Walrus, on the bus between gigs.
Walrus, on the bus between gigs.

Five Questions With...Justin Murphy of Walrus

The legacy of psychedelic rock often goes beyond music in focusing on the sonic explorers who frequently paid the price for leading their audiences into the lysergic unknown. Then there is Halifax band Walrus who, despite making some of the trippiest pop-rock in Canada right now, are basically four beer drinkin’/dart smokin’ dudes whose non-musical interests lean toward hockey and wrestling.

Perhaps the band’s increasing appeal is yet another sign that our current reality is strange enough, and that the anti-image projected by artists like Mac DeMarco are what millennials crave. Nevertheless, Walrus’ debut full-length album Family Hangover, out June 8, is a kaleidoscopic journey bearing many familiar psych-rock signposts, from the fuzzed-out bliss of pioneers such as Love to the more recent wide-screen approaches of Spiritualized and Kurt Vile.

It was a mix that firmly caught the ear of Dan Mangan, who immediately signed Walrus to his Arts & Crafts subsidiary label Madic Records in 2016 after seeing one of their shows at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. The four-song Goodbye Something EP followed soon after, whereupon the band went deep with producer Charles Austin to craft Family Hangover at his Halifax studio, The Echo Chamber.

In speaking about their progress, Walrus frontman Justin Murphy displayed precisely how he and the band maintain a down-to-earth attitude, even as their music heads off into space. Walrus plays the Field Trip festival in Toronto on June 3 before heading to Europe for a two-week run of dates. You can keep track of their movements at walrustheband.com

What makes Family Hangover different from your previous work?

This album is more realized and mature than anything we've done before. We weren't trying to ingrain ourselves in a sound or anything particular, it was more about making an album we like with songs that we felt were better crafted and we definitely were more meticulous with every sound or take. 

The album is being released on Dan Mangan's label. How did that come about?

Dan was a fan of ours and really supported and backed us, and it all came from that. He's a great guy to work with and have on your side, and he's funny as hell—even though I’ve only actually met him twice. 

Your new video for the song “Regular Face” pays tribute to the late great Bob Ross of PBS’s The Joy of Painting. What about him appeals to you?

Nothing about him necessarily appealed to us, we just remembered the show from growing up. We recently re-watched some episodes and thought it would be a funny thing to recreate, and we knew that the director Jeff Miller would be able to bring it to life perfectly. 

What's your best tour story?

There are a lot of best tour stories. One, I can tell happened in Waterloo where a friend there said we could stay in his apartment. He was working late and wouldn't be there, so he explained to us that the apartment had a weird partition that separated his place from the apartment next to it. We somehow spaced out on all of his details and ended up sleeping on his neighbours’ floor. They were definitely shocked in the morning. 

If you could change anything about the music business, what would it be?

Make it more about music and less about stupid shit.

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