Glancing at the album artwork for The Murlocs most recent album, Calm Ya Farm, released back in May, it’s unclear what to expect.
The answer is, after listening, an impressive mixture of barnstorming country swing and enjoyable psychedelic rock jangle. The Murlocs have their formula and it works for them.
Since 2014, The Melbourne band have released seven albums, including three in each of the last three years, ranking them high among Australia’s most active rock bands.
On Calm Ya Farm, The Murlocs get real. In just 40 bluesy minutes, they cover a lot of bases, singing about everything from politics to conspiracy theories. Seven albums in, The Murlocs show absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
That also applies to touring: after travelling extensively around their home country in the first half of 2023, The Murlocs now find themselves in Europe, with a show in Amsterdam scheduled for Saturday, September 9th. Sweden, Norway, Germany, Belgium, and France are some of the other countries getting to savour The Murlocs’ shaking riffs this year (tour information here).
Following the release of Calm Ya Farm, Ambrose Kenny-Smith took Rolling Stone AU/NZ through his band’s album in greater detail, which you can check out below.
The Murlocs’ Calm Ya Farm is out now via Uncle Murl/Virgin Music Australia.
“Not everyone wants the big family and the big house with the white picket fence. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes you need to make a few power moves in life to find out what comes next in the crystal ball.”
For many years I enjoyed living close to the city. It’s nice to be in a central position. When I would come home from tour, it made visiting friends and family easy. After a while, though, it got to a point where I felt like I needed a change. I don’t normally like change, but after a lot of procrastination I realised I needed to mix things up and take on some more responsibility. I was sick of hiding away from my impending adulthood. I’m glad I’m finally making the right decisions for my future.
“Common Sense Civilian”
This was the first idea that was brought to the table for this album. The theme was to try and go for a more country-styled approach. Cook [Craig] did a demo for a song and sent it to me, but a few days later he forgot and sent it to Stu [Mackenzie] from King Gizz as well. I went into the Gizz studio one day and Stu had already wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals for it. That song was quickly finished and became “Persistence”.
About a week or so later, Cook sent me another demo in a similar vein to make up for the confusion. I wrote the words at a time when everyone seemed to be so pent up with frustration against one another’s point of view of the way the world was moving. It was scary to hear some people’s conversations turn into such negative conspiracies.
I was rewatching the film Deer Hunter one night at home when I [was] starting to write the lyrics. Cook was on a roll during this time and was sending me song ideas one after the other. I chose to write in the perspective of someone that was contemplating suicide in a romantic and fantasising way. The idea of an afterlife has always intrigued me.
Cook really brought this one to life by arranging a few things once everyone had played on it. The way he put some of Cal’s guitar parts in reverse reminds me of Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love. That was the first Hendrix album I owned on CD. I spent countless hours staring at the artwork whilst listening to the album on repeat.
I took a big influence from Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” on this one. Paying homage to one of my childhood heroes, I went ahead and extended the mystery of the supernatural. Cook sent me this one at a similar time to “Russian Roulette”. I see them as both sibling songs to each other. All the harmonica I recorded for this album was done straight into the mic rather than through an amp like I normally do. I think it suits this tracks the best.
I love how concise each section is with a lot more space, more than normal. By the end, the character in question has spiralled out of control and is left rocking back and forth in a straightjacket convincing themselves that Jesus and Satan are the same.
A classic Cal Shortal riff right here. I love the guitar stabs in the rhythm guitar throughout it all. One day back in 2016, my friend was in a café and saw a baby trying to zoom in on a magazine with its two fingers thinking it was an iPad. You don’t see magazines in cafes anymore. Fast forward to today and the digital world is all we know, especially for the youth.
I feel like I’m becoming an old man yelling at the clouds when I talk about the good ol’ days of spending hours at a CD or VHS store. One day I’ll be that strange old grump at the bar annoying the shit out of the DJ to play some ’60s garage.
This was one of the last ideas that was thrown in the mix towards the end of gathering all the song ideas together. I’m so glad Cal sent us this one in the final hours. It’s one of my favourites. Big thanks to Cook for changing up the feel of the bass line into a more hip hop swing, [it] took me and Cal a minute to get used to it and now I can’t hear it any different.
This one is dedicated to Tessa, the love of my life. We have been together for over 11 years and couldn’t imagine what life would be like without her. The idea started off with her dancing around our living room during a lockdown birthday party we had with us and our house mate Carly at the time. I am so grateful for our relationship. She is the one.
“Undone and Unashamed”
Tim Karmouche had this demo going which had all the parts and pieces to a great song. It was originally a lot sent to me with a much straighter feel to it, so I encouraged him to try and redo it into a more swinging country feel to fit with the rest of the album. As soon as he tried that, the lyrics and everything else started to come together a lot easier.
I rewrote the lyrics a few times as it was a bit of a trial and error process to get the right pace going. Once I found the sweet spot, I put my heart and soul into it to get it over the line and into the right place it needed. My first-ever drunken sax solo was fun to record, too.
“Captain Cotton Mouth”
Matt [Blach] came through with the musical goods on this one. Reminds me a bit of Brian Jonestown Massacre meets The Byrds. I wrote the lyrics from the perspective of an ex-war veteran that was hard done by the system. This Lieutenant Dan character gets off on disrupting the community in his small coastal country town by messing with religious shop clerks and local police. Sadly, he still suffers so much PTSD that he wakes up in the middle of the night screaming in a sweat.
Another number from the beautifully bizarre world of Cook Craig. Cook loves fishing boats. When he was a kid, he wanted to be called “fishing boat”. He recently got a tattoo on his arm so he never forgets his childhood dream to be a sailor.
So, naturally the floating boat sounds in the intro were a big staple to the song. My partner loves the show Catfish. I struggle to watch it as I can’t handle how vulnerable and naive some people can be to go as far as completely letting themselves go and be taken so advantage of. Love can make you do all kinds of crazy things.
Matt Blach knows how to melt hearts. This little ditty reminds me of Ricky Nelson crooning to a ballroom of slow dancers on prom night. It sounds like a sequel to our track “Eating At You”, from our fifth album Bittersweet Demons, that he [Matt] also wrote the music [for]. Matt has a way with melody and harmonies that make me swoon.
When you meet someone for the first time, do you ever wonder if they’re a good person or not? I often read people the wrong way as a defence mechanism. It’s not a good trait but you got to be careful sometimes with who you let into your life. You can’t be friends with everyone but it’s not hard to be friendly. Kill them with kindness first then see where they take it from there. Even the nicest people can snap and lose the plot over nothing. It’s best to talk about your feelings and emotions rather than bottling them up all the time.
Finally we have an instrumental song! It felt so cathartic to let this one slide without any lyrics needed. Cook took complete control. It was his tune and he also by far [has] the biggest love for instrumental music in the band. It’s a nice closing credits theme song to the album. I like to envision us all driving off into the distance on sunset strip in an old Cadillac when it plays.
As a final encore, we decided to put this one at the very end for one last poppy feel-good hurrah. It reminds me of our song “Noble Soldier”, from our third album Old Locomotive, at times. It’s got the same nostalgic warm and fuzzy feeling to it. Cal really has a knack for writing super strong melodies with conviction. When you see roadkill and burnt trees on the waysides of the highway, do you ever wonder what their life was like before it was cut so short? Do you ever wonder if you have done enough in your time on this earth? Are you sometimes left forever pondering the question of what if? Or did you go for the glory ’til the bitter end with or without fail?