TUNS, the Canadian indie rock supergroup featuring Chris Murphy (Sloan) on drums, Matt Murphy (Super Friendz, Flashing Lights) on guitar, Mike O’Neill (The Inbreds) on bass.
Q. There may be a new fan knowing TUNS by this interview for the first time. Therefore, at first tell it from your simple profile.
CHRIS: TUNS is made up of Matt Murphy, Chris Murphy (no relation) and Mike O’Neill. We have all played in bands over the years. Matt Murphy played in The Super Friendz and Flashing Lights. Chris Murphy plays in Sloan and Mike O’Neill played in The Inbreds and has made several solo albums.
MIKE: I played with a band called the inbreds and went on a tour with those guys when Chris was playing drums with the superfriendz, Matt’s band at the time. That was 1995. We have remained friends, and recently became organized enough to start writing songs together.
Q. Why were you guys united as the Band? What was the first step as TUNS?
CHRIS: Matt and I and another friend (Charles Austin) played in a backing band for Mike at a show in 2013. We had a lot of fun and Matt had a job that allowed him to hang out with me pretty much once a week after several years of not seeing each other very much. I feel like we talked about playing together because we were spending time together and we had had so much fun playing with Mike that we wanted to do it with him.
MIKE: I think it was Chris’ suggestion. I jumped at the chance. I still live in Halifax which is 2 1/2 hours by plane away from Toronto where Matt and Chris live. I have made a routine of visiting my Mom who lives outside of Toronto and started incorporating rehearsals into these trips.
Q. What is the origin of the band name “TUNS”?
CHRIS: Matt and I are originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia and live in Toronto, Ontario and Mike is originally from Oshawa, Ontario and lives in Halifax so Halifax is a part of each of our lives. TUNS was the name of the Technical University of Nova Scotia (now called Dal Tech). We had a long list of names for the band including TUNS. None of us loved the name TUNS but we kept eliminating the names from the list but we never eliminated TUNS so that’s what we used.
MIKE: TUNS – Technical University of Nova Scotia.
Q. Please express TUNS using three adjectives.
CHRIS: Matt, Mike, Chris (too obvious?)… Guitar, bass drums. (self explanatory)… Pop, Rock, Harmonies (also obvious?)
MIKE: Positive, energetic, harmonious
MATT: BITTER-SWEET, MELODIC AND FUN
Q. I feel relaxed atmosphere from this album. You all get along, don’t you?
CHRIS: For sure. We had never attempted anything like this so we didn’t know what to expect. Getting together to write was funny because we weren’t sure how it would go. Would we each be teaching the others half baked ideas we had on the go? As it turned out we literally made up ideas on the spot. It was incredible. We soon realized we wouldn’t need to use anything we had in our various caches of song ideas We could make them out of thin air. By the time we recorded we had figured that out so we were just old friends hanging out.
MIKE: I think so! For me it is an escape from self consciousness. I’m laughing and having a good time and feel like myself.
MATT: We get along great – and that’s partly because we enjoy each other’s music so much.
Q. Congratulations on “TUNS” release. It is awesome! I’ve been waiting for this day. Frankly speaking, how is the present feeling?
CHRIS: I am writing this on August 25th. The record comes out tomorrow. There is still the possibility that it will somehow be a huge success but there is the probability that it won’t but we are all happy to have made a record the way we did with our old friends.
MIKE: You’re welcome! I’m very thrilled there has been so much interest. There have already been some interesting opportunities like opening for Islands in Brooklyn. I look forward to more adventures with my friends.
MATT: I feel like we have waited a long time for this, but to be honest record releases are usually not the most exciting date in the calendar. Our next show will however be very exciting.
Q. When did you elaborate a plan from? When did you write these songs? How many songs did you make?
CHRIS: We would record spontaneous jams into my iPhone until we had over 50 jams. I would catalogue the jams and we would vote for our favourites and agree to finish those. We did our original jams in 2014.
