Father Murphy is the sound of the Catholic sense of Guilt. A downward spiral aiming at the bottom of the hollow, and then digging even deeper. Through the years the band became one of the most peculiar musical entities coming out of Italy. The duo, well known for their really intense live shows, something in between a ritual and an artistic performance, furiously performed all over Europe, and toured North America. Their latest album titled Rising. A Requiem for Father Murphy was announced as their final. It was released in April 2018 by Avant! Records and Ramp Local. Rising. A Requiem for Father Murphy was recently released.
We released the album back in April, and we have been touring to promote it since. We announced it as our final album, with final tour dates to follow: a long series of Celebration of Life, Father Murphy’s and ours; a long cheers to the End and to Change as concepts, where to find rest and freedom.
From the very first recording session, with Italian composer Luca Garino recording C. Lee and I while digging our own graves, we knew that the only way to put sincere feelings of an end to come in this album was for it to be not only our final release, but also the final step for the duo experience. When promoting Croceand the Trilogy of the Cross, both Chiara and I understood that times were near to approach the requiem format. And we already knew that the most powerful and personal way to write a requiem was for us to commemorate with it our dear Father Murphy himself.
With Father Murphy having to face his own end it came natural for the band to share the same fate.
Where did you record it?
We recorded the album at O.F.F. Studio in Torino with Paul Beauchamp, with whom we already collaborated for our previous Ep release Lamentations. We are big fans of Paul’s work, not only as a sound engineer but also as a musician (we strongly advice to listen to the two albums he released for Boring Machines, Pondfire and Grey Mornings).
As for the field recordings contained on the record they were recorded by Italian composer Luca Garino: the act of digging the grave was recorded on the Remembrance Park, on the hills surrounding Torino, from where one’s can have a spectacular view on the city. The maggots were recorded at our place (and then we did free them in the same place where we dug the graves); the woodworms were recorded by Luca on his own, who spent nights recording the insects slowly eating out an old wooden closet that in our minds represented the coffin containing Father Murphy.
Ariadne’s contribution was recorded in their own studio in NYC, while some other sounds were recorded at our own studio.
As you can see, we like to add different sources to help create and forge an ever evolving sound. The way the textures of the different sounds fit together has always been fascinating to us. Organic sounds become electronic inputs, that layer up until creating harmonies as atmospheres.
What was the songwriting process like?
We started from the classic requiem format, from the titles to the number of tracks, we took inspiration from the original lyrics for each song, for then rewriting the words, adapting them to the story we wanted to tell, to the idea of an end that develops throughout the whole album. For the very first time we faced rigid schemes of rhymes and syllable, for instance in “Sequence”. We wrote most of the songs starting from an old harmonium, singing on it as we were used to do when we were kids in the church. Even the more ambient tracks come from melodies we found ourselves first mumbling, humming and then singing. The good memory we want to keep of the church is that there was always music in the air, and we tried to communicate that on the album with the songwriting.
Is there a certain concept behind it?
Yep. It’s a requiem.
How would you compare it to previous work?
Each release of ours relies to a concept, as each release is a different step in a path, in the legend of Father Murphy.
The main difference I can trace in Rising. A Requiem for Father Murphy is that prior to it every album’s concept somehow anticipated and revealed the next chapter, the next step to take while, both concept wise and sonically. Rising comes as end, it brings everything together; it does allow us to step aside from the whole thing in order for us to sing our praises to Father Murphy.
Who is behind the artwork for your latest release?
Since 2006 I saw seven horns rising from the sea when a rooster sang for the third time EP our artworks have always been determined by Californian artist Vinh Ngo’s visions. I believe Vinh is able to visualize our music, even before listening to it, relying first on the words we use by time to time to describe this or that track/movement; he always has a clear vision of how an artwork has to be and why. I think that sometimes Vinh with his work displayed for us in advance possible future paths our music could take; he’s been our medium from this world to another. It’s a strong and very tight collaboration. Over the years he also provided some lyrics for some of the tracks I personally love the most.
After we started working together it was clear that it was going to be until the Path was no longer.
