The Murlocs have announced details of their new album, Bittersweet Demons, to be released on esteemed indie ATO Records on June 25th. Today’s news comes with the first track – and a new video – from the exhilarating Australian rock band.
“Francesca” was written as a rip-roaring celebration of the rejuvenated life of frontman Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s mom. With music written by Murlocs’ keyboard and guitarist Tim Karmouche, Ambrose says of the lyrics,“The song is about my mother and how she had been lost for love since the separation from my father when I was 10. In the last year and a half or so she’s found love again, with a very close family friend of ours, someone who has always been a godfather and mentor to me in many ways. This has changed her spirit immensely for the better. You can really see the pop in her step as this enormous weight has been lifted off her shoulders.”
Citing some of his favorite songs as being odes to impressive women – like Van Morrison’s “Gloria” – Ambrose explains, “Francesca is my mother’s middle name and I’ve always loved it so much.” Of turning his songwriting lens to his mother, and celebrating her rediscovered joie de vivre, he adds,“It’s probably the most positive, feel-good song we’ve ever done. It’s also the closest we’ve ever come to having an 80’s phase.”
Directed by Alex McLaren, the “Francesca” video was shot at the end of April 2020. The band’s hometown of Melbourne, Australia was coming out of one of its first short Covid lockdown periods and restrictions had eased for a short period of time. The band and director quickly jumped on the opportunity to shoot while they had the chance.
Says Ambrose, “I remembered being at a festival and bumping into our longtime video-clip collaborator and friend, Alex Mclaren. I had brought him back to our campsite and he played the song “I Love LA” by Randy Newman which ultimately brought the tents down and got the party started.” Newman’s 1983 classic soft top music video informed “Francesca”, with the car footage being shot along Ivanhoe Boulevard in Melbourne where Ambrose’s mom grew up.
The theme of celebrating loved ones continues on the album, which is equal parts character study and adoring homage. With Bittersweet Demons The Murlocs share a collection of songs reflecting on the people who leave a profound imprint on their lives, the saviors and hellraisers and assorted other mystifying characters. The most personal and boldly confident work yet, the album sets that storytelling to 11 infectious tracks written mostly on piano, lending a greater emotional intensity to the band’s restless and radiant brand of garage-rock. What emerges is a beautifully complex body of work, one that shines a light on the fragilities of human nature while inducing the glorious head rush that accompanies any Murlocs outing.
With their lineup including two members of the globally beloved King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (Kenny-Smith and bassist Cook Craig), The Murlocs recorded at Button Pushers Studio in Melbourne with producer Tim Dunn, dreaming up a prismatic sound that pinballs from sunshine-pop to blues-punk to wide-eyed psychedelia. Naming John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Harry Nilsson’s Lennon-produced Pussy Cats among their key reference points, the band adorned their songs with many unexpected details: woozy Wurlitzer melodies, Brian May-esque guitar harmonies, playful atmospheric elements like the whoosh of summer rain, caught by a microphone dragged into the street mid-storm. The result is an album both exuberant and heavy-hearted, a dynamic that wholly fulfills Kenny-Smith’s mission of “always aspiring to write songs that have a bit of twisted positivity to them.”
The Murlocs hope to have some North American touring plans to share sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we can promise that Bittersweet Demons is a dizzying delight of cracking songs, all set to provide some superior sonic sparkle for the summer.