If you've spent almost half of your entire life traversing modern music's torrential terrain, taking your straight-from-the-dorms uni project from indie-rock sing-along sensations who enjoy dancing to Joy Division, to modern-day indie-pop connoisseurs waxing lyrical about giving aspirin the headache of its life; well, you'd be forgiven for fretting about taking a break.
For The Wombats' Matthew 'Murph' Murphy, this is not just a dream dreamt about over drinks in the basement bar of a students union, but a reality that has led to him being a bit of a dab hand at making intoxicating, infectious and intelligent pop music. As he breaks away from his day-job to launch his solo project - the Pablo Picasso-inspired satirically-titled Love Fame Tragedy.
"When you're in a band for so long there's so much shit that goes on behind the scenes and Love Fame Tragedy was born out of wanting to escape all of that for a bit," deadpans Murph, reliving the exhaustion experienced after spending a solid two years on and off of studios, stages and tour buses. It's this very same exhaustion that has given birth not only to his solo project, but to its debut album, the somewhat aptly-titled 'Wherever I Go, I Want To Leave'. The 17-song strong set compiles the previously-released EP's 'I Don't Want To Play The Victim, But I'm Really Good At It' and 'Five Songs To Briefly Fill The Void' alongside an array of synth-soaked indie-pop bangers and an army of guests.
When you've written four album's worth of mainstream chart-crashing material sung equally as loud and as in unison at dingy indie clubs as they have at festivals like Glastonbury and Reading, you'd assume striking off on your own would be something simple to fill your time with. For Murph, writing and recording 'Wherever I Go…' was a bittersweet symphony bookended by wine-stained studio hangouts with friends and a struggle with his inner-self to overcome writer's block, a struggle he ultimately defeated here.
"I've felt very creative over the last five years. I feel like I'm putting the best stuff out that I ever have done, which is great that it's all double-backed on itself, because there have been times I've been struggling with it a bit.
"My relationship with songwriting and music, in general, is probably not how people think an artists relationship is with their craft. I go through periods of loving it and having a great time, and periods where I absolutely fucking despise it."
Whereas some artists can suddenly solicit a spark of sensational, stimulating creativity, Murph has often had to force himself into the deepest, darkest physical and mental spaces to summon his alchemist-like abilities to conjure up modern-pop of the highest quality. Even going as far as literally locking himself away in rooms and shutting off the world outside.
"I definitely just shove myself in a room and close the curtains and freak out until something's there. Sometimes there are these moments of inspiration, but typically I have to put myself in a position to get something good if it comes along. It's usually the first hour or so, which is the most annoying thing, but when I've got something, it's easy, and it's exciting, and all the good stuff comes. But I'm usually forcing myself to go into a studio and sit down at a piano or whatever."
Sitting at a piano, however, it seems, is something Murph's quite familiar with. His experience crafting rowdy rom-com-bashing bangers like 'Kill The Director' and electro-pop rollicks through LA a la 'Greek Tragedy' lends itself well here, leaving its curator with a compendium of modern-pop music. 'Everything Affects Me Now' is a plucky, pitter-patter piano-meets-guitar indie-pop anthem while 'Backflip' channels 'AM'-era Arctic Monkeys with its slinkily silky seductive production. Elsewhere, 'Sharks' and 'My Cheating Heart' are Robyn-synthesised electro-pop with honey-soaked harmonies meanwhile 'Honey Pie' and 'Pink Mist' drift into dream-pop territory. For most, having so many fingers in so many pies would either be a conscious decision or a bit of a problem, but for Murph, it was just business as usual.
"It's kind of the same horse, different jockey with what I've done before; it's upbeat music and relatively bizarre introspective lyrics. But there's part of me that thinks maybe I could've done an 11-track album, but we had so many recorded and in the current situation I was just like 'ah fuck it, let's get it all out there'.
"I listened to the album for the first time the other day in my car, and I was like 'fucking hell, good job Murph'. I'm just trying to remove pressure and over-analysis, you know? I just wanted to remove all of that and write songs that I like, to be honest. I've gone down rabbit holes with all of that stuff before, like 'what does this album need to be?' whereas now I'm just like, 'I'm going to write a body of work and release it'."
