With Love Fame Tragedy, Matthew 'Murph' Murphy starts a new era
His debut EP, featuring members of Alt-J, Pixies and Soundgarden, is out September 13th, before shows in October.
Header image by Shervin Lainez.
For some artists, focusing on one musical outlet is enough, but for Matthew 'Murph' Murphy - best known as The Wombats' charismatic frontman - it’s a different story. While The Wombats are anything but an unsuccessful band (the Liverpool trio are one of indie-rock's most cult-adored, and their success in Australia has become somewhat of a meme in recent years), it's become clear that Murph is someone who wants their creativity stretched across projects and sounds, taking a step into a new era with Love Fame Tragedy.
At its core, Love Fame Tragedy has Murph in the driver's seat; his charm and attitude the central backbone of everything Love Fame Tragedy encompasses, much like The Wombats (which, as a side-note, is not splitting - Love Fame Tragedy is a side-project he'll work on amongst The Wombats' new material and touring). However, while the Liverpool trio sees him constantly collaborate with the band's other members - drummer Dan Haggis and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen - Love Fame Tragedy is more collaborative, taking notes from other artists within this realm to create something that feels larger and more wide-ranging thanks to its exterior forces, something that naturally comes with open collaboration.
For example, take a dive Love Fame Tragedy's debut project, an EP titled I Don’t Want to Play the Victim, But I’m Really Good At It, which will arrive internationally on September 13th via Good Soldier Songs / AWAL Recordings. It's a four-track display of Murph's brilliance as a signature songwriter but also at his openness to collaborate and experiment, working with Joey Santiago (Pixies), Gus Unger-Hamilton (Alt-J) and Matt Chamberlain (Soundgarden) - who together encompass some of rock music's biggest names - to bend this brit-pop sound into new rhythms and flavours, taking those rhythmic rock guitar strums familiar to The Wombats but giving them a different approach that really makes them stand out when compared to his already-extensive discography with the brit-pop titans. "It’s great to have talented musicians, musicians who have their own niche," says Murph on the project and his collaborators. "When you hear Joey play the guitar you can just tell it’s him and the same thing with Gus with the key melodies he chooses and the distinct sound of his voice. It’s great to have artists and musicians like that playing on songs of your own because it makes them ten times cooler, at least in your own head."
Keeping things concise to four tracks, I Don’t Want to Play the Victim, But I’m Really Good At It is the perfect introduction to a project whose versatility makes it hard to box (not that boxing an artist into a category is something that has to - or should - ever happen), capturing the strength of Murph in a solo role as he straddles new sounds and starts a new beginning. My Cheating Heart for example, Love Fame Tragedy's opening debut, is a cut-throat collaboration with Maddi Jean Waterhouse that re-positions The Wombats' infectiousness into something a touch heavier and riff-built as he sings of the temptations of hedonistic excess, while Backflip and Brand New Brain - a pairing of tracks which arrives together a few weeks back - bring nostalgia and forward-thinkingness together - somehow. "I wanted to start something that was very brain-to-mouth. I write it, record it, put it out online – I can do whatever I want, there’s no politics or B.S. surrounding it, which does come when you’ve been in a band for 15 years," Murph continues on the new project, and on I Don’t Want to Play the Victim, But I’m Really Good At It you can feel this freedom in his swaying sounds and energy.
I Don’t Want to Play the Victim, But I’m Really Good At It arrives in full on September 13th and will make their live debut at Manchester's Gorilla on September 12th, before launching in Australia throughout October for headline shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane alongside a slot at Wollongong institution festival Yours & Owls. In the meantime, we talk to Matt 'Murph' Murphy about the foundations of the new project, the newfound freedom that comes with moving away from The Wombats, and what to expect from their forthcoming debut Australian tour. Grab more information and tickets to the shows HERE, and dive into our feature with Murph below:
The Wombats have grown to become an incredibly successful and highly acclaimed band over the years. What drew you to the idea of splitting away from that for a moment to launch your own project?
I don’t know, I think that I really wanted to experience making an album without the kind of politics that a Wombats album can sometimes come with. I keep using this word ‘politics’ and I’m like 'oh fuck what if Dan and Tord read it' or whatever, so I want to make it clear that there’s not that much politics in The Wombats, but I just wanted to experience what it was like doing something by myself, and also experience what it was like utilising some of the talented people I’ve met along my little journey, which obviously wouldn’t be that easy in The Wombats.
I had a couple of songs leftover from our fourth album [2018's Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life] and I spoke to my manager and was like 'these are good we should just whack them up online or something' and then it kind of snowballed into Love Fame Tragedy and now I’ve got 33 songs and doing shit loads of interviews really. It wasn’t quite what I expected but its brilliant, I’m really excited about it.
You said that there is a greater sense of freedom with writing material not bound to The Wombats.
