“That was a big moment, who would’ve thought it.” says Easy Life head honcho Murray at the mention of Leicester City’s recent FA Cup victory. “That was just crazy, wasn’t it? An incredible a really good game to watch.”
The path of pop and football often intertwine so when you have unexpected success for a small team, it is only natural that the likes of Match of the Day Extra would come calling for Leicester’s musical upstarts to make an appearance.
Likewise, in musical terms its nice to see acts emerge from small towns and inject a different world view into the mix. That’s exactly what happened with Easy Life’s debut album ‘Life’s A Beach’, which shot to the top of the charts thanks to Murray’s honest-to-a-fault lyrics, which give an unvarnished view of the day-to-day existence for the 99% in 2021.
“I just write about what it is that I see in the street. I literally live a very normal existence,” says Murray, when we enquire about the kitchen sink commentary of his lyrics.
“I always feel like what I see and feel, I’m sure other people see and feel too, so it’s a bit of a no brainer for me.”
“I just sort of write things down on my phone that I happen to come across and I know for sure other people will come across those things too, so there’s no magic in it… it’s like a diary that I just happen to have people read,” says Murray before half-jokingly noting “it’s very exposing, but it’s alright.”
“One thing that we were really conscious of in this record was not just putting ideas in for the sake of it, which is definitely something we’ve been guilty of in the past”
Murray is surprisingly bashful and self-deprecating when it comes to talking about his skills as a writer, believing himself to be a mirror rather than a creative force as a songwriter.
“Almost every single time it’s real life, I don’t have a great imagination,” he states, before noting that on some of the material he is currently writing for future Easy Life releases he sometimes uses hypothetical situations, “but they will always sort of be exaggerations of the truth for comic effect.”
“On this album though… it’s always things that I’ve seen, things that have happened. And I think that I would struggle to write something completely made up, though I would like to.”
“I just don’t think it’s my style,” says Murray, when we interject to tell him that he is clearly selling himself short. “I feel like the only thing I have is my eyes though they’re not very good either [moves glasses for comic effect], but with these glasses that we’ve been gifted – they work pretty good – that’s the only tool I have in the arsenal really. I don’t have a great imagination, I just use my eyes.”
“I like the world that we live in. I think it’s a terrible, terrible world but it’s a beautiful world, so why not talk about real things that happen in the real world to real people, because I think those things are worth talking about.”
It’s this authentic approach to life and song-writing which has marked the group out from the crowd and powered Easy Life’s meteoric rise to the top of the charts.
“I think the things we talk about are very important; they should be spoken about, but I don’t know why it is unique that we speak about them because for me it’s like what else would you speak about? All these things seem really important to me so why not write songs about them?”
“I've always written a lot of the music on my own ... and done a lot of the production on a laptop, so we're quite sort of hip hop in that way"
When it comes to a debut album, bands are often torn between doing a best-of-so-far and some new tracks or going down the route of creating a totally new set of material but for Easy Life and Murray there was only ever one option, brand new material and even their biggest song to date, Nightmares, wasn’t assured a place on the record.
“We put Nightmares on the album because it’s our biggest song. It was only a single and it felt like it needed a home on a body of work. but in answer to your question, I hate it when bands do that,” says Murray.
“As a kid, I used to freak out when you’d bought all the singles and then you buy the album and it’s just all the songs you’ve already got and it’s like ‘you’ve literally done me so dirty there’.
“I’m in the game of writing songs. I write hundreds of songs so it was a no brainer for me to just put a fresh album out,” he expands. “I didn’t want to do a best of, it was even a struggle to put Nightmares on there.
“For a while we weren’t going to do it but then it was like ‘we’ve got to’ because when we look back at the debut album, we don’t want to forget how important Nightmares was in that journey.”
For a prolific writer like Murray, who is used to working remotely with people, the pandemic offered him the chance to concentrate fully on writing new material and finishing off ideas that he perhaps wouldn’t have had the chance to pursue if the band had been touring.
“What the pandemic allowed for us to do is pick up old stuff which we hadn’t got right and say ‘what needs to happen to this song?’ because I know there’s a song in there. Songs like Compliments, Living Strange and a Message To Myself,” explains Murray.
“I’ve always written a lot of the music on my own anyway and done a lot of the production on a laptop, so we’re quite sort of hip hop in that way, you just need a laptop and nothing else,” explains Murray, noting how the solitary nature of lockdown did anything but stymie his creativity.
“We’ve grown very attuned to being separated geographically, but still working so it was fine. My main co-writer is a guy called Rob (Milton) who produced a lot of the album with me, we’ve always worked remotely anyway.
“I think we were quite blessed in that we were set up for working like this anyway… if anything it was actually a good thing because I had more time so it was pretty useful for the album really. There’s been so much time and I just use music to cure my boredom anyway so I’ve been very bored so I’ve been writing a lot of music, you know.”
“When I go in on a project, I get tunnel vision. I just basically listened to Life's A Beach for six months straight and not a lot else”
‘Life’s A Beach’ commences with Murray cajoling himself to get down to business and back himself to create something worthwhile and culminates in Murray trying to get home bladdered, having achieved what he set out to do along the way. That narrative is reflective of Murray’s own experiences creating the record.
