With the release of their first four albums, The Murlocs — King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Ambrose Kenny-Smith and Cook Craig with Cal Shortal, Matt Mlach and Tim Karmouche — have released four albums of fuzzy and distorted psychedelic blues. which they’ve supported as an opener for the likes of Gary Clark, Jr., Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Pixies, Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Wavves and of course, Kenny-Smith’s and Craig’s primary gig, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard — and as a headlining act, as well.
The Aussie psych blues outfit’s fifth album. the Tim Dunn-produced Bittersweet Demons is slated for a June 25, 2021 release through their longtime label home ATO Records. Recorded at Button Pushers Studio, the 11-song album finds the band lovingly reflecting on the people, who have left a profound imprint on their lives, the saviors, the hell raisers and other assorted mystifying and complex characters. Arguably, the most personal and complex batch of material they’ve written to date, the album reportedly finds the band bouncing around and between sunny pop, blues punk and wide-eyed psychedelia informed by John Lennon‘s Plastic Ono Band and Harry Nilsson‘s Lennon-produced Pussy Cats.
In the buildup to the album’s release, I’ve managed to write about two of Bittersweet Demons’ singles:
The Tim Karmouche penned “Francesca,” a rousingly upbeat, hook-driven ripper with a subtle New Wave polish written for Kenny-Smith’s mother, who found a new lease on life through newfound love.
“Eating At You,” a slow-burning and melancholic sing-a-long that subtly recalls “I Got Friends in Low Places,” with the song being an ode to those deeply troubled friends and erstwhile n’er-do-wells of life that you can’t help but love.
Bittersweet Demons’ third and latest single is the mid-tempo, piano-driven, jangling blues and album title track “Bittersweet Demons.” And unlike its immediate predecessor, the song is one of those melancholy, pour some of your booze out for the dead homies jam that becomes sadly all too common when you get older.
“I was messing around with the tune on the piano for a while but never knew where to take it lyrically,” The Murlocs’ Kenny-Smith recalls in press notes. “Over time the bones of the song sat away in the back of my mind waiting for the right time to come back out and be pieced together properly. Whilst we were on tour in America in 2019 one of my sweetest and dearest friends Keegan Walker passed away. His presence was unlike any other I have ever experienced. That kind of person that’s forever filling you up with joyous excitement. Someone that always took the time and effort to be in your life and support you through the thick and thin no matter what. Every time I came home from tour he was always the first to contact me and come by with some croissants and a handful of lavender that he’d pick from my front garden. Keegan was always there for his friends. A few days after the funeral I sat back down to play at the piano and the words started to come out and feel right. I reckon Keegan would’ve loved this song, he loved this kind of soppy stuff cause he’s a softie just like me.”
Directed and edited by Guy Tyzack, the recently released video for “Bittersweet Demons” was shot on grainy Super 8 Film and follows the adventures and memories of a lonely house that misses his human friends — and at one point is looking for a human to inhabit it.
The Murlocs — King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Ambrose Kenny-Smith and Cook Craig with Cal Shortal, Matt Mlach and Tim Karmouche — have released four albums of fuzzy and distorted psychedelic blues that the band has supported both as an opener for the likes of Gary Clark, Jr., Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Pixies, Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Wavves and of course, Kenny-Smith’s and Craig’s primary gig,. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and as a headliner.
The Aussie psych blues outfit’s fifth album. the Tim Dunn-produced Bittersweet Demons is slated for a June 25, 2021 release through their longtime label home ATO Records. Recorded at Button Pushers Studio, the 11-song album finds the band lovingly reflecting on the people, who have left a profound imprint on their lives, the saviors, the hell racists and other assorted mystifying characters. Arguably, the most personal and complex batch of material they’ve written to date, the album reportedly finds the band bouncing around and between sunny pop, blues punk and wide-eyed psychedelia informed by John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and Harry Nilsson’s Lennon-produced Pussy Cats.
