For Kevin Murphy, everything changed the week he and his then-Seattle-based rock band the Moondoggies released their album, Adios I’m A Ghost, in mid-August 2013. But not because the LP took off in any meteoric way. Rather, that’s the week the singer/songwriter met his now-girlfriend and began a new life.
“I always thought it was kind of funny, after the fact, that the record was called Adios I’m A Ghost,” says Murphy. “It’s a weird coincidence because part of me—a bad part of me—kind of died the month that came out.”
Since that release, Murphy has dramatically altered his life. He and his girlfriend had two kids (both girls), moved multiple times (now basing the Moondoggies out of Everett), ran a food truck for a few summers, and sued a landlord, and Murphy eliminated his drinking habit. “I was in a bad place and she turned me around,” he says. “We’ve crammed a lot into the five years we’ve been together.”
The artistic result of this lifestyle change materialized as the Moondoggies’ latest record, A Love Sleeps Deep (out April 13 on Hardly Art Records). As the title might give away, the album has ideas of love infused in its core. But not love in some daisy-twirling, wide-eyed way. To that end, the album presents and pushes themes of sociological change.
A Love Sleeps Deep is a blaze. It shimmers and burns. The song “Cinders” dances between melancholy and anger: “Burn this town to cinders, the streets all look the same,” the full band sings in unison. That song, explains Murphy, “is about my girlfriend experiencing casual racism … like, are we seriously fucking going backwards as a society?” Other standout tracks include the woozy “Easy Coming,” the hypnotic “My Mother,” and the scathing “Soviet Barn Fire.”
While in the past the band has often been lumped in with Northwest folk groups, the Moondoggies’ classic rock core shines through, bringing to mind the skill of Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, or Eric Clapton. Recorded with famed Seattle/Los Angeles producer Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, TacocaT, etc.), drummer Carl Dahlen’s percussion syncopation, shimmering work on keys from Caleb Quick, clockwork-like bass playing by Robert Terreberry, and utility man Jon Pontrello’s six-string and pedal steel magic all bolster A Love Sleeps Deep’s sound.
Murphy’s personal growth has corresponded with an evolution in his songwriting. While lyrics on prior releases tended toward self-focused and inward thinking, he’s now figured out how to get out of his own head. He’s able to look both up and outward a bit more, seeing a world—both musically and socially—that needs to change. A Love Sleeps Deep’s title “refers to the need for the love that’s missing.” Murphy attempts to act out the change that he feels rock music needs at the moment. “I don’t relate too specifically with rock ’n’ roll,” he says. “And where I think it’s flat-lining right now is that it doesn’t talk about anything. It’s pure escapism. ”
The Moondoggies will reveal A Love Sleeps Deep live during the album’s release show at the Neptune on Friday, April 13, before heading out on tour. And while Murphy is truly looking forward to playing the new songs for people on the road, the inspiration behind the record finally feels more important than the record itself. “Time changes when you’re a parent,” he says. “I live in this simple way now. I walk to work and I come home and hang out with my kids. I’m really excited for the tour—but it’s also really heartbreaking. Kids grow really fast, all those clichés. By the time I get home, my youngest might be walking. Time is different now. And I’m not trying to lose too much of it.”