With Access, Major Murphy beautifully arrives at the emotive intersection of past and future.
The Grand Rapids indie rock quartet of Jacob Bullard (vocals, guitar), Jacki Warren (bass, vocals), Brian Voortman (drums) and Chad Houseman (guitar, keys, percussion) seamlessly navigates undiscovered internal roads filled with uncertainty, contemplation and growth on their boundless sophomore album.
“You have to go rock bottom to be able to adequately move forward. At times, it can be a little dark, scary or intense, but ultimately if you don’t face some of those things, then you’ll be missing the point. Anxiety and stress are definitely fused into the record, but it’s for the purpose of being able to identify things and put them to rest,” Bullard said.
Major Murphy deeply revisits personal struggles and explores newfound intrinsic possibilities across nine introspective, cinematic and experimental tracks on Access, which arrived April 2 via Winspear on all streaming platforms.
Each thoughtful, captivating track weaves a reflective, relatable tale about arriving at an unexpected crossroads and grappling with the amount of control one has in life. Layered with choose-your-own-adventure insights, Access prompts listeners to decide the direction of their next fateful turn.
“I was going through a lot of big changes, and I started writing songs in 2017. Part of the optimism is saying even when everything around you shifts and you don’t really recognize it, the old way of being doesn’t need to hold precedent. You have the find the strength within yourself to accept the new reality and adapt,” Bullard said.
“We haven’t played at Ghost Light before, but we’re excited to play there and in Hamtramck for the first time. We’ll be able to get some new ‘Lafayette’ EP stuff into our set as well as songs from our ‘No. 1’ album,” said Jacob Bullard, Major Murphy’s vocalist and guitarist. “In Lansing, there’s going to be bands playing all weekend, and it’s in conjunction with the film fest.”
Bullard will join bandmates Jacki Warren (bass) and Brian “Bud” Voortman (drums) to share their 1970s-inspired radio rock with Hamtramck and Lansing crowds. They’ll perform hypnotic, mellow tracks from their latest EP, “Lafayette,” which dropped in February on Winspear, and last year’s full-length debut, “No. 1” as well as a cover of The Beatles “Revolver” classic, “She Said She Said.”
Recorded as demos in Bullard’s Grand Rapids-based house on Lafayette Avenue, the “Lafayette” EP features six songs that chronicle the creative evolution of Major Murphy from a stripped-down solo project to a three-piece rock band.
“I think it’s an extension or a companion to ‘No. 1,’ and we wanted to share stuff that we felt was interesting,” said Bullard, who formed Major Murphy with Warren and Voortman in 2015. “If people listened to ‘No. 1,’ then they might find ‘Lafayette’ extra fun because it’s where the songs started, and it gives them a behind-the-scenes perspective.”
For three tracks on “Lafayette,” each band member plants a promising sonic seed for the growth of “No. 1.” Bullard writes about an open-hearted expression that’s nostalgic and forward-thinking on “Come By Sunday” while Warren provides enchanting harmonies on “When I Go Out.” Meanwhile, Voortman jams for the first time on the initial demo for “No. 1.”
“They were recorded well before we went to Russian Recording, and they were mostly for my own benefit of being able to sketch the songs out,” said Bullard, who’s inspired by The Beatles, Paul McCartney and Wings, and Patti Smith. “I anticipated being able to record them again since they were very lo-fi, and the production was done in my bedroom.”
By 2017, Major Murphy ventured to Russian Recording in Bloomington, Ind., to record 10 nostalgic tracks for “No. 1.” The album’s jangly guitars, shimmering riffs, synth grooves, and dreamy, commanding vocals gently hook and draw listeners into a vintage, yacht rock world.
Together, Major Murphy hones a retro sound filled with harmonic structures, melodic progressions and emotional shifts that rely heavily on concert-like, energetic recordings. A year after “No 1.’s” release, the album stills sounds as refreshing and inspiring as its initial spin.
“I feel really proud of that record, and that’s never happened before. When I’ve made music in the past, I think about how we could have done this differently,” Bullard said. “I think this album is different because we were collaborative by working with Mike Bridavsky at Russian, and we brought in Ben and Aaron in addition to Bud and Jackie.”
With “No. 1” and “Lafayette” under their belt, Major Murphy will return to Russian Recording in July to record their next album. They also plan to release a new single soon.
“I’m super excited to put this next record together and share it with people,” Bullard said. “I’ve written the new songs precisely with all of us in mind and with the knowledge of what a dynamic life is like along with the strengths and weaknesses of that. It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to put out some new music.”
With their vibrant debut single, “The Color Yellow,” From Elsewhere is illuminating the Indianapolis indie rock scene.
The newly formed indie rock trio dropped the first track from their forthcoming EP, “Just Like the Sun,” last week, and it’s an eclectic mix of shoegaze and alternative rock – think remnants of Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive, Snail Mail and Death Cab for Cutie rolled into one.
With its shimmering guitars, solid bass lines and pulsating drumbeats, “The Color Yellow” provides a gorgeous splatter of upbeat rhythms, but includes a dark lyrical layer hidden below.
“It’s about Vincent Van Gogh, and the whole idea of the troubled artist. He tried to eat yellow paint because he was ready to do anything to make himself happy,” said Nikhil Ramani, the From Elsewhere frontman and guitarist who originally hails from Chennai, India. “We see mental health awareness becoming a big thing now, but we still see so many suicides. The song is also about how we can bring that number down.”
As a senior studying psychology at the University of Indianapolis, Ramani wrote the band’s debut single after trying to understand the correlation between successful artists and their depression. “The Color Yellow” serves as a budding piece of musical research to further address and explore the issue.
“Is art just an escape, or is the gene the same?” asked Ramani, who learned how to play guitar at age eight and counts Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink Floyd and Death Cab among his major influences. “Yellow is such a happy color, but it has a bit of melancholy feel to it in this song.”
Despite the delicate subject matter, Ramani and his bandmates, Travis Lee (bass) and Luke Duckworth (drums), are eager to see where their new musical journey is headed. Together, the trio formed From Elsewhere in June after meeting up with Ramani.
“Back in the summer, I was just working at the front desk at school, and there were a lot of hours where I didn’t have much to do, so I would go on Craigslist, and I made this ad for an indie rock band,” Ramani said. “I had these songs, so I wanted to see if anyone was out there.”
After forming the band, Ramani, Lee and Duckworth recorded six songs, including “The Color Yellow,” at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Ind., for “Just Like the Sun,” which will drop in December. They also plan to release a follow-up single to “The Color Yellow” soon.