Barely a year into is his latest project, the electro-pop infused Up Until Now, Jay Murphy is firing on all cylinders. Following up the release of his debut album with Up Until Now, 2010’s Gresham’s Disco, with the stunning EP Billet Doux (released earlier this year), Murphy is on a creative roll and looking forward to a packed festival season.
Murphy took some time from his busy schedule to sit down with Honest Tune in his hometown of Athens, GA to talk about the upcoming Camp Bisco, collaborating with his brother David Murphy of Sound Tribe Sector 9, and what is next for Up Until Now.
Honest Tune: Are you looking forward to Camp Bisco?
Jay Murphy: Yes! I cannot wait! This will be my first Camp, I’m really excited about it. It’s pretty crazy that Camp Bisco has been going on for 10 years. It’s amazing how the event has flourished. This is my first year with Up Until Now during festival season, and it’s been really fun. All the people behind Camp Bisco are great. When people have their shit together, it makes life a lot easier. All the artist relations have been top notch, super on-point.
HT: The lineup looks great. What acts do you want to see?
JM: Wow, that’s tough. The lineup is so sick this year. It’s exactly what I want to see in a festival lineup. I’ll definitely see Master Craft, for sure, Ratatat is another. Camp Bisco has become such an electronic music festival, its right up my alley.
HT: So you and David (Murphy from STS9 and Jay’s brother), will be performing together?
JM: I’m definitely excited to be doing the festival with David. He and I grew up playing music together. This is the first time we’ve been involved in something like this, together, since we were kids. So that’s pretty cool. Obviously, he lives in Colorado, and I’m in Georgia, so a lot of the collaboration we do is by email or over the phone. He came to me and said he wanted to be more involved with Up Until Now, and that was the best news I could have heard. We always talked about having a project together. Now it’s the time.
HT: Will you debut anything new at Camp Bisco?
JM: Yeah, sure. There is a song I did for a Rock Against Cancer compilation. It’s only been played once or twice. I wrote it specifically for that compilation. You’ll hear that this summer. Big Gigantic and Archnemesis are on that compilation. They donated songs. Plus, I’ve got a couple of things off Gresham’s that I don’t always play that I’ve reworked. I’ve done some mash-ups with those. There is a Sector 9 remix that I’ve reworked. I’m stoked about all that. I’ll do all my favorites. David and I have a couple of ideas.
HT: Tell me more about the Rock Against Cancer remixes.
JM: My family is heavily involved with Rock Against Cancer, the Atlanta chapter, specifically. My mom does a bunch of work where she takes kids to rock shows, and kids get to meet their music heroes. They do benefits to raise awareness. They’ve done stuff with Sector 9. I wanted to have people remix some of the songs from Gresham’s, and it just seemed like a good opportunity to give something back. I wasn’t going to take someone else’s work and profit from it, so it seemed like a good way to let the artists give something back. It just made sense to do something for Rock Against Cancer.
I’m not against people who raise money to cure cancer, but Rock Against Cancer works directly with kids during something that I can’t even imagine. Those kids just want to go out and play, but they are stuck in these hospitals. So Rock Against Cancer gives them a chance to meet someone they admire, or gives them some little chance to go have an enjoyable night. It’s a powerful tool for these kids during their recovery. It’s a pleasure for me to be able to give to that. We need the funds, the research, and to help people individually.
HT: What music styles influences your current project, Up Until Now?
JM: My early musical influences are definitely classic rock. The band Yes, Pink Floyd, stuff like that. Stevie Wonder is probably my number one.
For Up Until Now, though, the influences are definitely more French house music, like The Justice, Daft Punk. When it came to the idea of creating Up Until Now, it was based on those influences, more than the influences I grew up listening to.
HT: What does “Up Until Now” mean to you?
JM: Originally, it was a song by a good friend of mine in a band with me. I kind of look at it as living in the moment, or being in the moment, it’s about living “up until now.” I started a project called Up Until Now about five years ago that was basically me making tracks in my house. I kind of started to put some stuff together, but nothing ever really worked out. But, I started making tracks at home again, so it seemed fitting to call it “Up Until Now.”
