Matthew “Murph” Murphy has found success as the lead singer and guitarist of the UK winsome pop collective the Wombats by doing two things very well: writing intensely memorable songs and touring the living hell out of them.
The Wombats’ wry, funny, and relatable lyrics have lead them to become indie-rock figureheads, but the band has managed to entertain through a seemingly never-ending series of tours, crisscrossing the US and UK and sometimes hitting the same cities multiple times within the same year. It’s for this reason that the Wombats’ last album, 2018’s Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, although a bit of an artistic holding pattern for the band, nonetheless managed to debut in the Top Three of the UK album charts despite having no charting singles to accompany it. Their fanbase is ever-passionate, and Murphy, if anything, has remained an incredibly consistent songwriter over the past decade.
So it may serve as a surprise to some, then, that Murphy is gearing up for a solo project called Love Fame Tragedy. Murphy’s winsome look at romance in the modern era remains fully intact. But there’s a bit more rawness to the recordings, which may be in part due to the giant lineup of famous friends he’s gathered to help with the recording sessions for his debut EP, I Don’t Want to Play the Victim, But I’m Really Good at It. Over the record’s four songs, Joey Santiago of the Pixies, Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain, and Gus Unger-Hamilton of Alt-J all swing by to give Murph’s sound that distinct new edge.
To mark the debut of the single “My Cheating Heart” (with the EP dropping just a few scant months after), Murphy sat down for a Fave Five with PopMatters that resulted, of course, in “The Five Artists/Bands that have influenced I Don’t Want to Play the Victim, But I’m Really Good at It EP”. Even if some of the artists aren’t sonically referenced on Love Fame Tragedy’s debut, the lessons learned from them absolutely are.
I’m not sure if there’s even a single second on this EP that sounds like anything Bowie has done, but he was such a huge inspiration behind starting the project in the first place. He would always champion an artist by putting themselves in a difficult, new, and/or weird position in order to create their best work. I tried to do this as many times as possible and am really glad that I did.
Florence + The Machine
Florence’s mega handsome bass player gave me tickets for her show at The Hollywood Bowl last year. She is incredible of course, but I was really blown away by the band that was accompanying her. It reminded me of the benefits of surrounding yourself by immensely talented musicians. Being primarily a songwriter, it’s often easy to forget how important it is to be technically proficient on an instrument. I therefore made sure to get some awesome musicians to play on the EP.
I love how brutal and cutting some of this man’s lyrics can be. There’s something about a mega personal, “to the point” lyric that has the ability to resonate much more with people than an ambiguous one. I mean, singing about how you had a threesome before you go and see the person you’re kind of in a relationship with is next level and I applaud that! There are certainly a few lyrics on I Don’t Want to Play the Victim, But I’m Really Good at It that are close to the bone and wind my wife up the wrong way.
I wanted to make sure that all guitars had that gritty, distorted overly processed guitar sound that bands like Weezer and The Pixies really pioneered in the ’90s. Unlike a lot of things in popular music, I just don’t think that stuff has a “sell by date.” I’m mainly referring to the guitar solo on “My Cheating Heart” (the first single), and that kind of sounds like a bee on drugs buzzing around inside a coke can.
I think self-depreciation is important in music, there such an art to saying something really serious in a humorous way. I think Jarvis Cocker (Pulp) nailed this, along with people like Morrissey and Elliot Smith. To me even the tiniest amount of humor in a song can give it more depth. I’m not saying I’m listening to “Weird Al” Yankovic day in and day out. But I think that describing something completely heart breaking and earth shattering in a colorful and lighthearted way can occasionally, not always but occasionally, make it way more powerful than all the seriousness in the world.