Photography / Gareth Thomas
In the deep end
Like most great things, the debut album from Amelia Murray, aka Fazerdaze, was a long time in the making – now the bedroom pop artist is reaping the rewards.
Morningside, the debut album by Aucklander Amelia Murray, aka Fazerdaze, is one of this year’s finest local releases. It’s a compliment the 24 year old humbly welcomes after what has been a whirlwind year. Released in May through Flying Nun records, Morningside is a collection of infectious bedroom guitar-pop songs that gracefully blend sun-drenched reverb with breezy melodies. It’s captured the attention of audiences abroad too, with a second international tour booked before the year’s end.
Paperboy sat down with Murray on a rainy Thursday night at Revel Cafe on Karangahape Road, as she prepares for her next overseas jaunt and a homecoming show in Auckland in September. A generous interviewee, she reflected on the tour, her album, her place on the Silver Scroll longlist and the importance of being hands-on.
Touring Europe and the U.K. in April and May, you played festivals like Amsterdam’s London Calling, Live at Leeds and Manchester’s Sounds From the Other City. Was there a personal highlight?
My favourite show was in Paris. We were on first and my expectations were really low; it was a really nice day and I didn’t think anybody would come out early to see us. By the time we got on, it was completely packed out. I practised my high school French and I think they appreciated that I was attempting to speak their language, rather than assuming they should know English. We had a woman on sound which is very rare and she did the best job of the entire tour, she just got our sound. It was the third to last show of the tour and we were so tight by then.
‘Lucky Girl’, a recent single and album highlight, made it onto the 2017 APRA Silver Scroll longlist, New Zealand’s most prestigious songwriting award. Can you delve into its background, lyrically and musically?
I wrote ‘Lucky Girl’ when I needed to remind myself to be grateful for what I had. I found myself feeling sad or melancholic over things I shouldn’t be sad over. I wrote it subconsciously, it’s one of those songs that came easily and fell out of me.
I recorded while I was writing it. The microphone was breaking and I pushed through anyway and tried to get the song down before I forgot it, and when I came back to it I was like, ‘oh, this is really cool!’. The distortion from the breaking microphone really worked, and I ended up keeping that in the original recording. I think I had to replace a few lyrics but otherwise it’s pretty much intact from the demo. I gave Gareth [Thomas, partner and fellow musician] 10 percent of the songwriting because he told me to cut the pre-chorus in half which was a really good move, it turned it more into a pop song.
You edited the video for ‘Lucky Girl’ too, which has over two million views on YouTube. You also collaborated with a friend on the album artwork and manage your own social media. And you wrote and recorded Morningside on your own. Is keeping Fazerdaze independent – through all mediums – hugely important?
For me, it’s so much more satisfying to see the creative process as it’s happening, and not just be sent a final edit to work with. I really enjoy being hands-on, not having to rationalise my decisions along the way, but being able to subconsciously make and create things. As soon as things are out of my reach I’m suddenly having to articulate why I don’t like something, or how I want something to improve. If I’m just working on it myself I don’t have to reason with anyone, I can do what feels right and switch off half of my brain and dive in without thinking too hard. It’s a much easier, fluid way of working. When you’re creating, you’re making so many decisions, and I can hear myself best when I’m by myself. The decisions are much clearer and less thought about.
Morningside was finished in March 2016 yet it wasn’t released until May 2017. What challenges did you face?
I wanted to release it properly and it took me a long time to set up the right infrastructure. It was finding the right team and the right label so that when the album did come out, I had the kind of people and team in place to do a really good job.
Pushing myself to make an album with no money, no funding, no label – nothing – was another reason the album took so long. There was no guarantee of success, money or stability and making it required so much time. I wasn’t able to work full-time which was hard financially. Auckland’s really tough as an artist, it’s so expensive. Even going to the supermarket is expensive. I was in Auckland to do music but I felt I couldn’t afford to stay, it was such a struggle to get past that.
Did you get offered any studio space to help?
I did get New Zealand on Air funding for one song, ‘Little Uneasy’, and I recorded it in the studio. That one took the longest because it went through the hands of engineers, and I had to communicate via them to get the sound I had in my head. That was one of the first songs I did for the album and I realised I still wasn’t ready for a studio. I just needed to go back home and record it the same way I did my E.P.
‘Jennifer’, which first appeared on your 2014 self-titled E.P., and ‘Take it Slow’ are highlights. What are some key influences on your music?
Zentropy by Frankie Cosmos. I loved how it was really song-y. I tried to do that with this album, to have good song after good song. Car Seat Headrest, too. I was identifying with bedroom recording artists, or artists that had started on Bandcamp. I wanted to make something that would be made in the bedroom but exist longer. Not just lean on the bedroom pop genre, but actually hold its own as a record.
What significance does Morningside, the suburb, hold for you?
Morningside symbolises getting through a really dark patch in my life. I made the album through a difficult time. I just felt uncomfortable with myself and incredibly lost. I was moving flats, trying to search for home. When I moved to Morningside, I finished the album and it was the first time
I felt clear-headed in a long time.
And how does Morningside, the album, resonate with you?
It’s such a coming-of-age record. Lyrically, it’s looking inwards a lot more than outwards. I’m just trying to figure myself out. Even the way I made it, it’s a really coherent piece, every part of it, the emotions in it.
There was no blueprint, plan or structure for it, I was just blindly diving into the deep end. I didn’t even know I had started making it, and by the time I realised, I was so out of my own depth, I just had to learn how to swim. But that’s how you grow and push yourself. It’s cool to struggle and just get there.
Catch Fazerdaze at her New Zealand homecoming show on Fri 8 Sep at The Kings Arms Tavern