Bittersweet Demons first single “Francesca” was written by the band’s Tim Karmouche — and sonically, finds the band crafting a rousingly upbeat, hook-driven ripper that subtly adds a New Wave polish to the fuzzy psych rock barnburners that have won them national and international attention. To my ears, the members of The Murlocs have managed to write a road trip anthem that’s arena rock friendly. “The song is about my mother, and show she had been lost for love since the separation from my father, when I was, 10,” Kenny-Smith explains in press notes. “In the last year and a half or so, she’s found love again, with a very close family friend of ours, someone, who has always been a godfather and mentor to me in many ways. This has changed her spirit immensely for the better. You can really see the pop in her step as this enormous weight has been lifted off her shoulders.”
Kenny-Smith mentions that some of his favorite songs are odes to impressive women — i.e. Van Morrison’s “Gloria” — and says, “Francesca is my mother’s middle name and I’ve always loved it so much.” The Murlocs frontman adds “It’s probably the most positive, feel-good song we’ve ever done. It’s also the closest we’ve ever come to having an 80’s phase.”
Directed by Alex Mclaren, the recently released video for “Francesca” was shot last April. Melbourne was coming out of its first pandemic-related lockdown and restrictions were eased for a short period of time. The band and director quickly jumped on the opportunity to shoot while they had the chance, presumably recognizing that they may not get another chance. And for such an 80’s-like anthem, the video features the titular Francesca, Kenny-Smith and the band driving around in a convertible and rocking out, as well as 80’s computerized graphics and fade outs. The car footage was shot on Melbourne’s Ivanhoe Blvd., near where Kenny-Smith’s mom grew up. That part of the footage was informed by the video for Randy Newman’s “I Love LA.”
Silva’s debut EP was an EDM collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13 under the mononym Silva — but since the release of that effort, her material has leaned heavily towards singer/songwriter soul, rock and pop with 70s AM rock references, as you’ll hear on her most recent album, the Reed Black-produced Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth.
Silva’s latest single “I Wash My Hands” is a shimmering and gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock-like song centered around a fairly simple arrangement of guitar, bass, vocals and drums that’s sonically indebted to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. Interestingly, the song was originally written as a weary lament over a major relationship that has come to an end – but the song manages takes on a heightened meaning, reflecting on a heightened sense of uncertainty and fear, suggesting that maybe Mother Earth is attempting to wash her hands of us.
The recently released video for “I Wash My Hands” was created during the mandatory social distancing and quarantines of the COVID-19 pandemic – and it features Silva, her friends, family, bandmembers and voice students, separated by quarantine but connecting through the song.
I recently exchanged emails with Jennifer Silva for this edition of JOVM’s ongoing Q&A series – and naturally, we chat about her new single and video, her influences –including her love of Stevie Nicks, and her songwriting process. Of course, with governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – particularly on small and mid-sized venues, and the touring, emerging and indie artists who grace their stages, has been devastating. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ll be talking to artists about how the pandemic has impacted them and their careers. And in this interview, Silva reveals that the much-anticipated follow-up to Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth has been rescheduled, with her and her backing band figuring out how to finish it with the use of technology. Then add lost gigs and the uncertainty of when you’ll be able to play or promote your new work, and it’s a particularly urgent and uneasy time. But the dedicated will find a way to keep on going on for as long as they can.
Check out the video and the Q&A below.
WRH: Much of the world has been in quarantine and adhering to social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. How are you holding up? How are you spending your time? Are you binge watching anything?
Jennifer Silva: The world is upside down right now and it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for me. Shock, depression, anger, acceptance — feels like the stages of grief sometimes! I really miss my friends and my social life. Playing shows, my band. The good news though, is that my family and I are safe, healthy and well stocked. We left Brooklyn right before it got really bad and headed upstate. So, I’ve been in the woods, pretty secluded, with limited cable news (thankfully) and some great outdoorsy vibes all around me. I’m very lucky and I really can’t complain. I’ve been spending the time connecting with my family, homeschooling my daughters, cooking, knitting, reading and writing songs! We’ve been living a simple life these days and that’s actually a great thing sometimes. I just started watching Ozarkon Netflix, finally, which is perfect for this quarantine! I’m always down for an epic drug/murder/survival story. Oh, and wine.
WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or cancelled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed, rescheduled or cancelled tour dates. Most of the world has been on an indefinite pause. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career?
JS: This has got to be the hardest part of it all for me. I’ve also had to cancel shows, but, most significantly, literally one week before the pandemic really hit NYC, I was in the studio with my band and producer (Reed Black of Vinegar Hill Sound) tracking my next record. We spent two full days laying down all the music and scratch vocals for 10 tracks, and I was so hyped and excited for the next two months of recording all the overdubs, lead vocals, background vocals and getting that final mix completed. Now, we must wait. Luckily though, we have the rough mixes to listen to and some of my band members are working on and planning overdubs at home. It’s frustrating but I’m still so grateful to have had those days in the studio. What we have already, sounds amazing!
WRH: How did you get into music?
JS: I’ve been singing all my life. My father played guitar around the house throughout my childhood, and so at a young age I was singing classic rock and soul music to my family. “The House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals), “Bring it on Home to Me” (Sam Cooke) and “To Love Somebody” (Bee Gees) were my first covers!
I also went to Catholic school as a girl where the nuns always made me sing the solos at the Christmas and Easter performances. And of course, I was singing in Church every week. That really helped shaped me as a singer because I was taught to belt without shame because it was a “gift”, so I have always been a loud singer, haha. I’m not religious anymore (thankfully), but man, I love me some Church hymns! And there is nothing like the acoustics in a Cathedral.
WRH: I’ve probably referenced Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” more times than any other journalist in town. I think of a certain synth sound – and that song comes to mind. Plus, I love that song.
I know that Stevie Nicks is a big influence on you. What’s your favorite all-time Stevie Nicks song?
JS: One thing I really love about Stevie, which I read in her biography a few years ago (by Zoe Howe), and that I can totally relate to, was that she didn’t have any formal musical education. She just had her gorgeous melodies and emotional lyrics and really, just a simple catalog of basic chords. Lindsey [Buckingham] would get frustrated with her because he’d have to finesse her songs so much to make them work. “Dreams,” for instance, only has 2 chords! But her songs were always their biggest hits. She tapped into an emotion and style and energy that people love and her voice is just absolutely unique and powerful. In a way, the reason she was so successful with her songwriting was because she wasn’t trapped in a musical box. She would write whatever she felt, and her uniqueness and melodies were memorable and beautiful. She inspires me so much! It’s nearly impossible to choose one favorite Stevie Nicks song, but I’ll go with “Edge of Seventeen.” A close second is probably “Landslide.”
WRH: Your first release was an EDM-like collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13. Since then your sound has gone through a dramatic change. How did that come about? How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with you and your sound?
JS: After my old band broke up in 2014, I was searching for new musical collaborations on Craigslist. I connected with Sizigi over email and we decided to make a song together. One song led to four, over the course of a few months. I knew going in, EDM wasn’t going to be my personal sound forever, but I was down for the challenge of writing to existing beats and learning to record all my vocals at home with GarageBand. I bought a microphone and set up a vocal booth in my closet with towels on the doors to pad the sound. I learned to edit. I love my lyrics and vocals on those songs, and I am very proud of the work I did. So, ultimately, I chose to have the record mastered and to release the 4 song EP independently. It was a stepping-stone for me.
The music I make now is all me though. I pen all of the lyrics and write the melodies on guitar, or sometimes I use my Omnichord (a vintage electronic harp/synthesizer from the 80s, which is AMAZING) and then my band brings it all to life! My sound can be described as indie rock soul. I love the Alabama Shakes so that’s a decent comparison, I hope. The lyrics are evocative and dramatic, and the music is organic rock, but I always sing with soul. I also love to explore the saint and the sinner in all of us and tap into themes from my Catholic upbringing — like with “The Convent” from my last record Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth and “Purgatory Road” which will be on my next record. I am inspired by elements of the occult (tarot cards, following your intuition, voodoo) and I use nature and other metaphors to write about complicated relationships.
