In 2017, Murray Matravers formed the alternative band, Easy Life. Hailing originally from Leicester, Matravers, Oliver Cassidy, Sam Hewitt, Lewis Berry and Jordan Birtles are now in their fourth year with Island records, where they’ve thrived as the easy-going R&B inspired group who deal with poignant themes and honest lyrics. Easy Life have openly discussed mental health in their music, and their track ‘Nightmares’ appeared on the I May Destroy You (2020) soundtrack for just that. Prior to this, the band’s third mixtape ‘Junk Food’ impressively reached no. 7 in the UK Albums Chart the day after its release last year. Now, Easy Life have released their debut album ‘Life’s a Beach’, which quickly claimed a no. 2 spot in the UK’s Official Albums Chart earlier this month.
‘Life’s a Beach’ with Easy Life’s Murray Matravers by Jessica Doran
Easy Life have certainly demonstrated their ability to genre-hop and diversify their musical style. This comes through in ‘Life’s a Beach’, which Murray tells me intends to take you on “a hypothetical trip to the seaside,” a journey which is reflected by the way in which their eclectic album plays with mood changes and delivers an exciting balance of energy and chilled vibes.
Both a little frazzled by the early morning start, Murray and I sat down to a relaxed Zoom call to discuss Easy Life’s emerging success. Ready in a cosy fleece and his hands clasped around a coffee mug, I asked Murray how he was feeling about the fact that ‘Life’s a Beach’ had claimed a no.2 spot in the charts.
With an earnest look on his face, Murray replied: “yeah, we’re stoked! Really really stoked. It’s good that it’s out there and people are enjoying it.”
It interested me that the album was created over lockdown. Lockdown has been a strange space for many people, and some artists have described their desire to take a break from music during this period. This was not the case for Murray, however, who somewhat flourished in a space where time felt plentiful. On writing the album, Murray said: “it gave me something to do; I was never really that bored so that was useful. I sort of never had so much time to make music before.”
Having said this, Murray admits that “it was a blessing and a curse,” because on the one hand he could “be quite detailed with the deep dive on things and really go in on the themes and the production,” but on the other, it lacked the spontaneity that he was used to with his lyrics before. Murray said that “in a way, sometimes, it [lockdown] hindered me because the best music is quite spontaneous, so I had ages to make songs that never even made the album, but it was a good process.”
With Murray saying he somewhat enjoyed the lockdown for writing purposes, I wondered how the dynamic worked with the other band members during this time.
“Yeah, it’s been tough because we’ve not been touring, but on the records I’m just able to play everything anyway. I was able to record it with our producer Rob because we work on Zoom. We’ve always worked like that as well, so it wasn’t like some new thing that we had to learn to do, but in terms of the band dynamic man it’s been tough like we haven’t done a tour for eighteen months or whatever.”
I asked Murray about Easy Life’s anticipated November tour.
“Yeah well, we were planning on doing an in-store tour (which is like record shops and things) in July. That’s what we’re trying to do but I mean I don’t know.”
Murray seemed hesitant to promise anything to fans when the restrictions still feel so uncertain for live events. Understanding his scepticism, I decided to move on to discussing the critically acclaimed debut album. ‘Life’s a Beach’ has been described by NME as ‘a genre-blurring, sun drenched debut’, and it is definitely the genre-hopping aspect that makes the album so distinctive. If you can imagine Loyle Carner crossed with Just Jack with interludes of a Tom Misch electronic sound, then throw the seaside into the mix, you might be able to somewhat picture the vibe of ‘Life’s a Beach’. With the album being such a diverse amalgamation of different music, I wondered if Easy Life had ever intended the album to have a particular sound.
“That’s a good question. Do you know what I genuinely never really aim in a particular direction sonically because I think that’s quite limiting? With the first album I didn’t really care about how it sounded so that would lead to some quite interesting results, more hip-hop leaning songs and other more indie leaning songs and some quite strange songs as well on there. I think it was important for the first album that we didn’t try and make it sound in a particular sort of way. We had three mixtapes beforehand which had all sort of shown the different sides of what Easy Life could be. It was important that on the debut album we included all the weird ones as well as the sing along ones.”
With Murray’s reference to Easy Life’s previous music, I asked him how he thought this album speaks to or differentiates from the band’s EP ‘Junk Food’.
“I think this one had more of a world, if that makes sense? Like we made the world of ‘Junk Food’ kind of after it was written. ‘Junk Food’ is a lyric in one of the songs (‘Earth’), and we just sort of expanded that world after the songs were written, but this one, you know, I had ‘Life’s a Beach’ really early on and all of the songs were written through that lens. I think thematically this one is slightly stronger, but this is just me talking in an interview like they’re both very similar projects.”
I tried to press Murray to tell me which song was his favourite on ‘Life’s a Beach’, but like a proud father he responded: “I try my best not to have favourites because then I feel like I’m leaving them out. You can’t choose between your children you know so I try my best not to.”
He then explained: “I genuinely have a really vivid memory of all the songs, it’s like keeping a little diary. All the songs mean something even if the meaning is just like “oh that’s funny because we were really p****d,” I remember that. So, yeah, I genuinely don’t have favourites and I’m not just being really diplomatic, I just try not to.”
