Chris Murphy Introduces His New Supergroup the Trans-Canada Highwaymen

BY Gregory AdamsPublished Jul 21, 2016

Chris Murphy's TUNS project with Super Friendz leader Matt Murphy and the Inbreds' Mike O'Neill will be issuing their self-titled debut next month, but that's not the only outside dream team the Sloan founder is showcasing away from his full-time gig. This past weekend marked the live debut of the Trans-Canada Highwaymen, a supergroup that also features members of the Pursuit of Happiness, Odds and Barenaked Ladies.

The quartet played their first show last Saturday (July 16) at the Jackson Triggs Winery in Niagara Peninsula, ON. The lineup includes Murphy, Odds guitarist Craig Northey, former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page, and the Pursuit of Happiness's Moe Berg. For Murphy, Berg's participation is the biggest coup.

"That was the big get for us," Murphy tells Exclaim! "I don't mean to say that we're dragging Moe Berg out of retirement, or something, but I know he doesn't play very much. He was into the idea, so that was the most fun part of it, playing 'I'm an Adult Now.' It's exciting!"

The outfit haven't written any originals, choosing instead to pool together a 16-song set consisting of highlights from each of their respective projects. The caveat is that these have to be pieces they themselves wrote. This means the Highwaymen did not put a spin on Sloan's Patrick Pentland-penned "Money City Maniacs," which the moonlighting Murphy believes is his main band's biggest hit.

"It was basically 'bring your four most popular songs that you wrote'," Murphy says, noting Sloan songs performed included his "Coax Me," "The Other Man," "The Rest of My Life" and "Underwhelmed."

Also tackled by the Trans-Canada Highwaymen were Barenaked Ladies tracks "Jane," "Brian Wilson" and "It's All Been Done Before." Grilled over whether he helped deliver the half-rapped verses of BNL's massive 1998 hit "One Week," Murphy quips: "I didn't have to get into Chinese chicken of any kind."

Though there aren't any other Trans-Canada Highwaymen performances coming up in the immediate future, Murphy said there are plans to develop a theatre-style show for 2017 that will incorporate storyteller segues surrounding the material. He adds that this approach will help differentiate Highwaymen shows from his regular gig with Sloan, "so I'm not completely competing with myself."

"My world is basically Canada and maybe a dozen shows in the states. I don't command an audience in Istanbul, or wherever. I don't want to cannibalize my already pretty small world," he said, reiterating that he's basically just playing Sloan songs with a different group of guys.

Even so, it's a different experience for Murphy, and a welcomed one.

"I enjoy playing in Sloan still, but it's fun to play with different people. I've really not done a lot of it. I'm also playing with Matt Murphy and Mike O'Neill in TUNS, [but] I've never really cheated with my wife, as it were. I've basically been in Sloan this whole time."

Sloan, meanwhile, have another round of 20th anniversary tour dates behind their One Chord to Another, while the first TUNS full-length sees release August 26 through Royal Mountain Records.

For now, watch some fan-captured footage of the Trans-Canada Highwaymen below.

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