- 25 Jun 20
In this issue"s "On Our Radar", we chat with Uly about overcoming writer"s block, and his new venture andfriends Records.
Rafino Murphy is a multi-instrumentalist – who completed a degree in astrophysics before committing to music full-time – best known for releasing laidback, breezy lo-fi tunes under the moniker Uly. In addition, he recently launched an independent record label called andfriends Records. His latest single, 'cold water', is a track he wrote after a bout of writer's block, about using surfing and swimming to regain his creative stride. He's on our radar here at Hot Press because of his remarkable talent. Read our Q+A below.
You wrote ‘cold water’ after a bad bout of writer’s block. How do you get through something like that?
I had a bit of creative burnout. Maybe putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on myself – I work a full-time job, 35-40 hours a week and then I only have a small frame of time to write. So I took a bit of time off. I started reading more, going for swims down in Killiney, getting back in the water. And then a couple of friends of mine from college were going on a surf trip down to Kerry. I’m a big believer in ‘time and place is everything.’ Like, I picked up the guitar for the first time and hated it. Surfed once or twice before and didn’t get the bug. This time, I got the bug. My whole weekend became trying to figure out how I was going to get to the water. And then two things happened: ‘that’s no way to fly’ and the initial idea for ‘cold water’. ‘That’s no way’ was a different approach to my songwriting process. I was writing on one of my first guitars, and spinning a lot of Jeff Buckley’s Grace. As I started to get that little feeling that something was there, I hit the record button. It was all off-the-cuff and improv, about trying to be loose instead of making too much of a fuss. My friend puts it really succinctly: “First thought, best thought.”
Is there a sense of relief when you come out of that dry spell?
There’s a huge sense of relief to be like, “Oh my god, I’m back! I can stop being a moody shit.” Music was always the thing I’d gone back to, and all of a sudden I couldn’t even do that. It kind of felt like, slowly but surely, a limb of mine was disappearing. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t got anything worth saying. But my rebuttal – when I’m having this conversation with myself – is: “Use whatever words you have at your disposal as best you can.” The feeling is the most important thing. I try to use my instruments in such a way that it attempts to make people feel something, not necessarily because of the content of my lyrics, but the arrangement itself. The thing as a whole will hopefully elicit some kind of emotional response. That’s how I try to counteract that little gremlin saying, “You’re talking shite.” The fact that anyone feels anything off the back of something I made is all I can ask for.
And why did you start the andfriends label?
There are a couple of moving parts, but the main one, I suppose, is that there were a lot of people around me that I felt were really talented and creative, releasing really cool work. It was that idea, which spurred all these other thoughts about bringing my mates into one collective to release music through, and giving my friends a little push in the same way that I got a push. Some of the nitty-gritty stuff is aided by the guys from Faction Records, but the front of it is an indie label, and I have sovereignty over who I release and how it’s released. They said, “We’ll help you do this.” When I pitched Ev Carm’s ‘Laugh Again’ to Faction they were like, “Why don’t we pull the trigger on this sub-label thing?” In addition to that, if I get some knowledge about different parts of the industry I might have a better idea at a later stage as to where I want to go. Because wanting to make tunes and wanting people to feel good is all well and good, but I have to think about how I can sustain that.
• Listen to ‘redlight’ on the Normal People Official Playlist on Spotify, and consider purchasing the andfriends records catalogue on Bandcamp.