‘Life’s a Beach’ really does sound meticulously planned, and this is evident by the way in which Murray discusses each song and the thematic process, so I asked him about the journey that Easy Life intended their listeners to go on when they heard the album.
“With all our projects, we spend a lot of the time on the track listing. Like I said, what differentiates this from the previous projects perhaps is that the track listing was thought of from the inception of the album. I was always thinking of the order. The idea was that you’d follow a hypothetical trip to the seaside (bit weird but stay with me). So the first six tracks are really uplifting and positive. Feeling positive; feeling good. Things are going to plan; it’s sunny. Then you get to the seaside on side B, and you realise that you’ve just taken all your problems with you, and I think side B (the second half of the album) is a little bit more honest, and a little bit more real, and a little bit more miserable in places as well. Then towards the end you just want to go home. You’re like “f*** it I’m just going to go back because I’m not really having the best time here.” So, yeah, time to leave. That is the journey.”
Having listened to the last track, you understand what Murray is talking about here when he says, “it’s time to go home” by the end of the album. ‘Music to Walk Home to’ almost feels like spoken word. It’s a bizarre track but its honesty makes it all the more inviting and memorable, and it has since become one of my personal favourites on the album. Murray laughed at my description of the track: “yeah, it’s weird, isn’t it? That was a fun one to make.”
The interesting thing about Murray Matravers as an individual is that he seems to be in almost disbelief at his own rising success. In his interview with GQ, Murray is quoted describing himself as being “the most unlikely pop star ever.”
Murray explains: “I don’t know I think it’s all a bit weird but it’s fine. I really genuinely love making music. I will always do that regardless of whether I am making it professionally. So, it’s dope that somebody pays me to just do my hobby. I think most artists or song writers will come back with that response. This is just insane that somebody is stupid enough to pay me to do this hahaha so it’s great.”
Interestingly, a down to earth Murray then said something that I felt would resonate with a lot of young people who might feel slightly lost after they finish education.
“I think (like loads of young people) I had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted to do. I spent like four years just doing nothing really which I think is everyone’s story to be honest. Some people are really lucky, and they know what they want to do and then some people say to me “you’re so lucky you know what you want to do,” and I’m like well I don’t really I’m just doing this thing which I’ve been blessed with having.”
Despite Murray’s slightly self-deprecating commentary of his career, I knew that Easy Life had experienced some amazing things so far. I was therefore keen to know what had been their biggest highlight to date.
Murray sighed in manner of nostalgia: “you know it’s funny, putting the album out is a massive thing for us. We always wanted to make a full-length album so we can’t overlook that, but playing Jools Holland (we did this really early on – three or four years ago), when that happened, it was huge for us because we used to watch it as kids. That’s still something I bang on about because at the time it was our first live TV show as well which was just terribly nerve wracking. It was just something we always really wanted to do. I guess there’s so many things that I am really proud of that we have done, but I think Jools Holland was a special one because you could tell people that didn’t work in music about it, and they’d get it. You could tell your gran and your mum, and they’d know what you meant.”
We both agreed that Jools Holland was a classic New Year’s Eve tradition, but knowing how many artists perform there every year, it got me thinking who Easy Life might dream about collaborating with.
“That’s really tough. I think I usually come back with somebody like Stevie Wonder. Just because obviously he’s a legend and all of his music is ridiculously good so I think it would just be a mad collaboration, but so many people but to be honest I don’t think any of them will ever happen. You’ve got to write with your friends and I’d have to be friends with Stevie Wonder somehow and when is that going to become the case?”
Jokingly, I suggested that Murray should get on LinkedIn. Humouring me, he smiled and replied: “exactly, that’s what would have to happen.”
Since we were on the topic of dream moments, I had to ask Murray where Easy Life’s most desired venue would be to perform at. This is a question that Murray did not have to think about. Without hesitation, he replied: “I mean I can’t lie; we’re playing Brixton. We’ve got two nights now. Brixton is like (on the venue circuit if you started at your local boozer) ending at Brixton is the one. It’s the last venue you play before you play at an arena, and we don’t want to play arenas.” I enjoyed this answer and felt intrigued to learn more about Murray’s reasoning for this.
“Obviously it’s going to be fun when you first do it (playing arenas) but I’ve always felt dirty sweaty venues like Brixton are a lot more rewarding. We’d be stoked to play an arena don’t get me wrong, but I just think Brixton is the Holy Grail. I think we’d rather play five nights at Brixton than play one night at Ally Pally. Yeah, I just can’t believe we are playing at Brixton; that is honestly right up there on the bucket list.”
Realising the time, I wondered if Murray could wrap up our chat by enlightening me a little into what the future holds for Easy Life and whether I could get a sneak peak at the kinds of themes that they would be using in their future music.
Perfectly, Murray concluded our chat with what I am sure all Easy Life fans will have been waiting to hear: “sooo, we’re working on the second album. I started working on it in January. I submitted the first album in December. I hope to get it out soon. I can say there are some really exciting collaborations coming which I am really excited about.”
You can listen to all of Easy Life’s music, including the debut album ‘Life’s a Beach’, by following the link here.
‘Life’s a Beach’ with Easy Life’s Murray Matravers by Jessica Doran