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The Murlocs stay true to their style, but experiment further with their fourth album

For essentially as long as he’s been making music that a wider audience pays attention to, Ambrose Kenny Smith has been living a double life. 

You may recognise him as one of the key players in the fold of psych-rock septet King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, but he’s also spent most of the 2010s simultaneously at the helm of Melbourne blues-garage outfit The Murlocs. It’s entirely to Smith’s credit that he’s been able to maintain the latter with a relative degree of consistency, even when the demands of the former grow increasingly greater as the years progress. “It’s been hard, for sure,” says Smith. 

“We have to time it just right – we have to all be home, we have to be off tour, we have to make sure it doesn’t clash with our day jobs, and we have to make sure it’s not overriding any of our other bands. We can go for weeks at a time without seeing one another, but that can also be good on account of getting to work on demos on our own and give everyone else something to work with when we do all come together.”

It’s for this reason that it’s taken over 18 months for The Murlocs to get their fourth album out into the world. “We did a bunch of overdubs over the coming months, all while I was touring on and off with Gizz,” Smith explains. Sessions took place at Newmarket Studios in North Melbourne, with the band self-producing the album with assistance from two of Smith’s King Gizz bandmates – Stu Mackenzie and Cook Craig (also in The Murlocs) – on engineering and overdub duties, respectively.

“It’s definitely the best studio we’ve ever made a record in,” says Smith of the band’s time in Newmarket Studios. “Best as in, like, it’s the most proper, if that makes sense. I’d only been in there once before with Gizz, but it was a really cool space to explore. They’ve got a lot of amazing equipment in there – it really makes everything sound really cool.” The end result is Manic Candid Episode, set for release at the end of the month through King Gizzard’s own Flightless Records. It marks another shift in dynamic and stylistic approach for the band, although never entirely straying from what makes up a Murlocs song.

“I think every record has just enough changes where you can see the kind of sound we were going for with each,” says Smith. “[First album, 2014’s] Loopholes has this really lo-fi and washed-out sound, and then we went a little more hi-fi on [second album, 2016’s] Young Blindness. When we made [third album, 2017’s] Old Locomotive, we went even more lo-fi than before. This, on the other hand, is probably the most lush sounding record we’ve ever made. Obviously, it’s all the same band – we’re just interested in what we can achieve sonically each time we get in the studio.”

It’s for this reason that not every song recorded in the sessions for Manic Candid Episode ended up making it onto the final tracklisting. As Smith explains: “They weren’t 100% finished ideas. All the other songs that made the record seemed to make a lot of sense together, whereas these seemed to have a bit more of a different direction. They’re really rock, so maybe if they get a little more time and a little more love we can work them into an EP at some point.”

The rest of 2019 is more or less already laid out before Smith and co., as his double life goes back into full swing over the coming weeks and months. “We’ve got the launch shows, then a festival at the end of the month, off to America in May, back at it with Gizz in July and we’re doing Japan, America and Europe.” Good luck with that. “Thanks,” laughs Smith. “I’m gonna need it.”

The Murlocs’ fourth studio album, Manic Candid Episode, comes out on Friday March 22 through Flightless Records. They’ll be launching it as part of Brunswick Music Festival at the Moreland Hotel on Thursday March 14 and Friday March 15. Grab your tickets via the festival website.