'Wherever I Go' has a lot of musical touchpoints, but its true inspiration came not in the form of an artist, a song, or even something strictly musical, but instead his new-born daughter and her discovery of sound. The early-morning and late-night moments they share together listening to music were as powerful as an epiphany, putting the perspective back into his purpose as both a musician and as a father.
"It's kind of made me appreciate music and appreciate my job a lot more. I want her to be creative, and I'm playing silly instruments around her all of the time. I feel like she loves music so much, she always wants to dance. All we listen to is Taylor Swift, Grateful Dead and Miley Cyrus at the moment and it's just great to see her dancing around to this stuff. I've maybe found a whole new respect and love for music; whether it's Grateful Dead in the mornings or Lady Gaga and Lizzo in the night, I don't know."
More than just an inspiration, his daughter has been his biggest critic and quality-checker, pulling no punches as her father fretted over piecing together his solo projects mission statement.
"She's heard a few songs from this album, and it's great. She's kind of like her mother, she'll let you know the one's she loves, and she'll really let you know the one's she doesn't like. She's my biggest fan and my biggest critic."
Whether Murph was revelling in the revolution becoming a father has bought to his life or cracking under the weight of carrying The Wombats and the world on top his of shoulders, bonding with his daughter afforded him the ability to dig deep into the wells of inspiration and see past the turbulent times his life has undertaken.
"It was a little turbulent, juggling the impulsiveness of my life and having a child and trying to be a family man, but also being on and off tour all the time. It's been hard to balance all of these three things, and that's really come out on the album.
"One thing I did get really excited with this album was being really blunt with the lyrics, going in a little harder than maybe I have done on some of the Wombats albums, and just really trying to get the point across in a more shocking or more brutal way than normal, and that was really exciting for me."
Along with his daughter, Murph found inspiration and influence in the revolving door of idols, friends and newcomers he welcomed into his life for the time it took to bring the tapestry of Love Fame Tragedy together. From genre-defining purveyors like Pixies' Joey Santiago and The Killers' Mark Stoermer, to some of Murph's closest friends in the form of Alt-J's Gus Unger-Hamilton and Bastille's Dan Smith, to introducing the world and himself to newcomers like Jack River and Maddie-Jean Waterhouse. The experience of opening up his head, his heart, and his studios was enlightening.
"There are a couple of really interesting moments. The best was having Joey Santiago from The Pixies just in a room playing guitar with you, it just felt really fucking cool. That was great. Then Gus from Alt-J, he's really good friend, and I got into the studio one day in London, and we drank wine, and we fucked around for four hours, and we kept the best bits.
"With most of the artists I've worked with on this, the ego was put at the front door and we just had a really good time and enjoyed ourselves. I think you can hear that, and that's a much better way of working then when an artist comes in, and they've got a bit of an ego. It's like, 'ah, fuck you', and you've got to chat with them and make them feel comfortable, which is a bit annoying but it's all worth it in the long run."
Having spent years writing and recording exclusively with the same two people album-after-album, it was time for Murph to break his own mould and meet new people and make new processes in the face of new music.
"Getting other people to play is something I've never done with The Wombats, and if I did, it would mean a shitload of emails back and forth about a bunch of things. I just wanted to circumnavigate that and just do whatever the hell I wanted to do. At the same time, I'm not a massive fan of when lead singers go and do solo albums, so I wanted to turn it into something much more exciting and much more special than that."
'Wherever I Go, I Want To Leave' is, at the sum of its parts, a modern-pop-for-dummies almanac that illuminates the illustrious innovator Murph has morphed into over-the-years. Whether Love Fame Tragedy is a welcome break from The Wombats or simply a stop-gap 'til the next stepping stone arrives, this is a project not to be taken lightly.
Taken from the July issue of Dork. Love Fame Tragedy's debut album 'Wherever I Go, I Want To Leave' is out 10th July.
Featuring Haim, Phoebe Bridgers, Run The Jewels, Glass Animals and more.