Easy Life on their debut album Lifes A Beach – Influences, drunken nights and goldfish bowls

Posted on 8 September 2021
By Shannon Garner
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Labelled as the most promising new music talent by the BBC in 2020, alternative R&B group Easy Life have been living up to the label by headlining multiple festivals this summer.

The five-piece band was born in 2017 when Matravers and his school friends Sam Hewitt (bass), Oliver Cassidy (drums), and Lewis Berry (guitar) decided to get multi-instrumentalist Jordan Birtles, who was originally a member of Leicester local reggae outfit, to join their band.

Their diverse musical backgrounds formed the band’s indefinable sound which is led by Matravers’ laid-back rap stylings fused with elements of pop, jazz and reggae throughout the tracks.

Having already collaborated with indie darling Arlo Parks on ‘Sangria’ in 2019, the Leicester-based band finished the year on a high with a place on BBC’s Sound of 2020 list.

In a year when everything seemed to take a backseat within the music industry, Easy Life released their debut album full of chirpy songs, ‘Life’s A Beach’, and created the perfect soundtrack for our journey back to normality.

We enjoyed a Zoom chat with frontman Murray Matravers and discussed everything album related.

PR: What was the writing process like for your debut album and how long did it take for you all to be satisfied with it?

“It took a long time. It took much longer than usual because normally, with previous projects I’d be doing them on the side of touring, making the videos and you know, just all that sort of rock star stuff.

“Music was always something I had to do as and when I got the minute to, whereas this time, I had none of that to do for a year so all I got to do was write music.

“I often hear artists say the debut album basically takes your entire life because like, it’s everything that you’ve done, that’s good up until that point whereas with us, we had released several mixtapes and loads of projects beforehand.

“There are some songs that are really old on there but most of it was written, re-recorded, re-produced and compiled during lockdown. It was really nice actually. I spent a lot of time on it which I’m still not sure is a good or bad thing.

“I think time will tell if it’s good or bad because I like making things when I’m not overthinking them and I definitely over-thought this album in places.”

PR: I saw that you didn’t want to pull together the best songs from your mixtapes and EP. What made you decide against doing that?

“I just hated it when people did that when I was a kid like, you’d be waiting for an artists next thing, and it was just all the songs that you’ve already heard.

“I always thought it was such a horrible thing to do to your fans so I didn’t want to do that. I felt like the least I could do is write some new songs.

“Obviously, ‘Nightmares’ is on there but that has never been on an EP or mixtape project before. In terms of the story of the debut album, it [nightmares] was quite a cornerstone so I didn’t feel too bad about including that one song.

“Had it been two songs or you know, god forbid three or four, it’s just a horrible thing to do to people. Honestly, it’s a past trauma of mine that I wouldn’t like to pass on to people. You have got to write new songs. That’s sort of what I’m meant to do.”

PR: As you mentioned earlier, most of the album was done during lockdown, did you find that to be harder with it being your debut album?

“I mean, to be honest with you, no it wasn’t. We’ve been doing things virtually since before COVID-19 so we were actually well versed in the whole zoom aesthetic of the new world. We knew we could do it and there wasn’t much of a learning curve.

“Easy Life have never been to a proper studio and recorded as a full band for a release ever. Our drums are always programmed, the guitars are always recorded straight into the laptop and I record the vocals in my bedroom and we’ve done that every single time for every single song.

“We’ve obviously been in a studio for live performances but never for a studio produced song we were releasing. That’s always been done remotely.”

PR: Not every song makes it onto the album as artists usually write too many, did you write more than what was released and how did you go about selecting the ones that made the cut?

“I’m actually writing the second album now and I am not going to do this same thing again because you live and learn but I wrote too many songs for this album. Loads of them are really bad which is why they didn’t make the cut but that made it easier to pick the best ones.

“The irony of it all was that the best ones were always the ones that I wrote in an afternoon and spent the least amount of time on and then the ones I spent weeks on were so bad.

“I’d literally spend weeks on a song thinking it was the best song ever, like I’ve done all these really clever things on it, it’s just genius.

“I’d then send it to the lads thinking everyone was going to love it and they’d be like “it’s alright” which led me to writing something really quickly where they’d prefer.

“I’ve learned that maybe I should just write less songs and always follow my instincts and be excited by them.

“I don’t think I’m going to write as many songs for the next album and I’m certainly not going to spend any more than a couple of days on a song because at that point I’ve ruined it.”

PR: Was there any specific song/s that you or anyone else in the band had to fight over to get/keep on the album?

“Luckily, no. I think if you were to hear the 70 or 80 songs we had to choose from, you would also choose the same because they flow well and it’s quite obvious what makes a good Easy Life song.