“A Message To Myself came at the beginning of the album because it was like ‘okay, man’, shaking myself, ‘you’ve got this, okay bro, let’s make this album, lets go’.
“I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that myself. I need to be reassured. I’m a quite anxious individual. Past Murray telling present Murray that ‘you’ve got this’ is useful for me. I need that reassurance in my life. And then by the time you get to the end it’s like ‘thank god that’s over, let’s get absolutely blind drunk and try and walk home’.”
Regardless of the chart placements and streaming figures, Murray claims that the most joyous aspect of being in Easy Life is the process of creation rather than the end product that excites him.
“I like the album, but I’m not going to listen to it. It was all about the process for me, I’m super happy that it’s been made and the way it was made was a beautiful process, so I’m glad it’s made but I’m not too bothered about the end result of anything that I do really,” says Murray.
“When you just create something from nothing it’s a little bit of magic for a few seconds, it’s a very unique feeling and something I sort of crave every day you know,” explains Murray, on the buzz he gets from creating music.
“For this album we were quite obsessed with Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas,” he explains, when we enquire about the album’s cover and the recurring watery imagery that band use in their artwork and videos.
“You know how water can warp perspective, and the idea of being on drugs and what that would look like, and we got quite obsessed with this idea – we’ve always been obsessed with surrealism.
“Another one of our collaborators is a guy called Greg Barth who makes a lot of our videos. Our videos always have an element of the surreal and the otherworldly and the strange and for us putting the car in the middle of the ocean – it was like an impossible thing to have happened and I liked that idea.”
"All these things seem really important to me so why not write songs about them?”
Indeed, perspective is a key element to everything Easy Life do whether it be examining grim realities of everyday life of the warped reflections of an evening getting a little bit high. Or the little lie we tell ourselves to muddle through.
“Life’s A Beach is more an outlook than a reality. Let’s just pretend everything is okay, even though it’s not, but in a way the pretence of saying ‘everything’s fine’ does make things feel a little bit better anyway so you’re almost halfway there. The reality is that actually, we’re all just stuck in a car drowning. It’s horrible, but we can pretend it’s alright. We can smile whilst drowning, can’t we?”
To help them achieve the sonic feel required for the album’s narrative to succeed meant that the group would often have to make decisions that put the tracks required ahead of their individual egos.
“One thing that we were really conscious of in this record was not just putting ideas in for the sake of it, which is definitely something we’ve been guilty of in the past,” explains Murray, noting “just because you can play doesn’t mean you should.”
Murray outlines the make-up of Ocean View as an example of when the album benefited from a lack of instrumentation.
“Ocean View is literally just a sample that we cut: a kick drum, a snare drum, a keyboard and a bass. There’s only 5 elements in the mix so you can be really adventurous. You can boost a lot of frequencies in the mix that you wouldn’t be able to if it was cluttered, so all of a sudden you have a really big sound from just 4 or 5 instruments.
“I think there’s something really special about when you strip things back to what is essential and just have those things really loud and brave. And I think it’s a cool move and one that we were trying to do, but then you have other songs like Music to Walk Home To which is just littered with ideas and frenzied and trying to mimic the frantic nature of the return journey home.
“And then when you have more beautiful things like Compliments, it is again stripped back down to the core of the chords and the melody, but I think it’s nice to mimic the subject matter with the production – when things are frantic, have them frantic.
“Living Strange is the most frenzied song ever, organ solos and shit kicking off all over the place. I think it is nice to have moments like that, but as long as you can counter it with really raw stripped back beautiful moments in the album, then you get the best of both worlds.”
"I don’t have a great imagination, I just use my eyes”
“I kept saying to everyone that I need to listen to more music because I just listen to this album all the time. I just listened to our own shit. I got so into it.” says Murray, when we enquire what music he was vibing off of himself during the period the album was being recorded in.
“When I go in on a project, I get tunnel vision. I just basically listened to Life’s A Beach for six months straight and not a lot else.”
“I’ve never thought about releasing instrumentals” states Murray, quizzically, pondering the prospect of lifting the lid on the tracks.
“I think it’s an interesting perspective because naturally the human ear is drawn to the lyrics and the vocal and if you take that away, I think you would end up finding a load of stuff you didn’t even know was there. I certainly do that when I hear an instrumental of a song I’m like ‘wow, this is such a beautiful arrangement, I had no idea’, especially rap songs.”
At the mention of rap we enquire if Murray is familiar with our own jazz-tinged, observational rapper extraordinaire Kojaque, a subject Murray is all too keen to expand upon.
“Kojaque, man, let me talk about Kojaque. I love Kojaque, he is the coolest shit ever. I was very lucky to meet him a few months back and call him a friend. He’s wicked man, I love him. I’m super inspired by that whole scene. Kojaque, Biig Piig and Arlo – who we were lucky enough to work with.”
“I don’t know if I can call it a scene because it’s not a scene in the old sense of the word but there is a community, and we all talk to each other and it’s really nice.”
“For what it’s worth, I think Kojaque is terribly underrated. I don’t know why he isn’t huge. I think he’s one of the best lyricists about,” he adds.
Easy Life play The Olympia Theatre, Dublin on November 22nd 2021.