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INTERVIEW // Up Until Now :: The Legacy, Robo Funk and Rocking Against Cancer


Jay Murphy is the founding member of Up Until Now, and since 2010 he’s been repping Athens, Georgia and the 1320 Records family.  UFO met Jay when he played alongside his brother David Murphy at Cervantes in Denver, and we couldn’t say enough good about them after the show.

Up Until Now is back in May to tour through Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins.  UUN has a new album on the way as well, and as we also learned, just had a newborn son named Elton.


So what is good in the life of Jay Murphy at this moment?
I have a four-month-old son, is what’s good in the life of Jay Murphy!  Outside of music, that’s definitely the big thing going on in my life right now.  Obviously, that takes up a lot of time, but it’s good to be fortunate enough to have a family that lets me go out, continue to play music and do what I love.  That’s it man, being at home with the kid and going out to do shows.

How long do you think it’s going to take before your son is camping out in the lower south at Red Rocks?
I tell you what, we’re trying to get on Re:Generation this year and we definitely want to take him with us.

Oh wow, he’s getting a really early introduction.
We’ll see about Red Rocks, we don’t know quite yet.

That topic always comes up though, y’know, when do you think it’s okay for them to join the masses?
I think you have to see them grow up and gauge their maturity level, then say “Alright, I think they’re at an age where I can let them go do this thing by themselves.”  I guess, I don’t know yet, we’ll see.  We’ll see when I get there.

What is his name?
Elton.

If Elton is coming up as a part of 1320 family, he’s going to find a lot of love there.  He’s going to have a very extended family.
I agree with that.

Tell me a little bit about how you fit into that family yourself.
Well, honestly over I guess it’s been about a year and a half since I released my first album on 1320, and since them I’d say I’ve met five or ten other artists on 1320 and interacted with them.  It’s pretty amazing, it’s been really cool, just the vibe you get from everybody.  Like you said, it feels like a family.

It feels like people are into the whole idea of what 1320 represents of being an independent label that helps promote one other.  You see a lot of people doing remixes of each others material; I probably get an email once a month from Liz over at 1320, asking “Hey, this artist is trying to get you to do a remix.”  It’s like constant, almost more than I can keep up with.

The family vibe, with it being owned by STS9, those guys are the reason I’m involved with it because that’s definitely my family, I grew up with those guys.

Literally your family.
Yeah, literally, and just everybody at that organization I’ve known for so long.  When I started this project, being the genre of music it is, of course I reached out to them first for releasing material.  I feel like it’s good with them and I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else.

And aside from your ties with them, the music fits the 1320 very well.  Everybody on the label has a specific brand of what I’ll call electronic euphoria, where all of the music is very uplifting.  How do you accomplish putting emotion into your music?
To really have a feel in it, I think a lot of it has to do with the melodies that you choose.  Obviously the tones that are involved with the instruments you’re using has a lot to do with it, but also just melodies.  You can easily turn a melody from sounding dark and demented and just a few note changes can be more uplifting and funky or whatever it is.

A lot of our music is really simple, and I try to stay in that space, with a nice groove, but I feel like where I can express different feelings throughout it is in the melody I choose to put on top of that.

Do you think it’s crucial for you to feel those same emotions as you’re performing? Is it an input/output kind of thing?
I definitely think so.  I like for my shows to be high-energy and kind of a party, and it’s hard to do that with ten people.  It’s hard to bring that, because you don’t get as much.  But when you play in front of thousands of people, it’s easy, y’know?

Some of my favorite music is old-school music.  Stevie Wonder totally does it for me, he’s probably my all-time number-one favorite artist, and his music is pouring with emotion constantly.

It’s funny how often Stevie Wonder is cited as an electronic influence.
That music, no one can really disagree with that.  You may not be like “I want to sit down and listen to Ray Charles records all the time” but at the same time, if someone puts one on, you can’t hate it!  It’s like impossible, you can’t listen to old Motown and dislike it.  I don’t know why, but it’s just the way it is.