MIKE: We started working on the songs in April of 2014. We stockpiled “riffs” which are instrumental progressions of various lengths. We had about 60 or so of these and then we narrowed that pool of ideas down to about 12, split them up and started writing lyrics for them. so only 12 songs made it to the completed structure stage. each person was responsible for their share but we also helped each other when we were stuck for lyrics.
MATT: We wrote dozens of riffs and melodies, but recorded just 12 songs. 9 ended up on the album.
Q. Did the recording advance smoothly? Were there the points that had a hard time?
CHRIS: Mike lives in a different city than Matt and me so we wrote in spurts. The jams would happen when Mike was in town. Matt and I would get together and work on the ones we agreed to finish. Mike communicated a bit through email. We ended up kind of dividing them up at a certain point where we each were in charge of 4 songs for the lyrics and melodies but there was a lot of cross-pollonization.
MIKE: Everything went smoothly. When you have a new song…it’s so exciting. But if you don’t record it quickly you get to know it too well and you lose the excitement of the discovery. So I would say our recording was done quickly and retained the excitement.
MATT: We recorded all the instruments at the same time – that was a lot more pressure than the way we all typically record, which is reliant on a lot of overdubs. But there were no major bust-ups.
Q. Does a songwriter sing each songs mainly? (I supposed the vocal of each songs. Is it correct?)
Back among Friends – Matt
Mixed Messages – Chris
Throw It All Away – Mike
Mind Over Matter – Matt
Look Who’s Back In Town Again – Chris
Lonely Life – Mike
Mind Your Manners – Chris & Matt
To Your Satisfaction – Matt (not Chris)
I Can’t Wait Forever – Mike
CHRIS: You were close. I sang lead on Mind Your Manners but I was self-conscious of the “barking” in the verses. Matt agreed to double my vocals so it really is both of us singing almost all of it. I have a few solo lines. There were a few songs that had mostly one guy writing it but there was really so much collaboration. I think of them all as co-writes.
MIKE: these are the leads exactly. Well done. One of the songs I sing has lyrics written by another.
Q. What is the secret of the making of your songs? Is there anything that you keep in mind for songwriting?
CHRIS: I learned a lot from working with those guys. We kept it simple musically. There were usually only 2 parts per song. Verses and choruses. Not a lot of bridges. There were not a lot of complex chords. The melodies were simplified too. Mike has so few lyrics sometimes and I often have so many. I tried to cut it down a bit. In the song that ended up being, “Look Who’s Back In Town Again” Mike insisted that I don’t allow the melody to get in the way of what he liked about the main riff.
MIKE: I think the secret is just not giving yourself a hard time if you can’t come up with anything right away. Sometimes you get writer’s block when you get too self conscious. I do think that watching these other guys who I admire so much, sing so effortlessly was very inspiring for me. It resulted in me singing and performing better.
MATT: We just aim to entertain and surprise the listener.
Q. What are the main equipments which you used in this recording?
CHRIS: We recorded the bed tracks in Sloan’s studio using mostly Sloan’s gear. Matt used his own guitars. He has a Fender Telecaster and some kind of Gretch. Hopefully he answers this. I think Matt mainly used an old Silvertone amp that belongs to my friend, Ryan Haslett.
MIKE: I used 2 different basses, a vintage fender precision bass, and a vintage mustang bass. I played through a traynor guitar amp. I think a yb3. It has a nice growly sound. Then we all sang through a vintage neumann 87 microphone.
MATT: The only thing I will add to Chris’ list is that my Guild is a ’69 Starfire. And we recorded on Protools.
Q. The artwork seemed to be created by John Lennon. I like it. Who painted the artwork of the album?
CHRIS: Mike O’Neill drew it. We knew that it was reminiscent of John Lennon’s drawings. I am really happy with it.
