do in life after high school, other than play gigs in bands and skateboarding. Each exam I sat was either effected from a hangover or my general pathetic attitude of not carrying about the outcome, as long as I passed that's all that mattered. I wanted to drop out in year 10 to try and pursue skateboarding somewhat professionally, but I stuck it out to the end to make my mother happy. I’m glad I did, but now I’m tainted with the burden of regret for not trying harder. Often school might not affect what you want to really go for in life, but it will sure as hell help you in more ways that you can imagine later down the track.

8. Samsara Maya

‘Samsara’ is Hindu for reincarnation, ‘the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound’. ’Maya’ means illusion in Hindu ‘the illusion or appearance of the phenomenal world’. Cal Shortal’s original demo of the main riff seemed so mystic. We still call it our medieval song. In the last decade, we have all collectively lost our fair share of friends and loved ones. I wanted to base this song on death, how we deal with it and the idea of reincarnation.

I don’t believe in much and pay no real in-depth attention to any religion, but the thought of coming back in another life has always intrigued me. It is definitely the odd one out of the bunch but we hope it can find it’s way onto the next remake of ‘Treasure Island’.

9. Buffoon

Originally this song was based around deforestation. After changing around a bunch of the lyrics it became more relevant to reflect on certain people of power in our country that choose to avoid the ever impending doom of global warming. After a few drinks some opinions can be mislead by others and come off the wrong way. See the truth for what it is and be aware of the future. The breakdown section repeats ‘it’s all going down the hole’, this reference sums up the song, the world and it’s leaders. The women of the world must soon take control because the men(buffoons) are completely blowing it for everyone.

10. What If?

This one reflects on the different areas of the economy in Australia. It starts off with the conversation between a struggling artist and a bodacious businessman. The artist is belittled by the businessman for their ‘pointless’ contribution to society whilst the businessman brags about his sticky fingers in many pies throughout the community. Although his respect for people that he considers to be below his stature are criticised and despicable in their existence.

With lines like ‘The latest stricture, Gina gets richer, down in a mineshaft, you made quick cash, so make it last’. I’m making reference to a lot of friends that really benefitted from the mining boom some years ago but were then quickly laid off from their jobs once the work started to dry up. Recently in Perth, I witnessed several miners all boarding planes to go back to work. Most of them seemed very rundown from this back and forth commute.

The general basis of this song is how fast life can change from good to bad. It’s a wake up call to anyone who is doing the bare minimum to stay alive. One day if your not careful it can come back to bite you on the backside when you least expect it. The ever-increasing homeless epidemic is shockingly evident throughout the world and it only seems that the rich continue to get richer.

11. My Compromise

This was the only track that seemed a bit unsure of itself. It was also the last song to have a lot of finishing touches added to it. Cook added in the mellotron keys riff throughout the second verse and in some other sections. Matt banged out some funky congas in the ‘freakout’ section. Tim also contributed some wild synths to really kick it up a notch. Even though it was one of the first songs I had brought to the guys for this album I feel like it maybe wasn’t completely up to scratch with the rest of the songs, so we chucked it on the end. I also had the last minute idea to mould the outro of What If? into this song's intro, as What If? was in B and this song's intro started in F#. The intro for this song was heavily influenced by The Animals' song A Girl Named Sandoz. Eric Burdon and The Animals is one of mine and the bands biggest influences.

The song lyrically is about a made up love relationship between a naive young lad and a gangsters daughter. The old common case of forbidden love that needs a chance in coming together throughout a mutual compromise from both parties.

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