A whole new generation of CanRock is coming out of the woodwork in the mid-20 teens, and Trevor Murphy of the Parish Choir believes it’s because people his age (32) were raised on such unique ‘90s CanRock.
“I think a lot of Canadian bands in that era had that indefinable quality,” he says over the phone from his Halifax office. “Like, what kind of music does Moist make? Or the Tea Party? Big Wreck is a great example, what the fuck kind of band is Big Wreck and how did they get so successful? We probably wouldn’t know Matt Good if we didn’t have CanCon regulations.”
He notes that in the world of Drake, Bieber and The Weeknd, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for less accessible Canadian indie acts to blow up the way they did in Much Music’s heyday.
“Our Lady Peace is a great example,” Murphy notes. “They’re super weird, but they were like the biggest band in Canada for five years. Those songs would never break right now, and it’s only because of Much Music that we have bands like that. Those institutions created a music scene that is different now because we’re moving towards a global perspective and not really paying attention to that stuff anymore.”
“That stuff” is the jumping off point for the Parish Choir, a recording project vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Murphy is ready to debut with his longtime friend Becky Murray. The duo pays tribute to Matt Good and David Usher on its debut EP, made up of covers of “Running for Home” (from Matthew Good Band’s 1999 Beautiful Midnight LP) and “St. Lawrence River” (from Usher’s first solo disc, 1998’s Little Songs), reimagined here with Murphy’s lush arrangements and Murray’s subtle yet powerful delivery.
“That period of ’96-’99 is an extremely formative time for me,” he says. “There’s a lot to take from it and learn from it.
“I don’t think I was ever into Moist but I saw ‘Forest Fire’ on Much Music and thought it was a cool song so I bought Little Songs by David Usher. That’s a weird record! It’s very eclectic. It’s not really cohesive, but there’s some good songwriting on there. I’m not a die hard David Usher fan, but I’m a die hard fan of that record. So going into reinterpreting a song like ‘St. Lawrence River’ was like, well yeah, we have to make it weird because that’s a weird record. The guitar work on that original is great. We wanted to make sure there was a big highlight on these lyrics because they are great.”
Lyric-wise, Murphy notes that Matthew Good has always been a massive inspiration for him as a songwriter.
“(Good) was always really honest in his songwriting and his approach, obviously a lot of stuff goes into that,” he says. “I think he embodies this point of view where I could see myself having that conversation. How can you argue with a song like ‘Apparitions’, you know? You put that on the same record as something like ‘Rico’ or whatever, and it’s not as in depth, but he always had this way of tying it together with this tongue in cheek irony, with a darker side and a deeply personal side.”
The covers, recorded at Super Friendz’ Charles Austin’s Echo Chamber studio in Halifax, started as stripped down takes with just Murphy’s acoustic guitar and Murray’s haunting vocals, and were fleshed out by the instrumentalist while the singer lived in Egypt for a while.
“There’s no acoustic guitar on either of those tracks, I stripped that out and built around the base track. From there it was largely an experimental process. I knew in ‘Running for Home’ that I wanted the piano to anchor it because it anchors it in the real Matt Good song, but I didn’t wanna play the same and also I can’t really play piano. So that was part of the fun of being in the studio and creating these songs.
“This is a project fuelled by distance and nostalgia,” he says. “We don’t see each other much, but when we do, we wanna see a record of that time together and want it to mean something.”