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A manic, candid chat with The Murlocs’ Ambrose Kenny Smith

It feels like The Murlocs have been growing increasingly insane. With four albums now under their belt, the group have slowly been pushing their bluesy garage-rock to its limits.

So, fresh off the release of their latest record Manic Candid Episode, we caught up with frontman Ambrose Kenny Smith to chat about their changing processes, a band called Sambrose Automobile, and his favourite Flightless Records memes.

Photo: Jamie Wdziekonski

We caught up with The Murlocs frontman Ambrose Kenny Smith to chat Manic Candid Episode, Flightless Records memes, and some band called Sambrose Automobile.

HAPPY: Congrats on getting the album done! How does it feel having another one in the bank?

AMBROSE: Yeah, it’s great. I think this is the happiest I’ve been with something we’ve done for sure.

HAPPY: With the album title, art, and videos, it seems like you’ve gone a bit nuts on this one. Do you feel like the direction has changed at all with this new album?

AMBROSE: Yeah, with the first single, we tried to put out the most different of the bunch. With Comfort Zone, that’s what I’d ideally like to make more of in the future… that kind of vibe. But with the album title, that’s a song off the album as well, and the artwork was all thrown together in the last couple of weeks, so it made sense to call it Manic Candid Episode. It’s been a real whirlwind towards the end, trying to get it all together.

HAPPY: You have been turning over albums pretty quickly. Has it felt like a speedy process for you?

AMBROSE: Well, between all my obligations with King Gizz, I’m always trying to write and put together with The Murlocs, so we can keep that alive and keep it going. But yeah, it gets harder each year for sure. It’s hard to find the time, and get commitment from everyone as we get older.

HAPPY: Does it ever feel like The Murlocs gets in the way of other projects, or vice versa? Or can you not afford to think of it that way?

AMBROSE: Nah, you can’t think about it that way, because then the negative aspects come into it. You’ve just gotta take what you can, and sometimes that means things take a little longer. Each time it could take a year or two years to get a finished product, which I guess is normal for most bands, but with King Gizz that feels really slow.

HAPPY: When you are knocking out new music for a Murlocs album, does one member come to the band with a fully-formed concept? Or is it more collaborative?

AMBROSE: Yeah, well like you said, it’s been more like the first one. But on this album, I’ve tried to get everyone to write a song. So yeah, I like to try and get everyone to spread their wings and contribute and collaborate as much as possible. But at the end of the day, I’m writing most of the lyrics and some of the main melodies. I guess our signature sound comes from Cal’s guitar playing and my vocals and stuff. As it’s continued to grow, everyone’s started to contribute and we’ve started to expand what The Murlocs can be.

HAPPY: When you’re making new music so quickly across multiple projects, do you struggle to sit on a piece of music for a period of time? Is it hard to stay passionate about it?

AMBROSE: Yeah for sure. This time we recorded about 17 songs, and sort of just picked the best. I went through them all and thought that this bunch made sense together. Maybe the leftovers will work well for the next album, but yeah, they’re already looking a bit stinky. You love them when their blossoming, but it can be hard to revisit them later.

HAPPY: We mentioned that all the members of your band do have different things going on. Do you feel like members are bringing sounds from these other projects into The Murlocs?

AMBROSE: Well with the Comfort Zone stuff, I wrote that largely on my own. But now, I like to open it up to other people. That’s what’s good about The Murlocs… you can show it to the drummer, and get a different perspective. He’s got his own band Baked Beans now, so we like to encourage everyone to do their own stuff as well… then it makes for better music for us.

HAPPY: And you feel like the music being made by these other bands influences the music being made by The Murlocs?

AMBROSE: Yeah, absolutely. One song on the album that Matt wrote, you can definitely hear elements of Baked Beans in there. I think it definitely comes in, and then I can put my flavour on it and make it our own.

HAPPY: A lot of these bands are part of the Flightless Records family, a group of bands with a notoriously dedicated fanbase. Do you interact at all with the madness happening on the internet?

AMBROSE: Do I pay much attention to the stuff on the internet? Yeah, sometimes. I don’t follow any of the band groups, but if there’s something funny I’ll look into it.

HAPPY: I’ve gotta say, there are some pretty killer Ambrose memes out there.

AMBROSE: (laughs) Yeah, I think I bring that on myself.

HAPPY: Do you have any favourite Flightless memes?

AMBROSE: Maybe the most recent one was Eric as the soup nazi from Seinfeld, but he was saying “no 7-inch for you,” or something like that. My Mum’s a part of one of those groups, and she screenshots things and sends it to me, but that’s as far into as I get. I don’t reply though.

HAPPY: Going back to pre-Murlocs days, I’d like to ask about a band called Sambrose Automobile. Could you tell us a bit about this band?

AMBROSE: (Laughs) Yeah. Fuck yeah. It was a high-school band. Me and Dan met in grade 5 in primary school. I was just coming to school in Ocean Grove, and I’d been playing harmonica doing other random blues stuff. I put out my own hilarious blues album when I was like nine, so I thought I was a bluesman. Then I met him and we started making music properly. So we had that band, then we met Lucas Skinner, who plays bass in King Gizz, then later in high school Cal joined.

HAPPY: So Sambrose Automobile were one of the earliest incarnations of the Flightless music community?

AMBROSE: Yeah, yeah. We played a fair bit in Melbourne from when we were sixteen til maybe about eighteen or nineteen. It’s through that band that we met all our peers.

HAPPY: And those Sambrose Automobile albums are still out there somewhere?

AMBROSE: Yeah there might be one in some Salvos in Geelong or something. We had a couple of albums.

HAPPY: I’ve always held the opinion that every great high school band name is an amalgamation of the band members’ first names.

AMBROSE: Yeah for sure. I’m not sure where the automobile part came from though.

Manic Candid Episode is available now. Listen above.

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April 1, 2019