HT: What about the name for the new EP, Billet Doux?
JM: I brainstormed ideas for the name of the EP, surfing the internet. The words are French, and it means “a short love note,” or “a short love letter.” And since I was putting out an EP, that being a little shorter, it seemed right. The French title I think adds some appeal. It’s sexy.
HT: How is Billet Doux different from Gresham’s Disco?
JM: Gresham’s Disco was created with Ableton Live, Pro Tools and synthesizers. With the new record, Billet Doux, we incorporated live bass guitar, live drum set, even some guitar on a couple songs as well as synthesizers and Ableton. I see the future being about not placing limits on the instruments that are put on the record. After all, it is electronic. So, I try to keep true to electronic and keep true to my roots.
Billet Doux, the new EP, is more mature, and more focused on what I wanted to do, and the sound I wanted to get out of it. I think Billet Doux has more focus and more direction than Gresham’s. For Billet Doux, we really developed the sound. We went after it, you know? Having fewer tracks makes it easier to focus and really do those songs right.
I feel like overall, Billet Doux came out better. A lot of love was put into that EP.
HT: Who else plays on Billet Doux?
JM: That’s another thing that makes Billet Doux different from Gresham’s. We were able to put some guests on the EP – my brother and Solomon Wright from Dubconscious. It was a lot of fun. They brought things to the table that made me be like, “oh, cool, you did this, now I can go and do this,” and it makes the song better, you know? They inspire things. That was really cool. It’s bringing people together to put their mark on the EP, and that was different than Gresham’s.
HT: It seems like there is a lot of camaraderie on the 1320 record label.
JM: Most of the people on 1320 know each other through music and respect each other, and it’s going to be natural to collaborate.
HT: Tell me about the other festivals you’re doing this summer.
JM: I’m doing Rootwire and Regeneration festivals. Papadosio puts on Rootwire Festival. Keep your ear out for Papadosio. They are killing it right now. They put on this festival; it’s going to be a good time. The original Regeneration festival was in 2007 in Asheville, North Carolina. This time, the festival is in Oregon. It’s put on by Sector 9 and 1320 and Madison House. I’m totally ecstatic. Horning’s Hideout is supposedly the most amazing place ever.
HT: What else do you have on tap?
JM: I’ve been writing music. We are putting together some stuff for Athens, Georgia in July, hopefully. As of right now, I am working on new material. I’m deciding between putting out a single, and having a couple of people remix the single, or just going ahead and doing a new full length record. I would hope to have it out by October or November.
But then I’m reminded that you can’t force creativity. When I can’t write songs, I can’t write songs. I travel and play a lot of college towns, but, well, lots of people who go to shows go somewhere else over the summer in a college town, you know?
HT: Is Athens the hub of electronic dance music?
JM: I don’t really know, I’m on the inside looking out. Maybe you could say that. I moved to Athens in January of 2002, and have pretty much been here ever since. It’s a cool spot. There is no reason to leave.
HT: Tell me about your creative process.
JM: The creative process comes with either hearing something that sparks an idea, or something that happens that sparks an idea, and I usually just start creating off that. And within a day of two, I can usually tell if the song is going to continue to grow.
That is definitely another difference between Gresham’s and Billet Doux. With Gresham’s we had ideas and we just went with it. But on Billet Doux, we really developed ideas over time. And that’s the best thing. You get a few ideas, and let them keep marinating over time until they are ready. So, I’m hoping by the end of the year to have something new out.
HT: Are you politically-minded? What is behind the name of the track, "Obamanation"?
JM: I’m not a super politically-driven person. I just thought it was interesting because people can look at it two different ways. I think it’s funny how when Obama was elected, people either loved him or despised him. There wasn’t a lot of in between.
I get a lot of questions about that song. That was the intention – to show the controversy. People can take it however they want to.
Hey, I play electronic dance music. It’s about partying. I’ll play that song at Camp Bisco. It’s a good one.