Contributing writer Jess spoke with song writer Jacob Bullard to get the low down on the groups efforts for their recent album “NO.1” ahead of their performance at Audiotree Music Fest 2018. We caught their set and noticed another Grand Rapidian holding it down on the congas. Check out the interview and pictures of their performance below.
All three of you have backgrounds with other bands. Winspear (records) originally spoke with Jacob Bullard and expressed interest in seeing the project come to fruition, but how did the three of you come together to form Major Murphy?
Bud and myself had already been playing music together for a few years in various projects. One of those projects was fronted by myself and we wanted to do something like that again but didn’t quite know where to start. When we met Jacki we realized we had a lot of similar sensibilities towards listening to and making music and it was exciting. On top of that she was keen to play bass and it was just a natural fit.
According to your other interviews, the concept for Major Murphy started off as some solo recordings that Bullard shared with someone from Winspear. What was different about forming a band this way?
Those songs where home recordings that I had done, mostly for myself to remember and experiment with recording, but I was very interested in starting a new project. I wanted an outlet for my songs that wasn’t a singer-songwriter project. Jacki, Bud and myself had been jamming around that time, and Bud recorded drums on one of those tracks, but we hadn’t solidified as a project yet. I told Ben Wittkugel from Winspear Records my ideas and intentions with my music at that time and he and Jared Jones both put complete trust in however that might come to be. I was then able to go to Bud and Jacki and be like “these people want to make a cassette… do you want to start a band?”. It was our first step.
Bullard has described the title track, “No. 1” as sort of an ego crisis catalyzed by a profusion of increasingly alienating technology. What do you think is different about an ego crisis in 2018 than one, say, in 1978?
Hmm that is a really good question. The first thing that comes to mind is: Social Media. It seems to fan the flame at times in my experience. I feel like when I use social media, even if try and keep it close and essentially only follow friends and family, I can kind of end up hosting my own little show… and with that comes expectations. And when there is a lack of continuity, or content is incongruous (because life is chaotic and people change, among other things) I think for a sensitive or maybe just ego-driven or obsessed person, such as myself, it can be a difficult. That’s one way.
In previous interviews, you’ve talked about how some other artists helped you create No. 1, but live, you are still a trio. Why did you decide to add those additional effects on the recording? Have you received feedback from your audience about the difference?
I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much feedback about it. I think people really enjoy both presentations. Part of why we added more in the studio is that is too fun not to. For live, coordinating only three people and gear and everything is often pretty nice and streamlined.
“My C.C. Blues” explores the internet hook that might be said to control a lot of people these days; what inspired you to write it?
It’s kind of another take on themes the song, “No. 1” explores, but it’s a little less angry or frustrated and more reflective. I think the lyrics of that song are grappling with responsibility. I was trying to learn more about psychology at the time and trying to understand the power the human mind has in its ability to see any one thing or event or relationship from a variety of perspectives… basically, is something good or bad, or fun or boring, etc.? When we commit to any one of those perspectives we accept responsibility that we are creative agents in the world and are actively building our reality, collectively and individually, every day. But in a world of options, making that choice, choosing what to commit to, is hard.
Your description says that you maintain a present ethos despite the older sound. What other “nowadays problems” have inspired your songwriting?
Radi-Yum is a pun riffing off the chemical Radium. That song is exploring the ingredients of a toxic soup that just so happens to be very tasty. An element of Who I Will Be is questioning at what cost does something entertaining come at? at what point is that cost morally inappropriate? and at what level does entertainment-factor figure into our decision making?
Why is The Kinks’ “Strangers” so important to you?
Personally, I feel like it speaks to a kind of golden rule mentality.
What’s the most exciting thing about being a GR-based band? The most challenging?
The city seems to be growing pretty uhhh rapidly, so it’s exciting to be a part of something that feels living and breathing and kind of nebulous. It is kind of hard because there is some flux of people moving to and from the city with projects and sounds and scenes a such coming and going. I suspect this has something to do with it being a mid sized city and people move to Detroit or Chicago or NY or LA for opportunity, especially in creative fields.
What does it mean for Major Murphy to be playing Audiotree Music Fest?
We get to play with some incredible artists and hopefully have lots of fun.
We will be releasing an EP of home recordings and demos from when we were just getting started sometime early next year. Going to spend a little time in the studio this fall getting some new songs down. Playing a couple great West Michigan dates too!