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TUNS of fun

Members of Canadian 'supergroup' find new inspiration in collaboration

Vanessa Heins photo</p><p>From left, Mike O’Neill , Matt Murphy and Chris Murphy are TUNS.</p></p>

Vanessa Heins photo

From left, Mike O’Neill , Matt Murphy and Chris Murphy are TUNS.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/11/2016 (878 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The 1990s were a glorious time for music on the East Coast of Canada, and Halifax in particular.

As the grunge scene in Seattle exploded, musical taste-makers were looking for the next big spot and set their gaze, albeit briefly, on Halifax, as bands such as Sloan, Jale, the Super Friendz, Thrush Hermit and the Inbreds found their feet and began to make their mark on both the national and international scene.

The city was pegged as “the Next Seattle,” but it wasn’t long before record-label excitement fizzled and outside interest waned. Internal interest, however, was still high, and those bands, among a handful of others, went on to become important and beloved fixtures of Canada’s collective music history.

So when it was announced that Chris Murphy of Sloan, Matt Murphy of the Super Friendz and Mike O’Neill of the Inbreds had joined together to create the aptly labelled “supergroup” TUNS (pronounced “tons”), the collective pedigree of their catalogues and the sheer perfection of the ‘90s Can-rock trifecta understandably had fans abuzz.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/11/2016 (878 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The 1990s were a glorious time for music on the East Coast of Canada, and Halifax in particular.

As the grunge scene in Seattle exploded, musical taste-makers were looking for the next big spot and set their gaze, albeit briefly, on Halifax, as bands such as Sloan, Jale, the Super Friendz, Thrush Hermit and the Inbreds found their feet and began to make their mark on both the national and international scene.

The city was pegged as "the Next Seattle," but it wasn’t long before record-label excitement fizzled and outside interest waned. Internal interest, however, was still high, and those bands, among a handful of others, went on to become important and beloved fixtures of Canada’s collective music history.

So when it was announced that Chris Murphy of Sloan, Matt Murphy of the Super Friendz and Mike O’Neill of the Inbreds had joined together to create the aptly labelled "supergroup" TUNS (pronounced "tons"), the collective pedigree of their catalogues and the sheer perfection of the ‘90s Can-rock trifecta understandably had fans abuzz.

TUNS released its self-titled debut record this summer; the album is nostalgic, but not corny; lighthearted, but not sloppy; creative but not over-indulgent. Most of all, it’s fun.

It’s unsurprising, then, to learn the more formal idea of TUNS (the name was inspired by the Technical University of Nova Scotia) evolved from a very informal scenario. The two Murphys (no relation), who now live in Toronto, began having lunch together once a week at Chris’s house. O’Neill, who hails from Kingston, Ont., originally, but now lives on the East Coast, had been visiting Ontario more often to see his mother in Oshawa.

The three ended up playing together at a party for Murderrecords, Sloan’s boutique record label — Chris and Matt played backup for O’Neill — and decided it was something worth trying again.

"I just found myself wanting to push us to do it, never knowing how far we would get," says Chris Murphy. "Like, let’s play together, even just play some covers, let’s learn some songs. And then once we started making up songs, it was so… I’ve been saying magical, and I don’t mean to sound like a goofball, but magical in the way that I hadn’t really foreseen that it would be. Musical ideas being created out of the air.

"I wanted to get that far, and once that was happening I was really inspired to make everyone agree to take it to whatever next steps we could take it — let’s get these recorded, let’s try to get someone interested in releasing this — never really imagining it would become anything more than the hobby it remains. But you know, we have a record out; we did it, so we’re happy."

Murphy, who likens the novelty aspect of TUNS to the delight of seeing a favourite television character appearing on a different TV show in a crossover episode, spent (and continues to spend) the majority of his musical career as one-fourth of Sloan, but says TUNS represents a different understanding of what being in a band means.

It’s a a trio rather than a quartet, for one, which he says makes the songs feel more spacious. And it’s a more collaborative process, in that Murphy, Matt Murphy and O’Neill bat ideas around on the spot, cataloguing them to flesh out at a later date.

"The guys in Sloan are still my friends and we still play music together, but it’s not all that romantic, I guess," he says. "We all write in isolation and we bring the band in and we’ve grown that way. It’s fine and it functions, but this is kind of a throwback to the way you almost imagine that a band… we create in this kind of magical way that I had never really been a part of before.

"To describe it as magical and romantic seems like I’m describing Sloan as not being that, which is sorta true. Sloan functions fine, but this is just kind of what I always dreamed it would be."

Murphy says right now, TUNS is a "well of ideas and enthusiasm." Much of the early stages of work on a collection of new songs has already been done, but owing to other projects and commitments all three men are juggling, a followup record, though almost certainly in the cards, is likely to take some time to create.

"Sloan is playing a lot more shows this year and Matt has a new job at Vice (Murphy is a supervising producer at the media company), and Mike has a show that he’s created with Mike Clattenburg (O’Neill co-wrote the TV comedy Crawford with the Trailer Park Boys creator) which has been greenlit by CBC (and Comedy Central), so we’re all doing other things that take a lot of time and headspace. But we waited this long to do the first one, I think that we can pretty easily do a second one," says Murphy.

"I don’t know how fast on the heels of the first one it’ll come, but I think we’re all jazzed to do it."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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