Chet Faker to Take ‘Built On Glass’ Tour Worldwide and Home Again
The Melburnian native chats about his shiny debut album, morning jogs on tour and his mad year two saxophone skills.
It's not every artist who'd revisit their Year Two saxophone skills on their debut album. But Melbourne's Chet Faker (aka Nick Murphy) isn't afraid of giving anything a whirl for the sake of sound. Following the release of his debut EP Thinking In Textures via Downtown Records in 2012, Murphy gained international high-fives and 'Breakthrough Artist of the Year' at the Australian Independent Records Awards, made an EP with Flume, toured with Bonobo, played at South by South West and scored a Super Bowl ad with his breakthrough cover of Blackstreet's 'No Diggity'. After settling into his own snuggly studio space in North Melbourne, Murphy painstakingly tweaked, experimented and self-produced his debut album Built On Glass, released Friday.
An eclectic and unpredictable mix of electronic soul ballads, deep house journeys and hip hop beats, Murphy's love of experimentation and letting sound breathe makes Built On Glass one of the year's most overwhelmingly confident debut releases. Heartbreakingly honest lyrics, minimalist electronic groovery and Murphy's unmistakably soulful vocals make for serious repeat button action.
Kicking off a huge worldwide tour in April, Chet Faker will hit venues in UK cities like Dublin, Manchester and Bristol before popping over to European hubs like Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. Then it's over to the US and Canada for a gargantuan string of dates before heading home for his national Australian headliner tour through major cities and regional centres like Geelong, Port Macquarie and Wollongong. Supporting for all national tour dates is New Zealand dream pop trio Yumi Zouma, whose four-track EP The Brae saw the Christchurch locals gain quite the following on Soundcloud.
In the wake of the tour's long-awaited announcement, we had a chat to the 25-year-old Melburnian about his upcoming worldwide debut album tour, his Melbourne performance jinx, jogging on tour and a genuine disdain for pigeonholes.
When was the last time you played an Australian show?
Three weeks ago. I play heaps here, everyone thinks I don't. They're like, "Really? Come back to Australia and support your home." It's like, I play here a lot. People are like, "Why didn't you come to New Zealand?" I was there four weeks ago! "Hopefully one day you'll come to Ireland." It's like dude, I'll be there in a week. Just relax!
So Built On Glass is out, your first LP, congrats! You played everything you hear on the album, excepting one guitar solo. What made you want to play all every last instrument on your new album?
Well, because I knew what I wanted to be played. And I'm not rich so I can't just like, pay Nile Rodgers to lay down a track for me. It's just a really personal record. Music just means a shitload to me. I'm usually writing music at the same time I'm recording it... just trying a bunch of stuff. If I want a guitar part, I'm going to play it because I'm there. So it makes sense to play it myself rather than have someone in and it might not work.
Did you learn saxophone just for the record?
No. Well, maybe sort of. I played sax from prep to grade two. But I hadn't played until last year and I picked it up and could still make a noise out of it. That blew me away. I had no idea that I could still play saxophone. I assumed I couldn't play it, I couldn't remember what notes they were. I picked it up and because I'd learnt 'Tequila' — that was the last song I'd played — I was like bam-bam ban-am-bam ban-a-nam and I was like "What the FUCK?". It was insane! Because there's other stuff as a kid I can't remember how to do, you know?
Cartwheels, totally yeah. I used to be a really good drawer when I was a kid but I'm not that good at it any more. I used to be able to do a really good cat. Actually I still remember how to do it — it looks like Bubsy, which was a game on Super Nintendo. That's funny, I haven't thought about that in a long time.
With your first EP you were kind of sleeping in the same space that you were recording. But this time you had your own space to record Built On Glass?
Yeah, I rented a space in North Melbourne in the old meat market. It's an old cooling locker, so it's heritage-listed. It's through Arts House Victoria, so it's really cheap rent, it's cool... We have so much space and I just don't use it. I filled it with stuff and ended up putting myself in the smallest room. I rarely stand up when I'm recording music, most of the time I'm sitting on a chair. I can't remember the last time I stood up to record vocals. I lean into the microphone and I sit in front of the computer. I'll take, sing it, listen back and do it again until I get it right.
Well, your voice has a lot of oomph and power behind it, which you usually need to stand up to reach.
Well, on this record anyway. The EP was lighter I think, more breathy because I was in my garage. It had a tin roof and in the garage next door to me we had a neighbour. I would usually record late at night and I couldn't sing loud. Whereas on this record, because I have my own soundproof space, I could be there any hour of the night and play as loud as I want and not piss anyone off. So all the vocal tracks are like, full chest voice. I literally couldn't have done this album in the old garage because I couldn't sing that loud.
Stylistically Built On Glass is very different, each song is quite unique even though they've got your unifying vocal. Some are hip hop influenced, some are ballads, some are almost house music. How do you find inspiration for each style?
I've had this thing, like, all my life: I hate being put in a pigeonhole. More than anything, for some reason. I don't know why it annoys me so much. As soon as you label something you limit it. And I don't want to be limited. An album is usually very definitive, you know? That's the big thing, about making a 'statement' right? So my statement was I wanted to show almost every type of music that I like, because then if I did something like the slow, whatever people call it, "RnB crooner" — it makes me cringe when I hear that, it's gross — style, then I'd limit it. Because if I bring out another record that's like '1998', which I like just as much, people would go, "What the fuck is this?" So it was really important to me that I show the full breadth of all the things I like.
Sounds like a good way to go for a debut album.
Well that's the idea. Built On Glass as well, the whole "built" thing comes from like, building a career, building a future on a foundation stone of glass, which is fragile, it's honest, it's transparent — this is what I'm into, you know? And it was annoying me that people thought I only did soulful, slowed down tunes.