I want to get back to that a little bit later, but as far as injecting feeling into the music, that was probably the motivation for adding a drummer to your live show, right?
For sure.  I would say being able to bring that energy to the live show was a big reason for bringing in Kyle Holly, who formerly played with a group called Noise ORG.  I grew up as a drummer, so it was a very natural thing to bring a drummer into the picture.  It brings feel into it that a sampled drummer can’t produce.  People really connect with that.

As much as I love DJs and stuff – I just saw Justice, it was the best show I saw all year – but it’s such a difference when you see humans on stage playing instruments.  From the start of this project, I’ve always played keyboard onstage.  It mainly looks like I’m DJing, but I try to do as much keyboard work as I can and I used to bring out the bass guitar and stuff like that.  But people can’t recognize what I am doing as much, and so having a drummer there, it’s obvious.  I gotta say, people connect on a different level with that.

Tell me about the new album you have coming up.
I like to just think it’s the evolution of this project.  The first record we put out, I was collaborating with a guy I’ve parted ways with, and a lot of that was trying to figure out what the sound was going to be.  On the second record, there was a bit of that too.  For this one, I’m not sure yet if it’s going to be an EP or a full-length record – it kinda depends on how some of these last songs end up turning out, we’ll decide that.

But I feel like I finally figured out what I want to do, and what I think Up Until Now can sound like and will sound like.  Some of the older stuff, it was a bit house-ier, almost a throwback funk thing.  A mix of that and with newer sounds and newer talent, trying to incorporate more vocal samples.  We’re still trying to also incorporate playing keyboard.  We got a guitar on there, and I use this little electronic drum set here at the house that I play beats on.  Trying to still incorporate all that stuff, but the evolution of what I’m doing… I feel like if I sounded just like I did two years ago, I wouldn’t feel the growth that’s needed.

Do you have any particular favorites as far as the “newer sounds” you mentioned?
I would probably say a big one has been – and I’m STILL not positive about how to pronounce this guy’s name, Opiuo?  I’ve listened to a lot of his stuff recently and I’ve really gotten into that.  He does a really good job with the glitch-hop thing, and being able to sample and use those to created melodies, that’s really cool.  Stuff along those lines, there’s an artist named Sirisumo I’ve gotten into lately, but there’s stuff like Breakbot I dig a lot.

I love throwback funky house music type of stuff.  I want to be able to incorporate that stuff more, but I just realized how talented the dudes are who produce that stuff, it’s not easy to do.  I really appreciate that type of stuff.

To be frank with you, I think I surprised my drummer Kyle when he asked me that same question.  A lot of stuff I reeled off was not in the “EDM” music scene.  But that’s the stuff I really like a lot of stuff that Flux Pavilion has done, that kind of stuff.

I would definitely say that The Polish Ambassador has been an influence on me.  He was one of the first people I met when I started this project in 2010, and I really like the vibe and how he was able to do really funky stuff but with modern tones.

Your remix of “Robo Booty” is pretty tight, it’s clear you connect with the funky side of electronic music, we obviously vibe with that, too.  Opiuo has really been carrying that flag pretty far, now there’s a handful of artists out of Australia pursuing that same sound and it’s almost come to the point we should just call it “Australian bass funk.”
I really like that.

That’s what it is, bass music that is funky to an extreme.  The funk is inseperable.
I just call it electronic funk.  Calling it funky makes it sound like white guys playing guitar.

That “Robo Booty” remix really came from me being inspired by him to create a track, and I thought that it sounded so much like his track that I just did a remix, basically.  I incorporated his stuff into my song and thought I’d just call it a remix.  I can’t call this my own because I thought it sounded to much like him.

My most recent release was a song on a compilation called Spring Forward Vol. 2. It has a bunch of artists, I’m not going to be able to name them all right now.  There’s like 20-something artists that all donated an unreleased original for the compilation, and all the proceeds go to Rock Against Cancer.  That’s something that’s huge for my family, my mom is really involved in it.  Rock Against Cancer provides music therapy for kids with cancer that are in cancer hospitals and stuff like that.

That was the most recent thing I did.  My track is called “Lethal Injection.”  It might end up on the new record, I really like the track and being able to donate it to such an awesome cause, it makes me really happy.

