April/May 2017

by Sam Vegar

Fazerdaze: Morningside Is Life

by Sam Vegar

Fazerdaze: Morningside Is Life

Amelia Murray is the shy enchantress behind the dreamy fuzz-guitared world of Fazerdaze. After moving north from Wellington to Auckland to study music she served her uni time playing in bands, alongside some well-known and established players. Deciding it was time to find her own sound Amelia began working on a solo project during her last year of university, introducing herself to the world with the ’Fazerdaze’ EP late in 2014. NZ Music Month 2017 will bring us ’Morningside’, her debut album, and no doubt usher in the next stage of Fazerdaze fanfare. Sam Vegar talked with the burgeoning indie music heroine.

Released in October 2014, the ’Fazerdaze’ EP marked Amelia Murray, aka Fazerdaze, out as the hot new local indie darling. Most of the EP’s five songs had life as alt radio singles, but Jennifer and Treading Lightly in particular revealed a new artist with real crossover potential.

Since then Murray has been busily making a career out of her music. Playing shows in Australia, UK, and attending the Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal late last year, Fazerdaze has begun to win the hearts of similar dreamlike musicians and fans the world over.

Murray was in her last year of studying pop music at the University of Auckland when the idea of starting a project began to form.

“I had been playing in bands my whole teenage life, but I couldn’t quite find one in Auckland, they just kept breaking apart, and I got really tired of having to lean on other people. Also, I couldn’t really quite get the sound in my head. I had this idea and strong sound I wanted, and I just could never quite form it by working with other musicians. I didn’t really know what it was,” she admits.

“It was a lot easier for me to just go home, and with all the time in the world, figure out what it was, and just chase that sound. I found that it suited me a lot more, ’cause I’m pretty introverted and quiet, so it was a lot easier for me to be the whole band in my bedroom myself. I actually found it really fulfilling, and it worked with me creatively.”

During her studies Murray had been introduced to new concepts and methods of creating music that have greatly contributed to Fazerdaze’s sound.

“This compulsory paper ended up being life changing for me. It totally introduced me to recording and the concepts of sound. At the time I was not interested, but I made myself show up and tried really hard to grasp all these concepts. It didn’t really make sense at the time, but when I started recording after I finished that paper, everything made sense, and I got it, it clicked! So that paper was really fundamental in doing what I do.”

Her strictly DIY approach to Fazerdaze has been maintained since starting the project. Now three years in she still writes and develops each song on her own, but performs with a band that currently includes Mark Perkins (Merk) on guitar and bvs, Elliot Francis on drums and Benjamin Locke (Seaviews) playing bass.

Since finishing uni Fazerdaze has been the primary project for Murray, and appropriately the first single released from her new album is the upbeat Lucky Girl – ’I know I’m a lucky, lucky girl…’

“Sometimes it doesn’t quite feel real. I’ve had to become so professional with it [music], otherwise it feels like a little bit like a joke, or like, ’What’s the point?’ I have to put on this professional hat and schedule out my hours, booking sessions with people and myself, and not letting anything get in the way with that!”

Along with 35 other musicians from around the globe she was chosen to attend to attend the Red Bull Music Academy held in Montreal in September and October 2016. The experience brings together musicians all at different stages in their careers to learn and work with each other.

“The whole thing was a party, for me it was kind of overwhelming ’cause I’m not used to that sort of scene, but it was really good. I feel like I was pushed out of my comfort zone. We had some incredible lecturers, like Bjork was there, and Blood Orange!

“It was the first time I really realised that this whole recording thing I’m doing is only something I can do because it’s 2017. Bjork was talking about how we should make sure we use technology in our art, because it’s really important for artists to give technology a voice rather than technology giving artists a voice – we should always make sure we are in control. So I think I walked away being way more interested in how I’m using technology.”

After a month of working quite intimately together, lifelong friendships naturally emerge.

“We all formed a special connection, we were all completely in the same boat,” she happily reflects.

In mid-2016 she found management for Fazerdaze with Ashley Sambrooks of newish Melbourne-based music PR and management label Higher Plains – evidently his highest priority signing. Closer to home she’s signed to Flying Nun who will release her debut album ’Morningside’ locally in early May. About then Murray will also embark on a tour around England and Europe.

True to her bedroom project-DIY ethic, construction of Fazerdaze ’Morningside’ was grew through a process of inspiration and learning, though she admits she tried using a studio at the outset.

”Wistfully forlorn but beamingly optimistic, Lucky Girl is a fitting way to welcome the sunshine after hard rain.” – Buzzfeed’s 27 New Songs You Need To Hear

“At the time I was listening to a lot of the New York scene, like Frankie Cosmos and Eskimo. A lot of those guys record at home. I think when I listen to their music it made me feel like my work was more real. I really draw from those guys in their approach to making music.

“I did actually try going into a studio. I started off like, ’I’m going to do a studio album’, but I felt like everything was out of reach, I had no connection to the process of it.”

That may change for her sophomore release as she used the mixing process to gain some hands-on studio education.

“I ended up going to Murray Fisher [Goodshirt], who lived just around the corner to me. I could walk over to his place and we’d do a whole day in mixing. I was there the whole time watching him and learning from him – and also so I could make sure it was being mixed the way I wanted!”

So far Fazerdaze’s music has tended to be quite personal and intimate, and in the process of writing ’Morningside’ Murray drew a lot from personal experiences, not just lyrically but also to create that sound and special connection.

“I wrote this album while I was going through so much stuff, so I feel like it was very personal as a way of me documenting these feelings, almost like how you’d write a diary. I feel like that album is that for me, kind of just getting it out of my head. People get it onto paper, and I get it onto songs.

“At the moment it is personal, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself. One day it would be great to make an instrumental album, or a completely electronic album. But at the time it was really good for me to use the album as a sanctuary and a place to feel safe, maybe to feel some self compassion and to help me understand myself more. It feels like a really selfish thing, but I really hope at least one other person kind of connects to it.”

”Here’s a perfect burst of swooning, happy-sad bedroom guitar-pop sunshine.” – Gorilla vs Bear

Whatever career jump it gives her aside, she describes ’Morningside’ as being a really useful album for her to make.

“It helped me get through so much stuff, just to be able to focus on it and have this space where I could completely be myself, as well as be productive. So instead of wallowing in my sadness, I’m making something, and I can give it back to the world.”

With plenty of experiments and interesting new ideas evident the album shows lots of growth since the ’Fazerdaze’ EP, and Murray is optimistic about continuing to develop her music further.

“I really don’t see this album as the be all and end all. I see it way more as like a learning curve and a growing process, the stepping stone to the next thing I make. So I really see it as like an older sister to the EP.”

“A lot of what Fazerdaze is, is I get to learn. The learning is a huge part of it, it’s like inviting people to come watch me learn, come watch me figure it out. It’s not really like this fully-formed project, it’s very much like leaving it open, as in, ’Watch me grow and form’, rather than, ’Here’s the perfectly formed product.’ I’m still figuring it out, and that’s what it’s all about.”