There's even some house moments in there.
Yeah, well 'Cigarettes and Loneliness" is 135BPM. That is not soul music.
It's hard to pick a track off your debut album, but do you have a particular song you're especially proud of?
'Cigarettes and Loneliness' I think. I mean, they all have their own reason I like them. 'Gold' is the first song I ever played bass on and it's just one note the whole time. I didn't know how to play the bass, so I bought a bass. What I wanted to do was a descending bassline but I couldn't play that properly. But then 'Release Your Problems', which is the first track, I played the bass on that. First bassline I ever really wrote. '1998': house track — I always wanted to put out a house track.
'Cigarettes and Loneliness' is the longest song I've ever done, it's the most honest song I've ever done. The chorus has no drums, it's just two guitar parts and vocals. The song's like eight minutes long and it's 135BPM which is just super fast. You couldn't even play that in a DJ set, it'd freak people out.
It's been two years since your first EP Thinking in Textures came out, since then you've won awards, worked with Flume, supported big names, had your song in a Super Bowl ad...
Yeah, I always forget about that until people bring it up. That's like the least real thing that's ever happened to me. That's like, really? Was I really in a Super Bowl ad? It's like the childhood memories that you're not really sure if you made it up or it actually happened.
You've been touring on and off for about two years, what's one of the most memorable performances you've done?
Well, there's different ones for different reasons — there's good ones and then there's like, bad ones. Touring with Bonobo was awesome. I've got mad respect for him. He just texted me the other day, he was like, "What are you doing? You wanna go get a drink?" For a second I had to be like, that's fuckin' Bonobo texting me. That was pretty weird, I had to pinch myself. That tour was cool, I think this tour in June's also going to be heaps of fun.
And you toured with Flume as well.
Toured with Flume, yeah that was good. Ah... it was alright. They were just like, munted kids who weren't listening. But actually it was fun playing with Flume, because I'd get up and sing with him, that was shitloads of fun. So I crowdsurfed — and you don't crowdsurf to my music. I never had. So that was a lot of fun, stagediving.
Did they bring you back to the stage?
Yeah, I mean sometimes you get taken away. Here's a lesson for anyone who's going to stagedive: take off any jewellery or hats, people literally rip stuff off you. And I got like, mouth raped at one of those shows on that Flume tour. I don't know if it was a boy or a girl, someone just grabbed my head upside down and did like a Spiderman tongue dash. I was like, woah. By the time I looked, I was somewhere else. It was kind of funny though, but it was an all ages show so its just a bit like... yeeech.
If you could tour with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Bonobo was pretty up there. Music style-wise, I feel like it's pretty similar. I always looked up to him, awesome crew and band, they really inspired me. Like, some people just aren't as… Just because you love someone's music doesn't mean you like them personally and that was a big lesson for me. And most people won't know that. You know, most people who like my music will assume that them and I would get along perfectly but I'm certain there are people I wouldn't get along with. It's like the same with anyone. So I've met lots of people, I mean, Bonobo, he's as nice as his music is, he's a gentleman. But there's other people I've met that I really liked, I was like, you... are... you are a dickhead.
So you've got this rather epic tour coming up, how do you prepare and keep healthy on tour? Are there any tricks?
Totally, you have to look after yourself. I do. I actually don't know how some people party on tour all the time. It's not sustainable, like, you just get totally bummed out. Some people can do it though. Some people just figure out this like, route in their brain to not come down from partying. They just party forever. Like DJs, those dudes kill it. I don't know, I couldn't do that.
Do you get actual sleep on tour?
No. Well, yes if I try and sleep and eat well, but that's not really an option either. It's this weird balance because some people just think you're difficult if you're like "I need celery and gluten free food backstage." They're like, "Geez, this guy's a douchebag." But if you're having a hot dog every night for three months, you start to feel really crappy about yourself. But running is good, I try and go for a run every morning. It's just habit, which is easy to do on tour because it's easier to create new habits in a new environment than one that has existing habits.
Do you write on tour? You were saying you write and record at the same time.
I can't. I'm trying to at the moment; I'm trying to get a little studio built up. But I really like having a space, but that's not really an option any more when you're touring so much. So I'm getting this little case made up with like, a microphone and a laptop. Harley's so good at it, Flume, he's always working on a track. I can do it, it's just like a habit. I'm trying to start doing that more.
It's going to be cool for you to play in Melbourne and show off your debut album to home.
Yeah, totally and I don't think I've ever played a good show in my home town. I keep fucking it up. I mean it's my friends there, that's why. I played a bunch of festivals — I mean I think as far as my friends are concerned I suck live, because I keep messing it up for my friends in Melbourne — like, at Laneway I played a bad show, I messed up Meredith and Golden Plains. I had technical problems — I had a broken foot. It's like I'm jinxed in my home town but this tour will be fine, sooner or later I'll do it.
Tickets on sale Tuesday 22 April 9AM local time
Thu 12 June – The Wool Exchange, Geelong $35 +BF. Tickets from Oztix.
Thu 19 June – Astor Theatre, Perth $35 +BF. Tickets from Astor Box Office.
Sat 21 June – The Tivoli, Brisbane $35 +BF. Tickets from Ticketmaster.
Sun 22 June – Lake Kawana Community Centre, Sunshine Coast $35 +BF. Tickets from Box Office.
Tue 24 June – Glasshouse Theatre, Port Macquarie $35 +BF. Tickets from the Glasshouse Box Office.
Sat 28 June – Anita's Theatre, Wollongong $35 +BF. Tickets from Ticketmaster.
Published on April 16, 2014 by Shannon Connellan