I want to touch on what you said before, that even if you don’t necessarily search out Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles, there’s something slightly universal about the emotion behind it.  That’s something we really connect with at UFO: we’re looking for the music that connects people through its funk.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of the blues, it’s still possible to connect to the emotion.  If you don’t listen to funk seven days a week, you can still hear something in it. 
Our mission at UFO is to try taking that to a completely universal level, to the point where if someday in the future there was to be a dance party with all of the creatures of the universe present, every organism that exists coming together for a gigantic dance party.  If you were the DJ of this party…
[Laughs]

…what song would you throw on to ensure everyone present got down to the groove?
Wow, that’s an interesting question.  Right off the top of my head, I would probably have to do a mash-up between Daft Punk and Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Whoa, there you go!
I mean, I guess, that’s the first thing I thought of.  One specific track would be hard to nail down.  That’s a cool question, I like that.  I guess that’s what I would say.  Obviously Earth, Wind and Fire is amazingly funky, and Daft Punk, I think, does it pretty good, too.

I feel like if you’re going to have a universal dance party, it has to be a four-on –the-floor beat, that’s the universal dance beat in my opinion.

When I started this project, the intention was to make music for people to dance to.  No matter what happens, what the trends are in music and culture and fashion and that stuff, there’s always going to be music that people dance to.  It’s always been that way, and always gonna be that way.

There’s not an electronic music scene in Athens, but DJ’s play in small bars and play funk music and Top 40 and people just dance.  There’s no stage, it’s just a dance party.  We LOVE going out and doing that stuff, and that’s a HUGE inspiration behind this project, like me recognizing that that is just everywhere.  People love just going and dancing and partying.

Do you believe in aliens?
I think you would have to be pretty small-minded not to believe in aliens.  Will we ever see them in our lifetime, or have any sort of interaction with them?  I can’t say that one way or the other, but the universe being what it is you’d have to be pretty small minded to think we’re the only living creatures in this universe.  I hope we get to meet aliens, man; shoot, sometime soon.  That would be great.  Just as long as they don’t want to kill us all.

Well, yeah, that would suck.  Assuming that they don’t, and tomorrow a group of them land in your backyard.  They don’t say “Take me to your leader,” they say “Show me something funky.”  What song would you put on to show them what music is like on Earth?
Aw man… such a tough decision!  I want to immediately say the first song on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life would be the song I’d choose, just because it’s such an introductory type of song.  I think it’s called “Love is in Need of Love,” and it’s basically about how love is in need of love today.  It introduces the album well, and I think as someone who is listening to our world’s music for the first time, it would be a nice introductory song.

Bonus points for picking something with a positive message!  I’ve thought about playing some Dre, but leading off with “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks” probably isn’t starting on the right foot.
If they can understand English, it might not be the best first song to play.  But “Gin and Juice” might get it going just right!

Yeah, you gotta imagine they have ho’s and 40’s on their planet too, right?
I can definitely tell you I would not want to play them any heavy metal or dubstep, I can tell you that much for sure.  I love heavy metal, but that is not what I’d want the first impression to be.

There’s some speculation that the big event surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar and the 2012 thing revolves around aliens.  What are your thoughts about the 2012 milestone, and does it involve aliens?
I was just thinking about this yesterday.  I will say that I’m trying to go with my wife and my son down to the Mayan Holidaze this year.  I know it’s something that my brother and those guys have been looking forward to for quite some time, especially now that they have an opportunity to do what they’re doing with playing at midnight and all that stuff.  I actually had the vision of midnight hitting on 2012 and aliens coming down and taking us all with them somewhere.

But what I actually believe in all that stuff?  I don’t know man, I can’t really say.  I think there’s definitely something significant about that date and this time period we’re in right now.  There’s just been too many things and too many people who have made predictions about this time period that we’re living in for there not to be something special about it.  I guess that’s all I can really say.  I don’t necessarily want to say aliens are gonna come down and greet us all with magic wands or whatever, but I would welcome any of that and welcome universal change because of something that could happen on that date.

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