During the past couple of years, Murphy's Kids have seen good friends come and go. As lead singer and trumpet player John Charlet explains: “We called the new album ‘Departures’ because people who mean a lot to us have left Richmond to follow their dreams, and a few passed away. Of course that affected us.”
The title also refers to a departure stylistically for Murphy's Kids. No longer a straight-ahead, ska-punk band, its first full-length effort gives the group a little more room to explore new ideas. “We're still absolutely in love with horn sections and hope that continues to be a big part of how we present ourselves,” Charlet says. “Horns are represented in all of the music that we love: feel-good music like old-school reggae, old and new ska, and funk.”
All of that can be heard on “Departures,” but it's still undeniably Murphy's Kids. Charlet elaborates on one particularly unexpected departure.
Style: Tell us about that one song. …
Charlet: It's a song about this beautiful, big-haired, big-attitude girl that we used to know. She was one of my best friends at the time and played a big part in the scene. She disappeared one day, the circumstances around which are still very hazy to me, and I haven't heard from her on the telephone or on the Internet. It's like she's willed herself, as far as my circle of friends goes, into complete nonexistence. When a person is here, then gone so immediately, it's very dissonant to not have that closure, to not know why that person has been taken away from you. I felt like writing this song might help me deal with her being gone, but it's also a little musical flare I can put out there and maybe she'll hear it. Like a lost-cat flyer or a peace offering of sorts. Hopefully, it'll make her not so shy to show her face around more.
What is your first musical memory?
In terms of performing music, it was at church. I went to Bon Air Presbyterian and at age 4 or 5, I sang in the children's choir. It's what my peers were doing and I was expected to do it. I specifically remember being rewarded in the form of attention by being the loudest member of the group. That's where I got it in my head that people will look upon me favorably if I just make as much noise as I possibly can. Kids will let you know what sticks, and it was something that stuck.
What's one thing you think would help improve the Richmond music scene?
The scene is like a three-legged table and you have to have all three components for things to work. You gotta have the talent, artists who are really putting it out there and hustling to make music that's interesting and resonates with people. The second thing is, you gotta have space. This is huge. When the Nanci Raygun shut down, the Fan started to feel it. People had to open up their houses, basically [for house shows]. Then, newer venues opened and it's getting its legs back, but it's still not where it was when that space was open. The third thing is you have to have people who are interested, who want to come to the shows. Sometimes you have two components, but not the third. If you've been in Richmond for a couple of years, you've seen that ebb and flow.
What is the band's proudest achievement?
Strictly in sonic terms, everybody's so excited about “Departures.” I feel like it trumps everything we've put on wax in the past. We've learned more about creating music on this record than we have in any other span of time and we've been together for almost a decade.
Through our music, though, I am proud of the way we reach out to the community. Specifically, the Skalidays benefit shows are a good example of that. We've raised thousands of dollars for area nonprofits like WRIR and the Richmond Peace Education Project and Emergency Shelters Incorporated and Food Not Bombs and the Richmond Food Bank. We've been able to give back to groups of people who are helping the community. That's huge to me and is just as big as the music.
Murphy's Kids' new album, “Departures,” is now available. Their next live performance in Richmond is with Stuck Lucky on July 18 at Gallery5. Showtime is 8 p.m. and the cost is $6.