The Flashing Lights: An Interview with Matt Murphy 
By Mike Sampson.

Although he and his band may not be discussed at the average Canadian household’s kitchen table to the extent that an I Mother Earth, or an Our Lady Peace may, Matt Murphy’s reputation is certainly growing. The Super Friendz, the group with which he broke through onto the Canadian pop-rock scene, built a vast audience by blending their three songwriters’ varying degrees of pop sensibility with the subtlest of rough edges. After the demise of the Super Friendz in the fall of 1998, Murphy moved to Toronto and formed a new band, The Flashing Lights, who released their debut album Where The Change Is this spring. Through some electronic correspondence, Murphy was kind enough to address the issues of his past projects, the status of the Lights, and his thoughts on returning for a second straight year of headlining Rock The Mill. 

Extremely curious about the answer he’d supply versus the statements I’d read in newspapers, the first question I asked to do directly with Murphy’s first major (and perhaps more well known project), the Super Friendz, and his departure from the band. He answered as such: 
“I left the Super Friendz because [the] collaborative empire was crumbling. The more we tried to help each other’s songs, the more protective we were of our own… Now that I’m writing the music, the band is unified in its goals because every song must be made to sound its best. Further, every member’s ideas are applied to the songs and the approach is perfected through collaborative brush strokes.” 

However, when pressed about the nature of the recent product of Where The Change Is, Murphy doesn’t see too much of a difference from his work with the Friendz to his present output. 
“I think I’m writing the same kinds of songs I’ve always written. The latest crop on Where The Change Is has a more sixties taste, but the themes are similar to other songs I’ve written. I’d like to think I’m always evolving as a opposed to aging and that one day I will really strike the right chord-or at least the right pose.” 

It became evident that this straight ahead outlook also extends to where he sees the band going in the future, which he described as: “a tighter synthesis of sixties psychedelic pop with the early country folk of the Faces and the Byrds.” Anyone who’s heard tracks like Summertime Climb or Highschool from Where The Change Is know precisely what he’s talking about. 

As you can see, I couldn’t make it through the question writing process without bringing up the Flashing Lights’ debut CD Where The Change Is and the work that went into creating it. On the topic, Murphy says that public and media reaction to the album and the variety of songs and styles contained therein has been great, and even hinted that following a tour in October, the next album could begin recording this coming December. 

For those attending Rock The Mill who haven’t yet purchased or heard the album, Murphy suggests the best way to familiarize yourself with the band: 
“Skip the initiation and come down to the front of the stage. Take that modern southern rock out of your walkman and hear the good news. The Flashing Lights are tigers in the night, waiting to pounce. Above your bleached bones a rugged cross will read- ‘He Rocked the Mill’ or ‘She Rocked the Mill’” 

These words segued nicely into my final batch of questions: those regarding the festival itself. You see, what most people don’t realize is that headlining last year’s Rock The Mill was the first real live performance for the then newly formed Flashing Lights. When asked why he returned for a second straight year, Murphy said: 
“It’s the venue: reminiscent of the Rolling Stones Hot Rocks cover and yet vaguely Marilyn Manson. A cross between the pastoral themes of Constable and the confused violence of Pollock. Rock The Mill, what a bill.” 

Reminiscing about the performance, Murphy confessed to feeling adventurously unprepared. “The highlight for me having two drummers. It was really the band’s debut. We rehearsed for a couple of hours and hit the road. We had to make it up on the spot. There were maybe 5 songs that we could execute, the rest we had to hunt down and slaughter. I felt like Ted Nugent with a crossbow. Since that show, I’ve always sought to recapture the immediate and improvisational aspects that we had that night. This time we bring a bigger set list, but we leave a lot of room between songs for surprises. Oops, there goes the surprise-every-body-get ready to be not surprised.” 

On that note, Matt signed off, leaving the rest of us to guess as to what surprises the Flashing Lights would have in store for Cambridge on this fateful twenty-first day of August. One thing’s for sure, if they perform as well as they did unprepared last year, nobody will be disappointed.

Thanks to Rob Butcher for typing the interview