JS: It feels amazing! I am so lucky to have played a small part in Rockwood’s incredible history. It was an absolute honor to play the stage that night, and to join that list of talented artists. Rockwood Music Hall was the first place I ever played in NYC. I remember getting an early Saturday afternoon acoustic slot with my old guitarist and playing to a mostly empty room. It was still so damn exciting to me, the opportunity to play that famous stage. Fast forward a few years later to my packed record release show on Stage 1 and then my graduation to Stage 2, last year. Rockwood has supported me since Day 1 and to help celebrate their anniversary, on the very stage where it all began for me, made me so proud!
WRH: Your Rockwood Music Hall set included a cover of one of my favorite Lead Belly songs ever “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” It’s one of those songs that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be covered a whole lot. So, what drew you to the song? And how much does the blues influence you?
JS: I have been listening to Lead Belly for a very long time. I only knew his version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and never actually heard Nirvana’s version until many years later, which is what I think most people think of when they hear that song these days. I used to love singing that song in the car with my boyfriend. We each took a verse. It always seemed so chilling and powerful and it really tells a story that leaves you wanting more. You are right though, it’s not covered a whole lot and when we first tried in rehearsal, we knew it would kill. Everyone really responds to that one.
WRH: How do you know when you have a finished song?
JS: I know a song is finished when I love the melody and lyrics enough to play it over and over again, day after day and when I can get lost developing the vocal runs. A good sign is when my family really responds to it as well. I also think nailing the bridge usually seals the deal for me. That’s when I write over my penciled lyrics and chords, in my black, Papermate flair pen and make it final!
I’m not a person who usually tinkers on a song for years though. I write most songs in a few hours, or a couple of days or maybe, up to a week. I like to capture the emotion of a sentiment and get most of it right and then move on to the next song. In all honesty, the best songs write themselves in 10 minutes! I actually wrote my new single “I Wash My Hands” quickly like that.
WRH: Your latest single “I Wash My Hands” and its accompanying video officially drops today. It’s a gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock song, a weary lament of someone who’s desperate to move on from a relationship or some other major life tie. You wouldn’t have known this at the time, but the song has an eerie double meaning that reflects our current moment of uncertainty and fear. Curiously, how does it feel to have written something that initially was supposed to be about something specific that suddenly transforms into something altogether different?
JS: Thanks. I think the lyrics are very relatable for anyone in a long-term relationship who understands that compromise and respect are needed for a couple to survive and more importantly, thrive. But in this unprecedented moment in our lives, that can also be said about humans and our planet. Fear of Covid-19 leaves us all washing our hands like never before, so now, this track also invokes Mother Nature’s demand for more respect. She is also washing her hands of our abuse, forcing us all to pause while she shows us just how powerful she is. It’s humbling.
WRH: The video for the song is pretty intimate almost home video-like visual, as it features a collection of loved ones, including family and friends lip synching along to the song – while they’re in quarantine. How did you come about the concept? And how did it feel to have your loved ones participate in the video?
JS: Last week, mybrother Chris and I were talking on FaceTime, about the need for interconnectedness even while social distancing. We thought about how lonely people are, even though we are Zooming and chatting on the phone, more than ever.
We thought it would be really special if I could get some of my friends and family to lip-synch parts of this song and create a montage. Video production resources are limited here in quarantine, but everybody has a phone with a camera and time on their hands!
The video is like being on a Zoom call but this one makes me feel so happy every time I watch it! It’s all my favorite people singing my song. People in Brooklyn, California, Detroit, New Jersey, New England, and even as far as Kenya! Everyone just really came through and had fun with this project, including my voice students, family members and close friends. People I haven’t seen in two months or more! I don’t know when I’ll see them again frankly, but the video makes me feel connected to them and I think it makes them all feel connected to each other. I love it so much.
WRH: What’s next for you?
JS: While I’m quarantined, I’m going to keep making art. Keep writing music. Keep singing.
