Music Lives: Your new album No Great War has it’s release show coming up on November 9th. How excited are you to finally release it and what was the process like?
James Murray: I am beyond excited for this release! So much time and hard work has gone into making this record and I can’t wait to finally see it all come to fruition.
We recorded this record at Brixton Music in Kitchener. Our guitar player, Nick, runs a studio there. We went about the process very differently this time around. This time, guitar, bass and drums were done live off the floor. Not a lot of fixing and fidgeting. We took the same approach to recording this album as we take toward sex. Grip ‘er and rip ‘er. Kidding…sort of.
Our philosophy with this record was that our rhythm section (Mike and Tim) was more than solid enough to pull everything off live. And if things get loose here or there, then that’s great! The push and pull between the players in a band is part of what makes music interesting. There’s just not enough of that these days.
The process of recording took about 6 months in total but that was really a scheduling thing. Because we went live off the floor, the bed tracks for guitar, bass, and drums really only took two weekends. With that said, these songs were written two years ago and we have been road testing them for at least a year, so the entire process has been a long one. That makes us even more stoked to finally see a finished product at the album release.
ML: You released an EP earlier this year called G20 Land. Was it hard getting two projects out in one year? Does the new record have a lot of political themes as well?
JM: Yes, I released a three song EP in July of this year with some songs that I wrote that weren’t going to make it on to the full length album. They’re good songs and were definitely good enough for the album but there was just no more time to woodshed them with the band and record them. So I decided to put the G20 Land EP out in the interim. Part of the point of doing that was also so that people didn’t forget about us while we worked away at the full length album in the studio. The new record does have a lot of political themes, yes. Maybe not anything quite as starkly political as G20 Land but pretty close. Even the title track of the album, “No Great War”, is political. The idea behind that song was me wondering whether we go out of our way to manufacture war because it’s a way of testing our mettle and possibly creating a legacy (whether good or bad). My generation and younger ones have had no great war – no great sacrifice – and I wonder whether that pushes us to create conflict where there needn’t necessarily be any. I’ve always written political songs and, at least for me, it feels natural. Music is a great way to point the finger. That’s what Bob Dylan called those kind of tunes – “finger pointin’ songs”.
ML: I saw you playing a cigar box guitar this summer. Did you build it? If so, where did the idea come from and were there any challenges?
JM: Ya. I built it over the summer. I don’t recall exactly where the idea came from but I know I was searching for something that was going to give my guitar a true vintage and simple tone. People used to build guitars out of whatever they could find and then play them with a slide. There are diddly-bows with only one string as well as cigar box guitars that have only three or four strings. My cigar box guitar comes from that tradition but I’ve got a telecaster neck on it that takes six strings and one vintage single coil pick-up in it. Finding some of the needed parts was definitely a challenge. I still wish I could have tricked it out with more truly vintage parts but it was just impossible to make some of them fit together. I must say, though, I absolutely love playing that guitar. After I built it, I went back and tracked every tune on the album over again using it.
ML: How did the GFN come together, you guys seem to be all over the place geographically? Does that make it hard to practice/record/play gigs?
JM: Everything started when I had finished writing a whole bunch of tunes back in 2010. Our guitar player, Nick, owns a studio in Kitchener called Brixton Music and I went in there to demo the songs on acoustic guitar. That’s how I met Nick. I didn’t have a band at the time but I wanted to make a record. I went back to Nick’s studio with my cousins, including my bass player, Tim, and recorded the full length self-titled debut album. I still love that album and it’s still definitely The Good For Naughts but when the full band was finally able to come together regularly for rehearsal (with the addition of Mike on drums and Nick on guitar) the sound started to move in a different direction, eventually ending up where it is now.
We are certainly spread out geographically. Nick is in Kitchener, Mike is in Waterloo, I’m in Guelph and Tim is in Toronto. To be honest, it doesn’t create much of a problem. The bigger problem is trying to get everyone’s schedules to coincide. We are all either in school or working full time so organizing rehearsal or recording takes a lot of planning ahead.
ML: You’re playing with some of Guelph’s longest running/well known bands for the release. Do you feel like you have come into your own a bit on the scene? Does this change anything for you as far as looking at future opportunities?
JM: I think we’re definitely starting to carve out our place in Guelph’s scene which is fantastic. Still lots of work to do but I guess it’s safe to say we’re no longer starting out. We’re a Guelph band now and that’s exactly what we’ve been working toward. It’s taken some time to do but luckily Guelph is blessed with quite a few people who genuinely care about music and the Guelph scene. We probably don’t need to name names here (those people know who they are) but, needless to say, Guelph bands owe a huge debt to the people behind the scenes making the Guelph music community what it is. It’s going to grow, it’s going to get stronger and that’s because of those people. We feel blessed to be a Guelph band and I find it hard to think of another city on earth where I’d rather have this band. This is the place to be as far as I’m concerned. As far as future opportunities go, as an established Guelph band I think we’re ready to mount a tour and go show the rest of Canada and the U.S. the caliber of music coming out of this city.
ML: You did something that I think is absolutely brilliant having your logo made into a large stamp allowing you to make your own CD cases and other merch. It also gives your packing a kind of outlaw look. Where did that idea come from? Does it actually save you money on overhead costs? What was the name of the place you ordered it from?
JM: The stamp actually worked out really well. I made the cover of the G20 Land EP with it and it allowed me to make it on less than a shoe string budget. I think the EP cost me under $1000 from start to finish. That’s exactly where the idea came from: “how can I make this EP cool but for as little money as possible?”. I saved hundreds by using the stamp and assembling the EP myself. I even recorded the songs myself in my bedroom. After it came out, the rest of the guys in the band said to me “Dude, those tunes sound great, stop telling everyone you recorded it in your bedroom. You’re underselling it.” I thought telling everyone I recorded it at home in my undies was a good thing, not a bad thing. If anyone out there wants to make an underwear EP, call the good folks at TST Rubber Stamp in Cambridge. They were great 🙂