MIKE: I drew the artwork. It’s really quite tiny in real life. I drew it over breakfast based on one of our photographs. I wasn’t going for Lennon but it has a naive quality so I understand the comparison. I’m really thrilled to have done it. I like seeing it on the t shirts.
MATT: I also thought it reminded me of ‘So Far’ by CSNY.
Q. What is the highlight of this album which you recommend?
CHRIS: That’s hard.
MIKE: As a composition I like Back Among Friends and I like the weird guitar ideas and sounds on Look who’s Back In Town Again.
MATT: I love the chorus in Mixed Messages and Mike’s vocal on Throw It All Away.
Q. The music industry has changed a lot. How do you feel the present music industry to be as a musician? What did it bring you?
CHRIS: I do not have any words of wisdom about the music industry. I have no ideas as to how to manoeuvre in it but I naively think that if you put quality stuff out there the people who are looking for it will find it.
MIKE: It hasn’t changed too much I don’t think. I still think the best way to promote yourself is to play live. Certainly promotion through social media is all new but there are lots of fun aspects to that. Probably more difficult to sell records but my band in the 90s did not sell many albums per se so in that way everything feels familiar.
MATT: I like the emphasis on songs over albums – it’s like the days when 45’s ruled. That said, I think our record like a bunch of singles a la Buzzcocks ‘Singles Going Steady’, which also means it includes some cool b-sides.
Q. If you were stuck on a desert island what five albums/CDs could you not live without?
CHRIS: The Beatles – The Beatles; Never Mind The Bollocks – Sex Pistols; Milo Goes To College – The Descendents; Out Of Step – Minor Threat; Blue – Joni Mitchell
MIKE: I would have Booker T and the MGs greatest hits, Sam and Dave greatest hits, Sly and the Family Stone greatest hits. Sergeant Pepper by the Beatles and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. Just being honest (and boring)
MATT: Astral Weeks – Van Morrison – because I will need to find God; London Calling – The Clash – A great soundtrack to build huts and rafts to; Rumours – Fleetwood Mac – I will be nostalgic; The Congos – Heart of the Congos; Snowflakes Are Dancing – Tomita – This is music for disappearing into your own mind.
Q. What kind of existence is MUSIC for you?
CHRIS: I am not sure what this means but… music changed my life and made me who I am. I feel like I am no longer able to hear new music that affects me the same way it used to. This doesn’t mean that I think that music is not as good as it used to be. It’s just that I am unable to hear it in the same way. That said, now when I hear the music that affected me so much as a kid I can still go crazy with excitement.
MIKE: Music is something that comes into my head when I’m not thinking about it. Not necessarily my music but other music. It’s just part of the blood stream. I can’t imagine an hour going by without thinking about a song.
Q. What are your expectations for TUNS and for the future?
CHRIS: I’m not sure what that means but the line up in TUNS is not going to change. Whether or not we last a long time, no one knows. I hope so. We already have a bunch of songs half written for a 2nd album.
MIKE: I was hoping that it would work out but I wasn’t sure that it would. I feel like everyone is mature enough to have a collaborative spirit so I feel like the timing was right. And it “took” as they say.
Q. Please tell me your plans from now on. We will always be there for you!
CHRIS: We have a lot of new jams that we have already narrowed down to an album’s worth. In the mean time we hope to play as many shows as we can given our other commitments.
MIKE: OK! Sounds good.
MATT: We want to play to as many people as possible.
Q. Would you please provide some message to the fans in Japan?
CHRIS: I have been lucky enough to visit Japan 4 times. 3 times touring with Sloan and 1 time doing press for Sloan. It blew my mind to see Japan. We were treated very well and our music seemed to be appreciated there. Sloan has not been back to Japan for 15 years or so. I wish we would go and maybe we will again. Part of the problem is Sloan spends too much money when we travel. I have a hope that TUNS really keeps expenses down that we might have a chance to go to Japan.
MIKE: Hope to see you soon! It would be so much fun to play over there.
MATT: Hope to see you soon.
TUNS official http://tunsband.com/