The Murlocs Find Harmony On Their New Album 'Bittersweet Demons'

The Murlocs current album is titled 'Bittersweet Demons'. The Murlocs current album is titled 'Bittersweet Demons'. Image © Joe Walker

With their latest record 'Bittersweet Demons', The Murlocs expand upon their distinct sound plunging headfirst into new depths of intimacy and expression.

While the spirits of classic rock icons like Roky Erickson and The Easybeats still pulse strong in their sensibilities, The Murlocs have cultivated fresh sonic textures, with analog synths and harmonised guitars woven into their garage-pop palates.

Frontman Ambrose Kenny-Smith explains. "I was really heavily into like Plastic Ono Band, and lots of Lennon stuff. And Harry Nilsson. . . I got really into that 'Pussy Cats' album that Lennon produced with Nilsson.

"Those are the two main references for how I wanted it to sound, because that was what I was obsessively listening to on a daily basis. The title track, 'Bittersweet Demons', is probably a good example of that."

The influence of The Beatles, Lennon, and the Plastic Ono Band shines through on several tracks across the group's discography, but finds newfound prevalence on 'Bittersweet Demons'.

"Yeah, Blachie's (Matt Blach, drummer) pretty heavily Beatles influenced," Ambrose says. "Like he used to be in a band that had perfect three-piece harmonies. . . They were sort of the darlings of the surf coast where we grew up."

Where tracks such as 'Francesca' and 'Skyrocket' carry an anthemic 1980s charge, cleverly pivoting acoustic guitar progressions drive the Dylan and McCartney-esque 'Limerence'.

"Yeah cheers, I wrote that one. . . I had this 3/4 curse for a long time. I think it's like, the Kenny in me – the Irish background.

"I kept finding myself waltzing all the time, and all the guys were giving me sh.t. There's a lot of 3/4 on the record, so hopefully I've got that out of my system! I like it too, but after a while, everything just turns into 'Lord Of The Rings'."

Diving into their love of lush vocal harmonies, The Murlocs have recently performed with the Folk Bitch Trio at several live and streamed shows, including one for KEXP Live at Home.

"I'm actually going to get them to get up and do a few songs with us like we did at Brunswick Ballroom earlier in the year at the Melbourne Forum show. Yeah, they're awesome. They're going to do some wonderful things."

'Bittersweet Demons' was primarily recorded 18-19 January 2020, with the group making the decision to track many parts live and direct to tape.

"Yeah, that was to tape! We got a tape machine in, and we did like two days of tracking all the beds mainly, overdubs on the second day, and on the third day I did some vocals and stuff.

"John Lee, who mixed it, really just nailed the mix and the vibe we were going for. He's awesome, I'm going to work with him again.

"Since then, we've made another heavy album that we've done at home, and now are working on another one, and I'm going to get [John Lee] to mix it. We sort of just stock 'em up while we're not doing anything.

"It's just hard to find good topics to write about that aren't mundane and like, 'sign of the times', haha.

"It's funny. I'll be like, whinging to Stu [Mackenzie] or someone in [King] Gizzard and he's like 'oh just write more sci-fi songs like I do!' And I'm like, 'oh, it just doesn't really get me going, trying to write about robots and stuff!' Haha. But it's been fun though.

"We've been getting heaps of stuff done. I’m about to embark on this big world tour with King Gizzard next year [2022], and yeah, I'm just keen to get it all locked and loaded."

Alongside the mountain of projects occupying Ambrose, sibling band King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are set to release 'Butterfly 3001' (21 January), a remix album of their latest electro psych-pop record with contributions from the likes of Geneva Jacuzzi, DJ Shadow, Mild High Club, Bullant and Peaches.

"Yeah, the DJ Shadow one is like the best thing I've ever heard. All of them are pretty wild and out there. I'm stoked on how diverse all of them are. It's going to be a funny thing – we've never done that before.

"There's never really a break in sight. I like keeping busy. I just really hope we can start playing some shows. We've been doing so many rehearsals. It's nice though, the muscle memory is all there.

"We had a rehearsal with Murlocs the other day and I cancelled the other ones because it all just came together so quickly."

In addition to their upcoming live dates and nation-wide tour, The Murlocs are embarking on a live scoring project at the Melbourne International Film Festival, celebrating Australian cult classic 'Two Hands' starring the late Heath Ledger.

"Oh yeah, that's going to be awesome, by the time it rolls around in [late] January. My mate Hayden who organises it called me around like February or March 2020.

"So, it's coming up to like, almost two years in the making. It's all there. It's based around maybe four main songs, and those four songs are between one and two minutes at most. Sort of replacing those [soundtrack songs] like Powderfinger songs, which is pretty daunting!

"I'm scared if we ever do it in Brisbane, if we try and like replace 'These Days' at the end!"

As a teenager Ambrose skated professionally, receiving sponsorships from Volcom and Foundation Skateboards. While some ex-skaters end up working trades, Ambrose pivoted to being a full-time rock musician.

"I still skate a bit, but I know that I can't like, push my body off certain heights or things where I might hurt myself, because I just can't risk hurting myself in any way.

"I went go-karting on the weekend for Cav's, the drummer from King Gizzard, bucks party. He wanted to go go-karting, and I was like 'oh god, here we go'. And I just like, came last in every round, got slammed, and I like, bruised my rib or something.

"I was trying to sing at Murlocs practice the other night and it was caning so hard I had to do spoken word for the set," he says with a laugh.

Despite his injuries and the always evolving list of projects and international uncertainties, Ambrose's sights are set on getting the show back on the road.

"I'm really excited to play these shows. I just hope that everyone, the audience, are all getting excited too, and are not afraid.

"It's all a bit out there in the abyss, the unknown, but it'll all start coming together. Hopefully this summer it's not too wet and cold. At least you get a bit more of that [in Queensland] than we do down here in Vic.

"I'm looking forward to coming up and playing with Murlocs on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, because I haven't been able to do that for years.

"We sort of always keep it sort of, just a Brisbane show. So I'm looking forward to being able to spend a bit more time in the state. Maybe we'll go to the beach or something."

'Bittersweet Demons' is now available.

The Murlocs 2022 Tour Dates

Sat 5 Feb - Indi Bar (Perth)* two shows at 7pm & 10pm
Sun 6 Feb - The Gov (Adelaide)
Thu 17 Feb - Theatre Royal (Castlemaine)
Fri 18 Feb - Uni Bar (Hobart)
Sat 19 Feb - Forum Melbourne
Thu 24 Feb - Manning Bar (Sydney)
Fri 25 Feb - Dicey Riley's Hotel (Wollongong)
Sat 26 Feb - Dashville Skyline (Hunter Valley)
Wed 2 Mar - Eleven Dive Bar (Sunshine Coast)
Thu 3 Mar - Princess Theatre (Brisbane)
Fri 4 Mar - Miami Marketta (Gold Coast)



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