While there's plenty of musical history behind the membership of TUNS, the new project from Sloan's Chris Murphy, Super Friendz singer-guitarist Matt Murphy and Inbreds bassist Mike O'Neill, the trio also looked outside of its collective sonic heritage to put together the tunes on their self-titled debut, out now on Royal Mountain.
Though definitely putting their own twist on the pop-rock lexicon, Matt Murphy explains that saluting past greats was part of TUNS' intention from the outset. "I think Chris is the one that sort of spearheaded that," the guitarist tells Exclaim! of the band's formation, which took place shortly after both Murphys backed up O'Neill for a Murderecords anniversary show in Toronto in 2013. "He'd been talking, 'We've got to do some singing. You, me and Mike — Crosby, Stills & Nash-style.' That's something he's been talking about for a few years."
The three united voices of TUNS thread themselves together finely, just as peak period CSN, but the new group's nine-song album doesn't exactly traffic in '60s folk-rock. The spritely jangle and steady pound of the Chris Murphy-sung "Mixed Messages," for example, recalls Reckoning-era R.E.M., a comparison that would greatly please at least two members of TUNS.
"Mike and I are always referencing early R.E.M. in this project, and Chris can't stand R.E.M." Matt Murphy says with a laugh. "He has no knowledge of them, and I don't think he'll ever like them. I do think there are parallels to that early R.E.M. stuff and what we're doing, because it is drums, bass, and guitar with very few overdubs. It's very natural, simple arrangements, with some singing. That covers a lot of rock, but I also think that it's the sound that we were going for."
Considering all three members honed their chops during the '90s CanRock boom, TUNS splits lead vocals duties evenly. For instance, Matt Murphy's sings angelically of the trio's friendship on "Back Among Friends," while O'Neill waxes about love on "I Can't Wait Forever." Chris Murphy handles the mic from behind the drum kit on "Look Who's Back in Town," an echo-heavy, mid-album stomp that took shape once the percussionist started whapping out old Tears for Fears rhythms in practice.
"I can basically tell you what drum beat I'm doing on every song," Chris Murphy explains in a separate interview. "For 'Look Who's Back in Town,' I'm basically trying to play 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World.' My starting point on the drums is 'I can do this beat, what can you do to help me out here?'"
Reiterating that the hard-swung rhythm isn't exactly the most original one out there, he adds: "I don't think I'm ripping off that song; I don't expect a call from Roland and Curt demanding money from me. I think there are five other songs I could come up with that have that same beat."
Find the band's upcoming October live dates and stream all of TUNS here.