What would you say influenced you the most? Have influences changed during the years?
Both C. Lee and I started singing and playing in the local church. Our first and main influence sits on those moments, in that atmosphere. I particularly have fond memories of the Easter procession, the whole community walking around the parish, following the priest voice, with spare percussions to give the procession pace and the light of candles to illuminate the path. That idea of such a ritual still remains with me to these days.
Then of course we had the chance to tour and perform with so many great artists that kept giving us so much new and fresh inputs throughout the years. We strongly believe that at least in these past 15 years we’ve been existing as FM the best music we found was in the underground scene. And those same artists/bands are among our favourites ever.
When and how did you all originally meet?
The Legend reads that Reverend Murphy had one son and a daughter. When he died the son lived for a while in NYC, while the daughter moved to China. When we first met, C. Lee and I were exactly like them: I was in Brooklyn, C. Lee was in Shanghai. That was somehow the beginning of our path, when we first thought that we could use that coincidence as actually a predetermined sign we had to work on something together.
What does the name “Father Murphy” refer to in the context of the band name? Who came up with and how did you go about choosing it?
The name comes from the main character of William S. Burroughs short novel “The Priest they called him”. The same character (Father Murphy) was also portrait by Burroughs in Gus Van Sant movie “Drugstore Cowboy”.
After finding writing and performing music so cathartic in order to express and somehow digest the Catholic Sense of Guilt left by the Christian heritage, we decided to embark on a journey in the attempt to tell a story. We didn’t want to be the main characters, we needed our personal saint, hero, martyr to commemorate. In all his work Burroughs was writing his own legend. As for us we decided we wanted to be Father Murphy’s hagiographers. I don’t recall who came up with the name, it possibly happen that it (the name) chose us instead.
What do you consider to be your first real exposure to music?
Again I have to answer saying that it all happened in church. In the church there was always music in the air. We both sang on the church choir, we both learned to play our first notes on a harmonium. We felt there was something magic in that atmosphere. After all these years I can now see how it was always the music the main attraction, the magnet drawing us back. Thank God when they introduced the (so much hated) acoustic guitars in the 80’s, so we finally were able to detach ourselves from that environment. We did keep the music though.
How was touring so far?
We spent most of the past 10 years touring. That’s who we are, and what we do best. Then a final tour, a long list of farewell rituals. We possibly never felt the people, the audience so close, as I believe we never went before for a so personal output. In the live performance, we ask the audience to let us take them by hands and lead them to a place where we like to think the atmosphere is not repellent; the listener is rather asked to come closer, to witness the ritual, to feel it. We open up to our own melancholy and sadness, they tune in, and we allow ourselves to fully feel sensations and feelings of an end that will always come.
Even if it looks a bit surreal that we’re approaching the end of our experience as Father Murphy, we’re both so happy we chose this, as we always want to be as open and self conscious as possible to enchanted. Change is freedom. A new kind of life. We’ll see what happens next.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?
MMMD – Mohammad are the first to come to mind, we just played with them at Zemlika Festival in Latvia (an absolutely wonderful little festival I strongly suggest everyone to discover); they sound like a gigantic wave about to crush on the land, but as in slow motion so that you can look and appreciate every detail of this natural event before the tremendous impact.
We asked NYC duo Ariadne to take part to our Rising after having the chance to perform twice with them, their sonic research sounds so fresh and fascinating.
We didn’t have the chance to share a stage with them, but surely another duo, Indonesian Senyawa, are among our favourite, with their unique blend of Indonesian folklore and obscure/distorted heavy music.
Jarboe, that we feel so close to especially after having the chance to perform together and releasing a collaborative EP.