It’s weird, there has been more freedom and there are definitely types of songs that I deem to be more alternative and more left-field than The Wombats probably put out. I was doing a song yesterday, recording it and it’s just so like dance-y and poppy you know? It’s covering a bigger range with this project, which is great.
I can pretty much do whatever I want to do, but at the same time, it still does feel like business as usual. I still am Murph from The Wombats and I write songs for The Wombats and I have my voice so some of the songs are going to sound like Wombats songs, but some of them aren’t and I know my manager and the record label kind of want me to differentiate myself as much as I possibly can. I’m just cracking on really.
How has having that freedom shaped building the project’s sound and how has it helped build what would eventually become this debut EP?
I mean a lot of the sound is kind of 'let’s do what is meant for the song' really, and that’s all I’ve been thinking about and probably all I have thought about. I think getting guests on there really helps in creating a newfound sound, like for My Cheating Heart, having Maddi on there really kind of took it to a level that I probably couldn’t have taken it to in The Wombats, if that makes sense.
The Wombats are one a bit of R&R at the moment, following the album release and touring last year. When that relaunches up again, how will you go about balancing the two projects?
I have no idea, I mean Love Fame Tragedy is something that I want to kind of be fun and exciting and as fresh as physically possible for it to triumph. So I think it’s going to be more which songs are going to be Wombats songs and which songs are going to be for this project.
I think that’s what’s so exciting about it as well, you get to have this other outlet that if you create a sound that doesn’t sound so Wombats-y it doesn’t just get shelved, you get to put it down another road.
Yeah exactly, it’s a nice kind of tunnel to have. That kind of makes it sounds like it’s all Wombats b-sides - which it definitely isn’t - but I’m really excited about it. I don’t know what it’s going to turn into and I don’t know how I’m going to balance touring and how all this stuff is going to work. I'll probably have a mental breakdown but you know I’m kind of welcoming it.
I love the idea of you using the name of a Picasso Exhibition for the project like Love Fame Tragedy and you mention in your interview with NME that you felt that it fit the aesthetic you had built for the project. What aesthetic are you looking at for Love, Fame, Tragedy and how does this name build into it?
I just think Love Fame Tragedy means something to me. I, first of all, looked at something that had a real like cyclical, calming feeling to it and that’s why Love Fame Tragedy kind of resonated with me as did the exhibition and all that stuff. To me, Love Fame Tragedy kind of seems like the music industry and how hilarious it is, the ‘pretending to’ compared to the actual reality and the differences between them and all the shit that goes on in the background, compared to the smiley outlook on the front. I guess that’s what the aesthetic of the name and the project is, I haven’t really thought about it too much.
I did want to touch on how you have Maddi Jean Waterhouse on the EP. I think it’s such a refreshing sound having her vocals over the top there, but speaking of those collaborators, having them jump on board to help build the EP, forming a little supergroup of kinds, like with Matt from Pearl Jam and Joey from the Pixies. Having had them, who have done this music thing for so long, was there anything you were able to take away from them that you have been able to implement into how you write or interact with music at all?
Yeah, I was constantly learning, and you learn a lot in the studio. It’s interesting to watch how other people go about being creative and I think you’re always learning but the main reason I wanted all these collaborators was just so I didn’t have to talk about myself as much when doing interviews. I just wanted to utilize all these ridiculously talented people I’ve met over the years, especially like working Gus from Alt-J into the song. It just seemed to just make that particular song like infinitely cooler and there are a lot more collaborators on other songs and I don’t know it’s as you say, it just makes it feel refreshing.
What was the process of cutting it down to what would eventually become the EP? Was there anything that drew you to having those four songs in particular?
In my head, I wanted to make an album. It’s more the label and stuff saying 'this is how we’re going to release it in a different way.' It’s just like I’m going to write an album, record a number of tracks but they’re all coming out of these different stages, I feel like My Cheating Heart is definitely bringing in a good place with the EP and making it all about finding my feet when deciding on which songs to showcase. No matter what, I’m excited for all the wicked and wonderful shit that’s going to come out of it, in the future.
The EP is very much the starting point for the project, right? It’s like the introduction into what it’s all about, so what would you like people to take away from it?
I just want people to kind of enjoy it and come to the shows and bring a change of clothes probably. It’s just the same thing I’ve always hoped in that it kind of resonates with people and touches them and helps form a connection with them.
Seeing as it’s really just yourself and your collaborators - and you’re not really bound by the expectations of The Wombats or anything like that - your options are pretty open in regards to where you take the band. How do you see it evolving in the future and is there anything you want to attempt with it?
I kind of want it just to be like a constant flow of music really. That’s one of the things that I wanted to express: I don’t want this project to be like I put out an album, tour it for a little bit, go quiet and then work on the next thing. I want it to be a constant flowing machine of my own creation and I wanted to kind of include friends collaborating as much as possible
Love Fame Tragedy's debut EP, I Don’t Want to Play the Victim, But I’m Really Good At It, is out September 13th via Good Soldier Songs / AWAL Recordings. Catch them on tour this October.
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