It’s been 12 years and four studio albums since we were introduced to The Wombats’ frontman Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy, but in 2019 a new chapter of Murph’s musical life is emerging.
Love Fame Tragedy is a new project for the 34-year-old Liverpudlian indie rocker and one that he says is a “rejuvenating” experience. It was initially conceived as a way to release some of Wombats cuts that hadn’t made their last record, 2018’s Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, but when Murph started writing, the floodgates opened and he ended up with about 20 songs that he wanted to put out.
“I wanna say there were two or three songs that weren’t on the last Wombats record and it wasn’t because they weren’t good enough; it was a multitude of reasons. So I was like, I dunno, I’ll fuckin’ slap them up online somewhere and not really think too much about it,” he says through a stifled yawn. We’ve caught him at 8am in London after a recording sesh. “But then I started writing and it snowballed and I got very excited, and now it is what it is, really.
“I was doing festivals last summer in the UK or Australia or whatever and I’d have the week off in between, so I’d kind of do some work, really,” Murph explains.
The wordy four-track EP is called I Don’t Want To Play The Victim, But I’m Really Good At It (a reference to a Picasso exhibition) and sees Murph enlist a number of big names on guest duties. It’s “not a supergroup”, he clears up early on in our chat, but with contributions from The Pixies’ Joey Santiago, Alt-J’s Gus Unger-Hamilton and ex-Soundgarden/Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain, it’s hard not to refrain using the term. First single My Cheating Heart also features model and singer Maddy Jean Waterhouse.
He downplays the features self-deprecatingly, saying he made the decision because “the cynical me is like, ‘I wanna get as many people as possible on it so I don’t have to talk about myself that much,’” but he adds, “But also, I might as well utilise all the talented people I’ve met over the last 12 years.”
“I met Joey [Santiago] from The Pixies on the Weezer tour and we hung out and got on well, so I dunno, I just texted him and he said ‘yeah whatever, I’ll come around!’ so he did. Gus [Unger-Hamilton] from Alt-J I’ve known for six years now. We’re good friends. Matt Chamberlain, that was totally random, I guess he liked the songs and went for it.”
The four songs on the EP have audibly similar ties to The Wombats’ discography, yet seem a bit more experimental. Backflip is a fuzzy, minimalist indie rock song that focuses its energy on Murph’s lyrical knack for scathing metaphors, while Pills is a dance-pop jam with breezy vocals and a catchy beat like a throbbing heart. Murph confirms he has so many songs that a full Love Fame Tragedy album will eventually be on the way, as well as another EP featuring a song he wrote with Dan Smith from Bastille.
“I think [this EP] was probably a bit more free-flowing because there was less politics and things like that. Although it’s not like with The Wombats I’m hindered for anything I wanna say or do really. But it was just… there’s obviously no pressure so when there’s no pressure all the best songs come. That was one of the things I noticed and I guess I could get away with whatever I wanted to do.
“There’s one song, that probably won’t even be released ‘til next year, but it’s SO dance. It’s ridiculous. There’s absolutely no chance I would get away with that in The Wombats. It’s really weird, this whole project goes dancey-pop to way further left than The Wombats have ever gone in being alternative, so it’s good fun.”
The best part for Aussies is that Murph’s already made plans to bring the project to us this October for Yours & Owls Festival, for one of Love Fame Tragedy’s first international tours. Currently in the process of getting together a touring band, Murph clarifies that his A-list mates won’t be touring the album with him, but in each city he’ll be trying to rope in local musicians to feature.
“I’m obviously familiar with Courtney Barnett and Amy Shark,” he replies to the possibility of having two of Australian rock's leading ladies on stage during Yours & Owls Festival. “I’m pretty open to asking literally whoever [to play with Love Fame Tragedy]. I’d be up for getting Courtney Barnett’s grandmother on a track. It’s very much play it by ear. When I’m in certain cities, if people are available then I’m sure there’ll be guest appearances.”
Love Fame Tragedy's debut EP, I Don't Want To Play The Victim, But I'm Really Good At It, is due out September 13th. They'll be playing Yours & Owls Festival on October 5th and 6th, as well as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane headline shows.