words by sammy maine
“It’s such a nice feeling to go on stage and think that Amy Winehouse stood right here.” Amelia Murray is talking to me in the corner of Bristol venue The Louisiana – an establishment that has hosted the likes of Coldplay, The National and The Strokes before they hit the big time and as Murray looks along the postered walls, she’s still in awe of playing a headline show with her own project Fazerdaze.
The New Zealand native has just released her debut album Morningside – a lush, soft-pop indie record that begs to be played during the beginning of those summer months, when the air feels clearer and your feet feel lighter. Amidst the catchy strums and gorgeous, tinkling percussion, the debut LP is an astute comment on trying to find your way in a world that seems scary and discouraging – a feeling that a 24-year-old Murray is all too familiar with. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she says of taking a gap year ahead of her music degree at the University of Auckland. “I worked two jobs in retail, six days a week. It was really sad but it did make me have a newfound respect for people working on check-outs.”
It was during her time working as an assistant editor at NZ Musician magazine that the decision to take music on full-time finally hit. “I think I did it as a shadow career. I told myself that I couldn’t do the music thing so I thought I’d just get a job in the music industry,” she explains. “I did it for a while but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do; I really learnt that when I worked there at the magazine – my heart wasn’t in it. I was watching these awesome bands and there was nothing I wanted to do more than be a part of that instead.”
Although Murray embarked on her music degree to “buy some time”, those three years allowed her to focus solely on her songwriting – but it didn’t come without its drawbacks. “I lost a lot of confidence there, “ she says. “I had my own way of doing things and everything I did was subconscious and then suddenly university really wants you have to have a reason for everything you do and I don’t know if I like coming up with the reason first – I like dealing with that later. It was really jarring.” While creatively constraining, Murray does commend the technical side of things – something which allowed her to play, record and produce everything on Morningside. “I was the only girl that showed up to the recording class – all the other girls just dropped out,” she says, noticeably frustrated with the statement. “But I was really like ‘I’m going to figure this out’ and I didn’t get it for so, so long but I’m glad that university introduced me to that.”
She continues to explain that Fazerdaze is an effort to “rebuild” that lost confidence; an aspect that’s most noticeable in the lyrical vulnerability on the album. It allows a certain forthright delivery that offers a nourishing liberation of our uncertainties – that by bringing that little voice in the back of our heads to the forefront, its utterances don’t seem so scary any more. Murray seems to check in with this little voice often; as we chat, she’s noticeably cautious to not give herself or the album too much praise but thankfully, it’s something that she’s working on. “I’m always feeling so much and sometimes if I give it too much attention, I can’t move forwards,” she explains. “So sometimes I just have to put the feeling to the side and finish the album or finish the job I’m doing. Even playing shows, I find it so stressful and I don’t know what to say to the audience and I’m questioning whether I’m good enough to be here – I question all that stuff but I have to learn to put it in a box. It’s still there but I have to learn to get the job done.”
Speaking of getting the job done, we talk of the exhaustion that comes with touring. Murray is heavily inspired by her surroundings – “it really has an affect on me. I think moving around a lot [during the recording of the album] brought out really different colours of moods” – and with touring comes a whole bunch of new surroundings, every day. “Everything’s so new too,” she says. “You get a different sound person every night and different faces in the audience every night and a different room and lights, so it’s really over stimulating. But then the songs are nice because they’re really comforting – they’re the same every night, they’re like home. So as soon as I play the first chord every night, I feel so much better.”
I ask how the shows have been going so far and Murray answers with a modest “good I think?” – a statement that is deeply unjustified following tonight’s scintillating show. However, when it comes to the album itself, Murray is more forthright in her accomplishments and rightly so. “I think it showed me that there was this kind of, I don’t know if self-confidence is the right word, but it was nice for me on a really personal level to have this vision of writing an album and recording an album and then being able to see it through to the end,” she says. “That’s really hard y’know? No one else is expecting it of you and you don’t owe it to anyone so do I have the discipline to do it? It was really hard; sometimes I didn’t feel like doing stuff at all. I didn’t feel like working on things and I wanted to throw songs away but I think I learnt that I have more in me than I thought I had – just being able to finish it and put it out. The release day isn’t quite here yet but it’s happening! There’s no going back. I’m proud of it and of myself for doing it.”
The first teaser for the album came with the glimmering, catchy-as-hell single “Lucky Girl” and with it, a video that’s as infectious as the song’s chorus. “I really wanted it to portray this sabotaging – I wanted this ruining everything theme to come across. Almost like being spoilt,” she says of the visuals, which include a fist smashing a birthday cake. “Initially I wanted another girl to be in it and the director tried it with three other girls and nothing was feeling right so I ended up being in it which still really freaks me out a lot.” I urge her to explain why she should feel so strange about being in her own video. “I don’t know really,” she says, laughing. “I’m constantly emailing my manager like ‘take my face off this poster, take my face off this, take my face off Spotify’ because I don’t want it to be about me. I just want it to be about the music.”
Although we both recognise this sort of sentiment is as cliche as it comes, it’s a statement that allows me to truly understand what the Fazerdaze project means to Murray. “Like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, when you think of that, you just think of the music and the sounds, you don’t really think of Ruban Nielson’s face. I just don’t want it to ever be like a celebrity thing,” she continues. “But the video ended up being me and Sam was going to edit it but because I am so self-conscious, I didn’t want to be in it and I said, the only way I’m going to be in it is if I can edit it and craft how I’m seen. I hadn’t ever edited a video before but I really needed to do it – I had to watch a lot of YouTube tutorials!”
Murray checks her watch and apologises, adding that she should probably get back to her band. “I hope you like the show,” she says, placing her hands to her face with apprehension. Later, the band are meticulous in recreating the album’s dreamy undertones, providing a lush swell of gorgeously intricate indie-pop. As fans rush to the merch table to chat to Murray post-show, clutching the record in their hands, it’s clear that Fazerdaze will be joining those big bands on the walls of The Louisiana in no time.
‘Morningside’ is out now, via Flying Nun/Groenland
Buy it here