Two years after releasing their debut album, ‘Maps of The Mystic’, Liverpool’s psychedelic sons The Wicked Whispers return with a new double A-side single ‘If I Set You Free’/’Zodiac Girl’.
The band’s singer, guitarist, and songwriter Mike Murphy tells us what’s happened in the ensuing years, doing it for the right reasons, and why this is the band’s true beginning.
You’ve said that making the debut album almost pushed you over the edge. Why?
Sometimes it’s good to get that caught up in an album, but a not a debut album. I had a very specific vision which began before the band formed officially, writing all the songs and arrangements and had very specific ideas of the sounds. So I came to produce the record which had to be worked around the studios and my schedules which proved difficult. The recording wasn’t so bad but the mixing and scheduling was gruelling and took almost 18 months. There was no way around it at the time and partially the reason it took so long to finish.
What did you do differently this time around to prevent that from happening again?
Well the main thing is I wanted to not produce this time. Also I wanted a fresh perspective, a different studio, and a new team to help us move into different waters. We also developed the music for our new songs as a band rather than me pre-arranging the music. So the pre-production method has changed as much as the in-studio method. It all was very organic and effortless fusing together perfectly as a five-piece for the first time. We were in the studio three days and it took a couple of weeks to mix and master the double A-side. It was such a better approach for us.
How do you think you’ve grown as people and musicians in the past two years?
It must have been hard for the lads following my vision for so long, I commend them for believing in me so much. But we had to be a band and big changes had to be made in developing the new material. I still write the songs so far but everyone brings their qualities. We’ve been around for four to five years now and we’ve toured endlessly, recorded in numerous studios, and played the game, so we went into this seasoned and in it for the right reason: the love of the music.
What do each of you bring to the band – either as musicians or individuals – that makes The Wicked Whispers work?
Again, we all have ideas and qualities as players. We are all very different people but are all very close friends. I think a genuine friendship and respect really helps the base for us.
What “special ingredients” go into a Wicked Whispers song?
When I write a song, it needs to be right for The Wicked Whispers and more specifically where we are going. As a songwriter I’m always writing and there’s some songs I’ve written and even demoed that either haven’t worked or are not right for the band. The current double A-side singles, for example, were natural choices as both are really strong pop songs, have The Whispers feel, but also show the progressive side as we venture towards our next step.
Looking at all the songs you’ve done, is there one that best sums up what The Wicked Whispers are about?
We got pinned to our song ‘Dandelion Eyes’ for a long time – it was the track we were most known for since 2012. It was a big single for us and I’m proud of it but at the moment, I won’t lie, I hate it and a couple of the lads feel the same. I think the song was so buried in the moment it was released when the band had a lot of buzz but we moved on from that quickly but it lingered. Looking back now and loving our new stuff I can’t stand to listen to it or play it but we still do play it nevertheless. It was just too close to the cliché and wasn’t intended to be as standout as it was.
I think ‘If I Set You Free’ sums up more what we are about, but we are also a band that want to keep growing and developing changing our sounds.
1960s psychedelic music is clearly an influence. What other influences are lurking in there?
I love a bit of trip-hop to be honest. I also have always been a big country, blues, and folk fan (think Pentangle, Gram Parsons, and Leadbelly). I also listen to a lot of jazz and classical music. Depends on my mood. I’ve always had a diverse taste but there’s just some things I get obsessive about, being an obsessive-compulsive. Psych was something I always loved and went to town on. Other areas will be getting explored. We’ve already done a psych/rock/folk album, so we need to keep it moving.
The new new songs, ‘If I Set You Free’/’Zodiac Girl’, are more focused and direct – was this a conscious decision?
Yes, this was down to song selections but I intentionally was writing pop songs again and wanted to avoid going too off the path with experimenting. After all we are a band and want to keep growing so I wanted us to be playing cool short pop songs again and to start linking in the new vibe.
Do you see yourself releasing more singles – like they did back in the 1960s – before releasing the second album?
Yeah, there’s more work to do before we get to a second album. At this point, we’re going to do an EP next – early in 2017 – to demonstrate the next stage for us. Again, there’s a foot in the psychedelic but it’s moving us into a very different direction. We all love it.
Then from there we’ll see what happens, maybe another single. I think singles are important and so far, where we shine best. I’d like to do more and keep this going. We’re not going rush a second album out though and, in truth, we’re not looking at it like this is a second album bracket. We’re not signed to a big indie or major label with national reach at the moment, so ideally it would be nice to gather a lot more momentum and have someone else release a second album. Electone Records serves us well but an album is a big undertaking and we would be gutted to rush it out and it go unheard nationally like the debut.
After some time away, how does it feel to be back on stages playing to your fans?
Amazing. All the gigs this year have been great and I think we are the best we’ve ever been as a live band. The new material is shining through, as we all developed the music together it makes it easier and more fun.
Has anything changed as a live band since you’ve been away?
We’ve improved as a unit and individually. There’s a lot more passion and excitement when we play. But the writing process is the big change. It’s truly exciting working on new material and getting it ready to play live. I think this is the band’s true beginning.