FRITZ: Sticky-sweet grunge-pop turning teenage boredom into a rallying cry
Hailing from the Newcastle halfway round the world, Tilly Murphy is making a bold racket the Toon would love to call their own. In her guise as FRITZ, Murphy and her band have parlayed an album of ramshackle, GarageBand demos into appearances at SXSW, Groovin The Moo festivals and a record deal with Inertia Music in their native Australia. Not bad considering Murphy got her first guitar as a gift just five years ago and figured she “might as well learn how to play it.”
Murphy is FaceTiming from her family’s home, where she still makes all her demos and where she filmed the video for her most recent and breakthrough single, ‘Arrow’. It’s a wonderfully amateur clip that turns teenage boredom into a rallying cry, rife with bedroom singalongs, crude collages, and mildly-obscene junk food creations.
Murphy claims she didn’t put too much thought into the video because “I really didn’t even think ‘Arrow’ would be a song.” She apparently wrote it sometime last year but was reluctant to take it further until one of her bandmates urged her to record it in a proper studio. She’s now glad she got past her initial reservations – and so are we. ‘Arrow’ marks FRITZ’s catchiest song to date, as Murphy delivers a triumphant kiss-off over a sticky-sweet, grunge-pop chorus.
Though Murphy cites The Strokes as her gateway band, The Vaccines and Wavves loom equally large as influences. She refers to all three as her “holy trinity,” and says that most of her favourite artists are from the UK and US. It was shortly after learning that Wavves’ Nathan Williams recorded all his early albums in GarageBand that she was inspired to attempt her own GarageBand-recorded full-length at the age of 17. “I remember him mentioning GarageBand and thinking ‘is that what I have on my computer? I can make an album on that?’ So I did.” The resulting album, the fizzy-fuzzy 2017’s self-titled ‘Fritz’, is charmingly primordial but its lo-fi sketches do show significant promise.
In addition to the summer bummer jams of Wavves, ‘Fritz’ also owes a debt to Best Coast, the beachy indie project from Bethany Cosentino. It all comes together most convincingly on ‘YUK!’ – a pogoing sand n’ surf anthem that combines Williams’ flair for rhythm with Cosentino’s gift for hazy, rueful melody. And yes, for the record, Murphy did attend the Best Coast virtual show which commemorated the 10-year anniversary of their debut, ‘Crazy for You’.
While Murphy still demos all her songs at home on her computer, she and her band are now increasingly comfortable in the studio, where they have recorded the last several one-off singles, including ‘Arrow’. But even being freed of the limitations of her home recording setup, Murphy says her songs rarely change too dramatically when tracking in the studio, as she seeks to preserve the comforting, intimate feel she’s able to achieve on her own. She appears to have found an likeminded collaborator in Fraser Marshall, a local Newcastle producer who shares her attraction to ragged simplicity. He’s been at the helm for the entirety of the debut album sessions, which are now quickly drawing to a close.
Murphy offers up a few tantalising morsels from the new record, which she refers to as her debut ‘proper’. And true to her word, the recordings remain loose and unfussed, keeping the bedroom aesthetic intact. However, they also explore sounds that have no obvious precedent in the FRITZ catalogue. One song – with its loud, dreamy burst of a chorus – is strongly reminiscent of the Pixies at their college rock-era peak. Another opens with a chiming Johnny Marr guitar line that pays fitting tribute to the morose Mancurian legends. Perhaps hinting at what’s to come, Murphy flashes a shot of a Smiths poster adorning her bedroom wall in the ‘Arrow’ video.
Asked when the world at large can expect to hear her proper debut full-length, she shrugs as if to suggest our guess is as good as hers. Everything, it seems, is a bit of a waiting game at the moment. For now, she’s simply biding her time at home, waiting for inspiration to strike. As Murphy well knows, boredom has its uses.
FRITZ’ ‘Arrow’ is out now