Major Murphy Interview at the Audiotree Music Festival
*this interview took place after the Audiotree Music Festival in the fall of 2018 and was transcribed by Lexi Terrian
L: How would you categorize your music genre-wise? Or is there a subgenre that your band identifies with? MM: Generally, we’re a rock band since we use guitars and drums. We’ve got an electric guitar, bass guitar, and a drum kit. Today we had our percussionist with us.
L: Is that not normal? MM: We do it live and in the studio so it is becoming more normal. The fourth member is not apart of the brand as much, but it really adds to the sound.
L: Who writes the music? Or do you all write the music? MM: Me (Jacob).
L: So is it your band? Do you call it your band? MM: That’s a super good question. I’m the songwriter, so the whole thing is my prerogative. Jacki and Bud are very aware of that, but I think we try to set ourselves up for as much expression as possible from each member. It’s how we approach the songs. It’s totally unique to us. When I write a song, I try to stick to my guitar or stick to my keyboard and I’ll try not to fill it out too much from there.
L: What is the songwriting process for you? How do you bring it to the rest of the band? Do you let them put their own spin on it or do you tell them the ideas that you had for that song? MM: Even if you did write out everything exactly and you brought a trio of people together to perform the written music it would change from the way the person who wrote those formulas out. It would become something else and that sound is what bands are. It’s an interpretive thing. We try to just bring our sensibilities to it.
L: What happens when you get an idea for a song? Do you start with lyrics or melody? Where does it start? MM: Sometimes the melody comes first, sometimes the lyrics come first. More often a melody or chord progression comes first. I’ll play something on the guitar and say “Oh, I like the sound of that” and start humming along. I might make up words just to fill in the space. There are sometimes where I just hear a word that people are using in daily life and I’ll say “That’s a really weird word” and it’ll inspire me to think about moods that are associated with that word. Then I’ll begin to write down phrases with the word in it and that gets me in the ballpark for sounds. That gets me moving in the right direction.
L: How are you feeling about being here before? I’m sure you’ve played in Kalamazoo before.
MM: Yeah, we played in Louie’s Trophy House a couple of times. We played Bells. We love playing Kalamazoo. It’s good to be playing regionally, but still reaching a new market.
L: Have you toured recently? MM: We went on a tour in June which was the last proper tour we did, but we’ve played quite a bit just around West Michigan after that tour. We played in the U.P. too.
L: Where did you play? MM: It was called Farm Block. It’s about as remote as you can get. It was with a band from Kalamazoo called The Go Rounds, so I’m sure you know them. It was Grahm’s family’s farm and it was the 10 th year that they’ve done it.
L: I know someone else who does a festival at their farm. Have you heard of the Harvest Gathering? I know Seth Bernard, the person who runs it and I think it’s really cool that people just take their home farms and turn it into a festival. MM: Yeah! We were hanging with Seth at Farm Block.
L: What was your last music release? Did you release an album or a single? MM: We had a record called Number One. It was our first full length record, so it’s a pun. We released it in late March and that was a big deal for us. We did a single in July and we did it for charity. We posted it on Bandcamp and if anyone chooses to donate money, we send it to the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee in El Paso, Texas. They put the funds toward bail bonds for detained migrants. It’s a huge problem and when we released that single it was at the breaking point. We figured we should try to do something.
L: What is the purpose of your band? Are you doing it for fun or is there a bigger picture? MM: World peace, equal human rights, black lives matter. Whatever you want to call it. Pride. Just positivity. To me that’s what music can be about. It can be an agent in all those causes. Those things drive me to make music.
L: What are some artists you have been listening to lately? Or artists that you think have inspired your sound when you write music? MM: There are local artists that really inspire me and artists that we play with. Labelmates of ours Barrie the Band. They’re from New York City, they live in Brooklyn. We don’t know them all that well, but we play shows and hear their music. They inspire you to keep working and making music. We got to play with Whitney in Kalamazoo which was incredible. We love Sam Evian and he’s coming through Grand Rapids soon.
L: Local artists make a much bigger difference in another artist’s lives. Are there any artists you listened to a lot growing up?
MM: So many. Christian music was formative for me growing up. If you didn’t have a lot of exposure like that they definitely opened certain doors for me. But I also listened to a ton of classic rock and all that stuff. It’s funny to look back on it now, but back then that was like the best stuff.
L: It’s weird growing up and realizing what little things affected you. MM: If I love an artist and try to replicate their sound it’s not until years after that I feel like I’m finally doing it. When I’m not trying it comes out.
L: Do you have a certain goal that you want to accomplish with your music? Where do you see yourself going? MM: We’ve got some new songs that we’ve been working on. We’re still pretty early in the process with them, but we have played them live and put together some demos. The sound is changing a little bit and I think we’ve realized when the band started, we wrote songs with broad ideas that we were all interested in and it wasn’t so much based on experience of playing live together. As we’ve done that over the past three years, we know which songs we dig now. We realize which ones we enjoy playing more and which ones the audience like more. We’re focusing in more which I’m excited about. In the spring, we’re probably going to be putting out an EP of demos from our first record Number One. You’ll recognize the songs, but they’ll sound a little different. It’s like a behind the scenes thing.
L: I like that. It feels a little bit more intimate since it was the first time you were playing through those songs. Very unpracticed. MM: There’s definitely some rawness there. I’m excited for people to hear it. It’s a totally different feel. More like bedroom pop. We’re kind of going towards the more alternative rock band and moving away from the 70s sound and more towards the 90s, even though there’s still plenty of 70s influence in there. This EP will have an older sound which I have a special place for.
Major Murphy played with Post Animal in Holland on December 1st as well as some private events. Keep on the lookout for new music from them.