I’m also going to continue to work on my next album. Right now, the plan is to release it in the Fall, so I’ve got shows to book and all the pieces in between to plan. Follow me on Instagram (@sheissilva) for all updates, single and video releases and of course, details about the album release party and tour dates.
Please stay safe and healthy, everyone. I’m sending vibes to you all. We will get through this. And I think we will be stronger for it. And don’t forget to keep washing your hands!
Led by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Ambrose Kenny-Smith and featuring Kenny-Smith’s bandmate Cook Craig, as well as Cal Shortal, Matt Blach and Tim Karmouche, The Murlocs specialize in a fuzzy and distorted psych blues. In their native Australia, they’ve played across their homeland’s festival circuit and have opened for the likes of internationally acclaimed acts like Gary Clark, Jr., Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Pixies, Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Wavves and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Building upon a growing profile, the Aussie quintet’s forthcoming Stu Mackenzie-produced third full-length effort, Manic Candid Episode is slated for a March 22, 2019 release through Flightless Records. The album’s second and latest single “Withstand” is a swaggering and strutting blues ripper that nods at classic glam rock, complete with rousingly anthemic, shout-along worthy hooks, explosive blasts of harmonica and big, distortion-filled power chords. Sonically, the track — to my ears, at least — brings T. Rex, Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and King Bee-era Muddy Waters to my mind but with a lysergic haze. Fittingly, the Alex McLaren-created video for the song draws from classic 60s and 70s rock promotional videos, as it features the members of The Murlocs performing the song in front of a psychedelic backdrop.
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve written about Ward, but as it turns out, along with a busy touring schedule, the renowned multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter had been busy writing the material that would eventually comprise her forthcoming (and long-awaited) sophomore effort The Storm, which is slated for a June 30, 2017 release. The album’s latest single “Help Me Mama” is a strutting and swaggering track that pairs Ward’s powerhouse and soulful vocals with stomping and bluesy production consisting of strummed acoustic guitar, tweeter and woofer rocking low end, twinkling piano, whirring synths and electronics, and an rousingly anthemic hook in a song that’s rooted around viscerally candid personal revelations. Naturally, the single will further cement Ward’s reputation for crafting deeply personal, sultry and anthemic pop with a blues meets hip-hop swagger in a way that nods at Amy Winehouse, Hannah Williams and others — and perhaps more important for that impressive voice. Simply put, girl can sang.
Ward will be on tour throughout June and it includes a June 14, 2017 stop at Le Poisson Rouge. And then during the fall, Ward will join Icelandic rock at Kaleo for a series of Stateside dates. Check out the tour dates below.
With the release of his 2013 full-length debut effort to critical acclaim, Ghosts In The Attic, Austin, TX-based indie folk singer/songwriter Reed Turner exploded on to the national map. As a result of the attention on the album, Turner wound up sharing stages with an impressive list of acclaimed artists including Gary Clark, Jr., Mark Broussard, Will Hoge and Jessica Lea Mayfield, among many others — and the album wound up on several “Best Of” lists that year.
After a year of solitude marked by health issues, Turner turned his backyard shed into a makeshift workspace and studio, compelled to create rather than wallow. Along with his backing band, Turner and company wrote and recorded material that would wind up comprising his forthcoming Native Tongue EP live to tape on an old Studer A827, much like how they did during the Sun Records days.
As you’ll hear on Native Tongue‘s first single and EP opening track “I Got Love” possesses a bluesy, shuffling stomp and swing reminiscent of Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf — in particular I think of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “Get Rhythm,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “Poor Boy (The London Sessions version),” Muddy Waters’ “Mean Ol’ Frisco Blues,” and Bo Diddley‘s “Who Do You Love” (although George Thorogood‘s version is infinitely better). And much like those songs, it feels as though it could have been recorded around that period, as it possesses the looseness of a band playing at a dirty whiskey bar or an old fashioned honky tonk. But interestingly enough the song balances an old-timey sweetness beneath the stomp and braggadocio; it’s the sort of song you’d can picture couples line dancing, swing dancing or blues dancing late into the night.
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