“Well actually, maybe it’s not obvious what a good one is but it’s very obvious what a bad one is, so it was easy to be like their sh-t let’s get rid of those.

“We always like the same songs too which is good. I’ve never actually appreciated that before until you asked this question. It would be horrible if you had to fight for a song. I’d just be like yeah okay I hate it too and leave it. Thank god we’ve never experienced something like that.

“Also, if I’m saying to the lads in the band that a song is really good and that I want it to be on the album, they’re like “yeah, cool, I like it too” because it’s a very personal thing for me to write songs and to put as much of myself into it as possible.”

PR: Seeing as writing and producing etc during lockdown was easy for you guys, what was it like having everything else such as touring come to a standstill?

“I think it was really hard, especially for the guys in the band, because I sat cracking on with the album so I was quite busy but the other guys didn’t have a whole lot to do.

“A lot of it was hard, but then, you know, you also have to put it in perspective. Like, finding it hard not touring is really not that bad when you also know that people are dying and other sh-t is happening.

“We’ve been super conscious about not complaining, especially in interviews, because we’ve still got a pretty sweet deal here. Like yeah, I won’t lie and say it wasn’t tough but it definitely could have been worse.”

PR: Speaking of touring and COVID takes us back to 2019 and the sweet release of ‘Sangria’ which features Arlo Parks. How did that collaboration come about?

“I’ve been an Arlo fan since forever, like since her first song came out but one day, I was in a studio, in the smoking area and bumped into her. I was freaking out. That’s a lie, I wasn’t freaking out physically but I was really excited and we just got talking.

“I’d always left a hole in it [sangria] and just never really finished it. There was a big gap left for a verse from somebody that I hadn’t necessarily thought about.

“When talking to her, I thought she would be sick on it so I just asked if I could send it to her. She sent me back a recording doing her part that same night and booked a studio the next day to record it properly.

“She literally just turned up and did it in one take and then I think she went to a party after it or something.”

PR: Spinning off from being a fan of people, let’s touch on influences. Do you think your upbringing and those around you influence your own musical taste and how you create your own music?

“Oh most definitely. I think the music that you listen to as a child must be really important because it must sort of seep into your subconscious.

“My mum would listen to loads of ABBA, loads of the Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin, you know, just soul or cheesy big pop stuff which I grew up loving. I’m a huge Bee Gees fan. I guess that’s where my love of pop music comes from.

“Then my dad would listen to loads of jazz which is something that got me started on playing the trumpet as a kid.

“My parents are really great people who are into cool stuff which helped me be into cool stuff and I thank them for that.”

PR: Nightmares has a bit of a jazz element to it with the use of the trumpet. The intro especially makes it feel quite jazz-like.

“Yeah, that’s actually because it’s a sample from a Dionne Warwick track called ‘Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets’. She’s sick, you should check her out.

“But see, that’s showing how you’re influenced by things as a child. My dad’s love of jazz has clearly inspired me and now I’ve sampled a jazz, R&B song in one of our own songs.”

‘Music To Walk Home To’ is different to the rest of the tracks, it’s a bit more spoken/chatty. It’s almost like you’re having a conversation with yourself. What made you decide to do it that way seeing as it’s the only one on the album in that style?

“It was kind of an inside joke that it made the album to be honest. It was the middle of the night and I was completely wasted with a friend called Fraser T. Smith who helped with the production of ‘Nightmares’.

“I had to think about how I was going to get home, you know, being wasted and all, so I just free-styled it in the vocal booth.

“I never thought it would see the light of day until the next day when we decided to play it back. We thought it was quite funny and sent it round to the lads in the band who found it hilarious and wanted it on the album.

“It’s funny because I put so much time into all the other parts of the album and all anyone is talking about is this one song where I’m drunk and talking about getting home.

“I’ve had quite a few people say it’s their favourite song and it just reminds me to not overthink songs too much, like I said earlier, I did a lot on this album.”

PR: To end on a random yet important note, I was wondering what the meaning, if any, the goldfish have in your music videos? It seems to be a recurring symbol.

“We wrote ‘A Message To Myself’ and made the visuals for it simultaneously. It’s the only song where we’ve made the audio and music video at the same time.

“The music video was made by my friend Andy Baker who is an animator and it took about 18 months to make.

“I called him [Andy] up one day but he had left London to go to Portugal and told me that he had to get out of town because it felt like he had a goldfish bowl on his head. I thought that was brilliant because his comment seemed to perfectly fit a song I was writing about claustrophobia and using the goldfish came from that.

“We just ended up expanding on it and thought maybe the goldfish could be that positive voice inside your head. We’ve used the goldfish in numerous videos now and have plans to keep using it for many more.”