The four-piece, Halifax-based Walrus began as a two-man home recording project for brothers Justin and Jordan Murphy. Their music is often described as psychedelic pop, their sound inspired by an alternative tradition rooted in the mind-expanding experiments of the sixties. Their name was inspired by the Beatles, whom they cite as a major influence. Their EP Good-bye Something having been recently nominated for Alternative Recording of the Year by Music Nova Scotia, Walrus is still touring, touring, touring.
Recently Justin Murphy, the band’s lead singer, took the time to answer our questions about their music and influences.
What role did music play in your childhood?
Music was huge growing up. My dad’s a huge music fan, and he introduced me and my brother to so much good shit at a young age, mostly ’60s and ’70s music like The Beatles, CSNY, and The Stones, a bunch of stuff I still love.
My brother, being a few years older than me, started to develop a cool taste in music before I was really getting into it, so I would find a lot of cool bands through him.
I started playing guitar around 10 or 11 but never really got into songwriting until I was 19. I think it was a confidence thing; I always had anxiety about putting myself out there and playing for people, but once I got over that things got a lot easier and I was more comfortable with writing, performing, and everything else.
What or who in your musical training had the most—and best—influence on you, creatively?
Probably my brother; we like all the same stuff, and he’s always the first person I’ll show a new song to. He’s always the most excited, too. He’s tells me when he likes something, and having a person tell me when they dig something, especially knowing we see eye to eye on the music, makes me more confident in a new song or idea.
What was the most mesmerizing musical experience of your life?
I think just being in the studio recently when we came back to record two new songs that will be on our upcoming LP, and hearing how much better we felt they were than the previous batch (not that we think those ones are bad). We took a step back and thought, Holy shit, there’s progress in what we do as a band. We can see little things growing in song structure and how we fill the songs out. It makes us believe in what we do much more when we can see it grow.
How did that sixties-style psychedelic aesthetic develop?
Not sure how it developed. We get told a lot that we have a ’60s sound, but it’s not really something that we try to push ourselves to do, at least not that I see. But I’d rather be the ’60s than the ’80s.
Is Halifax a creativity-enhancing city for you?
I’ve definitely found Halifax to be creativity-enhancing, at least for a while. There were a lot of bands and a super vibrant scene out here, but lately I’ve found it personally not such a creative place for myself. Maybe it’s because the scene is changing or because I’m stagnating after having been here so long. I’d welcome a change soon.
What’s the difference between your Nova Scotia audiences and audiences from the other provinces?
I think we play outside of Nova Scotia a lot more than we play within our province. We definitely play outside more than we play Halifax. Our audiences are typically good in Halifax and responsive for sure, and its always nice to play for your friends, but we tour around so much that a lot of places have started to feel like homes away from home. It’s nice.
What do you like best about Goodbye Something so far?
It’s just nice to have something new out. We’d gone a while without releasing any new music, but we’d been touring a lot, so it’s nice to have reception from new music rather than just reception from shows. I can’t wait until we put something new out again; it’s always a breath of fresh air, like, “Okay, now we can move on to the next thing.”
If your life were a movie, what kinds of scenes would make you laugh? Or cry?
Any scene with Keith in it would make me cry; he just knows how to pull my heart strings.
What conditions do you require in your life in order to go on being creative?
Structure, stability, and focus.
What do you feed your muse? Are there any books, films, or albums that have deeply influenced your development as an artist?
Comfort albums feed my music— old Beatles albums and a few other ones. When I’m in a music lull I always come back to the stuff I love the most and it helps me find my way.
Tell us about your upcoming projects.
We have an album that we’re just finishing up, a full-length LP. That will be out soonish, and I’m sure we’ll tour until we die, which is always fun. Plus, we have a music video or two coming out soon. Lots of fun stuff, you’ll see.