When Chet Faker’s cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” hit the airwaves, it was a clashing of worlds. Over a smooth, simple melody, Chet Faker (real name Nick Murphy) soulfully croons about getting paid and girls gettin’ down as ambient textures wash around the groovy, slow beat. Stark minimalism meeting Motown soul.
If anything, Murphy himself is something of an anomaly. It’s not very often you find an Australian electronica musician singing R&B. But Murphy’s slow, seductive style and tasteful aesthetic have earned him a seat in the new-wave of R&B, right next to the Weeknd and Frank Ocean. Songs like “Talk is Cheap” employ brass and vocal blues to weave slow, throbbing melodies while “Drop the Game”, a collaboration Murphy did with Flume, shows the crooner’s capacity for making a dancefloor hit.
Now, with the release of his first major studio album, Built on Glass, Murphy is looking to introduce his music to the world, show by show. We gave him a call to talk about inspiration, his first band, and his relationship with his piano.
Hey man, where are you right now?
I’m hanging out in Brussels, about to play a show tonight.
You get a lot of influence from Motown. What were some of the records that introduced you to the genre?
Technically it’s not a Motown record, but it has a lot of Motown artists on it. It’s called “The Biggest Chill” or the “Big Chill” soundtrack- an old movie from the 70s that my mom used to play a lot. It’s got Smokey Robinson, Temptations, all the greats.
We all know the cover of “No Diggity”, but was it weird for you to be singing lyrics like that, stuff like “shorty get down”?
Nah, it’s a cover. It’s not like I wrote the song! It’s a good song and it’s good music, so I covered it.
At the beginning of the video for “No Diggity” we see a sign reading “Come As You Are”. Are you a Nirvana fan?
Ah! Well, yes I am, but that’s the live session you’re talking about, right? That’s not the same as the recording I put out. We recorded that as part of this Live Session thing where we had to play all of our tracks live. But we recorded that in this little town in this little regional town in Victoria at this old butter factory, and it had this awesome little sign with this Nirvana line. And I love Nirvana. I especially liked them when I was 16, but hey, they’re still great today.
When you were making “Built on Glass” you scrapped quite a few tracks. What was the deal with the early drafts?
Well, it wasn’t good enough [laughter]. Plain and simple. It was trying too hard to please everyone. It wasn’t honest.
What’s it like working with Flume?
It’s good. It’s a lot easier than when I’m just doing my stuff, it’s a lot more fun and not as emotionally invested.
Right now we’re seeing an Australian/New Zealand wave. Who do you see yourself working with?
Ta-ku, probably. You know Ta-ku? He’s a beatmaker. Yeah, he’s the man for sure. We’ve worked on stuff before, but I feel like if I had to pick someone from Australia or New Zealand to work with a lot next it would definitely be him.
What is “Sunday Kicks”?
That was the name of my old band [laughter].
Can you tell us about it?
Yeah, it sucked! [laughter] It was my first band, just 18 year olds. It was the classic drinking too much, taking too many drugs, and not having a very good relationship with the other guys I was in the band with. We wrote some alright songs, but it just wasn’t sustainable.
You’ve said that Bon Iver’s “Re:Stacks” is one of your favourite songs. Any chance of a collaboration with Justin Vernon.
Wow, I said that a long time ago, and it still is one of my favourite songs. You know, I’m totally open to collaborating with anyone, but it’s not always just that you like their music. You kind of have to like them personally as well, you know? So maybe if I met him and if the vibe was right. Sometimes you love someones music but can’t really get along with them.
One thing that shows up on most of your tracks is your Rhodes piano. How’d you get it, and what’s so awesome about it?
I just love it, man. I mean, for Motown…that thing was all across the record. And it’s….it’s just so damn cool. I think I bought it when I was 19. I spent all of my money on that, had to get it shipped in from America, because there aren’t many out there in Australia. So that cost me an arm and a leg. But, man, I don’t know, it’s just so good. I’m a keys player, I base a lot of my stuff on my keys, I feel at home on that instrument, at least on the first record and on the EP. You can play something so simple [on the Rhodes] and it sounds so good. I just love it.
When you started playing music, you couldn’t use your own name because there was already a musician called Nick Murphy, right?
And your middle name is James, as in James Murphy. So were you basically born to be an electronica musician?
There definitely weren’t a whole lot of options for me in untaken names, right? [laughter] They were all taken. Yeah, James Murphy is the man though. Definitely wouldn’t want to step on his toes.
Definitely not, man. Definitely not. A fun questions; what’s the worst name you’ve ever performed under?
Ohh! You know what, I used to be in this group and it was called “The Nicks”. [laughter] Cause it was me and a friend called Nick as well. The worst, man.
Can you tell us about that band?
Eh, there isn’t much to tell. We played like one gig, I smashed a keyboard onstage. It was pretty rock n roll.
That sounds awesome. So the big question for you Nick is, what’s next?
I’m mostly touring right now. This is the first album I’ve put out, so there’s gonna be a lot of stuff going on there. Just playing show and shows and shows…just doing that. But I’m sure sooner or later I’m going to start working on some new music, but I don’t know what yet. Maybe with James Murphy. Who knows?
Anything to say to the fans?
Yeah, I love you guys! Hit me up on Twitter!
We here at Lotusland would like to kindly direct you to https://twitter.com/Chet_Faker
Chet Faker will be playing in Vancouver at the Fortune Sound club on May 23rd.