If you glance at Chet Faker’s website you’ll see that his current schedule of touring doesn’t let up until the end of 2014. He’ll start in Europe before heading to The US, then his home country of Australia and finally back to Europe. As we get connected to a hotel in Sao Paolo we are aware that Nick Murphy, the man behind the moniker, has only been there for a day, having flown in from Tokyo 24 hours before. His voice is croaky, and it takes a few minutes for Nick to get himself together, he apologizes, but is in fine conversational form when he gets going. ‘I’ve been touring like a maniac, if I was actually to look more than a month ahead I might collapse’
Nick’s nom de guerre, Chet Faker, is a slight nod to Jazz king Chet Baker, and came about due to another musician in the Australian scene having the same given name. ‘It was more a conceptual reference than a specific one. I like his music, but I didn’t really want to write loungey Jazz music. Chet Baker was the first musician for me that made me realize you could bring your flaws to the foreground of your music and in turn that would make the music better.’
It could seem as though someone who borrows and mutates the name of such a respected Jazz musician would have been born into a family of musicians, however Nick is conscious that his introduction came a little later. ‘I was talking to my Dad about this the other day, I didn’t have a musical family at all. My mum would listen to soul music around the house, but that was it really. So I wasn’t into music at all growing up, then when I was 15 something happened. It’s the age you start to figure out the world isn’t fair, it’s not all about you, and you naturally look for an outlet. I do remember thinking that music was the only way in which people would be interested in how you were feeling.’
‘Music was the only way in which people would be interested in how you were feeling.’
The Australian music scene has certainly begun to implant itself onto the world in recent years, at the core of it’s growth is an accessibility to worldwide artists, largely thanks to the internet. ‘I’m 26 so it’s a little hard for me to tell how much change has happened, when the internet wasn’t around I had only just started primary school. But over the last ten years its changed so much, and I think the internet does play a big role, because we look to the rest of the world for what’s going on. The Australian scene is not insular. It’s usually influenced from whats happening in the UK and the US. I think it’s a good thing for us. It’s funny though that people talk about an Australian sound. I can’t hear an Australian sound. There is a certain type of act we sometimes do well, a kind of left-of-field pop act.’
It was when Nick’s cover of Blackstreet’s No Diggity went viral, and was then used for a commercial in the US that was screened during the Superbowl, that the internet came into its own for the presence of Chet Faker. But with it’s influences, the internet also brings limitations, and the immediacy of information does restrain the need for musicians to tell stories that people would otherwise not hear.
‘Google are using algorithms to predict your search results and then estimate what you’ll look for, so it creates a proxy anyway. The internet is not this be all and end all, and there is a lot of internet freedom talks going on at the moment. Music has always been an introspective thing for me about exploring how I feel. It’s always been very cathartic, almost medicinal.’
Another musician who has sprung to life in the Australian scene is DJ and producer Harley Streten, also known as Flume. Nick and Harley first collaborated on Left Alone which would feature on Flume’s debut album. They followed this up with an EP the following year called Lockjaw.
‘Initially he produced and I sang, which was easy because there were specific roles, but then it was different on the collaborative EP. It’s more of a personality thing than a musical thing. It took me two years to do the album, and it only took four days to do the EP. We’d been wanting to work together for ages and obviously we both had our own careers developing. We were on a similar trajectory, he was touring a lot and so was I. We just went down to this beach house and the atmosphere churned the record out. It just worked!’
Nick also studied music production and credits this time for a change in his approach to songwriting. ‘I didn’t know how to record stuff before then. I’d always made bass beats and learnt the basics of recording. It was classic guitar singer songwriter recording with one microphone and a guitar track. Then I started learning how to multitrack, conceptually how to fill out a mix and how to EQ.’ If locking yourself into a studio and learning how each intricacy can be implemented alters your perspective one way, then playing a show to a crowd who may not know who you are, at a festival, can also do the same. ‘You’ve got to pack a punch in your set, people are usually super excited, usually drunk as well. Subtleties tend to go out the windows at festivals and think you have to make things a little more black or white.’
So what music is currently getting Chet Faker through life on the road. ‘In the morning it’s Marcus Marr’s The Music. Whilst I’m traveling around or at the end of a long day, I’m really into Neils Fram. To dance, it’s Nao vs AK Paul, So Good.
Whilst these life experiences have been important in Nick’s growth as an artist, what about the roots? How did his origins in Melbourne affect him? ‘I’ve never been good at connecting my physical surroundings with music, but the area I grew up in certainly shaped the person I am. Melbourne is very arts and culture driven. A lot of my closest friends are artists, and they influence me heavily. Hamish Monroe is a Melbourne based artist. He’s a genius but he’s off with the fairies most of the time. If you get him in conversation he’ll blow your world apart. He’s one of the most talented people I know’
This basis of creativity is obviously beneficial for a musician or artist, with the ability to bounce of others who have similar curiosities but different outputs. But Chet Faker has taken Nick away from this comfort blanket and out across the globe, and continues to do so. ‘It sounds cliched, but traveling makes you realize how many human beings there actually are on this planet, and how similar we all are. Everywhere I go the basics are the same even if its kind of different on the surface. It’s weird. I’ve played in some countries I didn’t know existed four years ago, and people are singing along to the words. I don’t really know how to process that, but I guess with a unique lifestyle comes a lot of unique experiences.’
‘With a unique lifestyle comes a lot of unique experiences.’