Meeting and working with Luca’s been crucial in our path. His work for Father Murphy is a vivid representation of our music; before meeting him I believe we were making soundtracks for imaginary movies we could only see in our heads; after we started working together if I close my eyes while listening to our music I see Luca’s videos, even the ones he didn’t film; his imagery is so strong and I feel it so close, so familiar that it’s the best way to visually represent the idea behind our sounds. In general we love Luca’s work, not only the world and the technique he crafted for his videos, but also his paintings, and his short novels. His writing in Italian is a slow and detailed descent into a world of words that happen slowly to reveal a meaning. The construction of the phrase sounds like if written by a non Italian speaker that anyway owns the language. In this way Luca is able to force the reader attention to every single word, starting as mentioned from the sound for then reaching the meaning, creating a result that gives you the impression to be exactly there where the situation is happening, in the weird world where Luca’s characters live. As for Burrough’s cut up, even in Luca’s work I find an incredible lucid description of a moment right before that the same exact moment happens. We started working on Luca’s first feature film, titled “The Cadence”, soundtrack; it will take some time but we are extremely happy and honored to have this project in our future and we can’t wait to 100% emerge ourselves into it.
You latest album was announced as your final. What lies ahead? Do you see your albums as chapters in books?
This is the last and final album for and by Father Murphy indeed. No more albums nor new chapters in the book.
Your music is utilizing occult, psychedelic and religious imagery. Would you like to describe your influences, ideas and notion behind Father Murphy?
We grew up going to the Church, a beautiful and terrifying place. That’s where we learned how to love music, but also where we gained so much dead weight (the Catholic Sense of Guilt) that we didn’t know how to exorcise, until we found a way to express it through the music: a long and cathartic process of spitting out this black tar. Our music, the idea behind it is a representation of this long process: we feel like most of the religious imagery we use(d) and love come from artists that spent their lives in order to come face to face with a very much similar moment/situation. The deeper we got into reading about saints, martyrs, hermits, heretics lives and work, the more we felt their research distant from any idea of God, focusing instead on a search for an idea of sublime that could bring together all the sadness, fear and despair they could feel and experience around themselves. A constant search for being able through a rigid and long process to come to terms with pain, with feelings of sadness, anxiety, allowing oneself to kind of relax into all those violent and strong feeling, accepting them. The purity of all these feelings is expressed by their cathartic power, in the fact that they reveal and disclose other options. This has been Father Murphy’s path, the notion he worked to reach and to face. We will take it from there, going different directions, feeling much lighter than when we have begun this whole journey.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
All the names we mentioned above come extremely recommended, and we will never be tired to mention Ezra Buchla, MXLX as well.
I personally want to add Leechfeast, a band I immediately started to love after assisting to their performance at Doom over Leipzig Festival last Spring. Their live show floored me and I was so happy when I found out their debut album was as as good as the live show. Lucky enough, I had the chance to listen to their upcoming EP, due in 2019, and their sound is crafting in a even more unique and personal way, distancing themselves to genres and simply delivering some of the saddest music I’ve listened in a long time. In the sadness I feel listening to their music there’s so much turmoil and acceptance, that sounds like the implosion of a ritual that’s gone too far.
Are you currently working on some other projects?
As mentioned above we are working on “The Cadence”, Luca Dipierro’s first feature film. We started working on it as Father Murphy, but the more we’re getting deep into it, collaborating in every little detail with Luca, the more we see it as a completely new project, where there’s no separation. BTW movie and soundtrack: it’s a whole new thing. So I believe it’ll be something like “a movie by Luca Dipierro, Chiara Lee and Freddie Murphy”.
The collaboration with Luca in general is also very important as it’s showing how Chiara and I want to keep working together. But, rather than starting from scratch with a new concept, we would love working on someone else imaginary. Soundtracks for either motion pictures, theater or installations sound definitely as a world we’d like at least to explore.
For instance, we already started recording sounds for next documentary movie by Italian director Davide Maldi, and we’re talking with Laimdota Malle, a Latvian artist we got to know and love after performing in Riga in a theater where an installation of her was held, to possibly contribute sounds for a future installation of hers.
Thank you. Last word is yours.
Every little fuckup and feeling of failure in our lives brought so much sense of Guilt and doubt with it that fueled our sonic research. So we can only be thankful and grateful for all of them.
With our music we learned how to experience the sense of guilt, how to express it through the cathartic aspects especially of our live performances . We became adults in all these years. Our music and Father Murphy’s legacy is a long praise to every doubt and every little failure one can experience.