We all know Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy as the frontman of indie-darlings The Wombats, but it would appear as if we have a new reason to love the man.
After a couple of cryptic social media accounts appeared during the last month or so with the moniker ‘Love Fame Tragedy’, the game was afoot. With fans receiving further mysterious messages and images around the same title, things were finally unveiled to be none other than Murph dipping his toes into a new musical endeavour.
“I was almost getting annoyed by all the cryptic tease that was going on at one point,” he says laughing. “So I’m glad that it’s all out in the open and that people know what it is.”
Exactly what Love Fame Tragedy stands for becomes clear once you delve into his debut EP, ‘I Don’t Want To Play The Victim, But I’m Good At It’ – a power-pop tour-de-force through the life and times of Murph and his new life out in LA, there’s a renewed sense of vigour that bounds outward.
It also features some familiar names such as Pixies’ Joey Santiago, and Alt-J’s Gus Unger-Hamilton adding their flourishes – but this wasn’t an exercise in just name-dropping. “Why not utilise some of the really talented people I’ve met along this last fifteen-year journey? It was more, ‘Hey, do you want to come round and have a bottle of wine and play on this?'”
None of this is to say that The Wombats are done – far from it, especially given their triumphant date at London’s Wembley Arena last year – but when you’ve been a band for fifteen years, it’s nice to shake things up a bit, and for Murph that brings a whole new world of opportunity.
“I just really wanted a project where I could do what I want with no politics attached and get music out as quick as I wanted,” he says. “If I wrote a song this afternoon, and I thought it was amazing, I want to be able to put that out the following day. Obviously, you can’t do that if you’ve been in a band for fifteen years, it’s just a slower process.”
Now that Love Fame Tragedy is in motion, it’s all systems go. With one video and single lined up every month until the EP drops, is not only bold but a fresh statement for Murph who’s had his fair share of releases over the years.
The Wombats have always contained a delicious dose of irony with their indie-bops that’ve evolved over the years into poppier bangers, but the lyrical content often deals with the darker side of life, including addiction, depression and depravity. Love Fame Tragedy is no different.
“I don’t see it much darker than Wombats songs,” Murph says. “A couple of them were meant to be Wombats songs, but it just didn’t happen for political reasons. They are different, but I’m just not thinking in two completely different split terms; obviously, I write songs for The Wombats, and I’m still the person writing it – everything’s still cut from the same loaf of bread. It’s just a question of which direction it’s getting funnelled.”
“I don’t think this is just Wombats under a different name,” he clarifies. “[But it’s] business as usual for me. I can be slightly more crazy with this, so maybe this is a true reflection of the music I want to make in some way or another. There is in the back of certain peoples heads trying to differentiate as much as possible, but in my head, it’s not like The Wombats are The Rolling Stones, there are still a lot of people that haven’t heard of both projects.”
The project’s title itself is born from Murph visiting a Picasso exhibition at the Tate Modern with the same name, clicking on a light bulb in his head and bringing it all together. The EP title meanwhile, ‘I Don’t Want To Play The Victim, But I’m Good At It’ is the perfect depiction of Murph’s creative output – well, according to his wife anyway.
“My wife was laughing at me saying that in all my songs I’m playing the victim,” he chuckles. “And I was like, ‘Hang on, isn’t that the basis of songwriting? How many other songs are in that world as well?’ So it got me thinking, and then that title came around.”
Lyrically, it also sees Murph pushing himself further, “trying to be as open and honest as possible in trying to own who I am, more than I have done in the past.” Lead single ‘My Cheating Heart’, a brutally honest anti-romantic anthem has a run at Murph spotlighting the lives that surround him in his new hometown of LA.
“I love LA; it’s ridiculous,” he marvels. Moving out there to live with his wife, he’s an accurate sounding “10-15% happier – I feel like I’ve got a bit more space. Living out here has opened my eyes to what I should be doing, and how I should be going about my career and my life.”
“The ‘money, women, cars’ line – it’s just so objectifying and gross!” he laughs, knowingly at the track’s chorus. “But I love it, and that is me thinking about the status in California. Sometimes I think it’s important [to go too far] because if I’m not going to be completely open and honest, then I don’t know what the point is.”
Which is what this has all been about for him; returning to the ease of just writing songs, running on a schedule fuelled by creative flights of fancy as opposed to a strict democratic process. Of course, The Wombats are still at the back of Murph’s mind.
“It’s just business as usual there,” he mentions. “We’ve kind of written four songs, and there’s going to be more scheduled time to write this year. With The Wombats, I’ve got a really good opportunity to get into six/seven album territory which is something that I take seriously because to me that’s big.
“Just even for the achievement alone of staying in a band with people that long and getting to album seven to me is crazy, and that’s something I want to do so as long as Love Fame Tragedy goes well. I just wanna keep rolling both out.”
So, with this all-new creative release, and life feeling pretty damn good at the moment – is there a concern Murph might run out of murky-waters to delve into for his pop-bangers?
“No,” he immediately starts laughing. “Because it’s all fucking deep-rooted Freudian bullshit from when I was a baby probably! I don’t think I’m going to run out of fuel, it’s a question of whether people are going to run out of fuel wanting to listen to those kinds of songs, and I feel they’re what people have wanted to hear for the last century. So I’ll just keep going, and I’ll know when my time’s up – but it’s not now.”
Taken from the August issue of Dork – order your copy below. Love Fame Tragedy’s debut EP ‘I Don’t Want To Play The Victim, But I’m Good At It’ is out in September.
Words: Steven Loftin