(Album I Bet On Sky out Sept. 18, CDN Dates: Toronto Sept. 24,25,26)
When alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr. were making more headlines for their turmoil than for their music in the late ’80s and early ’90s, thoughts of some reconciliation between singer/guitarist J. Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Patrick “Murph” Murphy were minute.
But having made amends back in 2005 and now three albums into this proverbial second act, Murphy says the group aren’t looking too far ahead.
“It’s actually gone much better than we expected,” Murphy says. “We actually didn’t plan on how long it it would go, it’s just going smooth. This record was just more focused, for some reason it’s our third record in this reunion and we were just able to focus and get it done.”
The band’s new album I Bet On Sky was recorded earlier this year but the process must have been agony for Murphy following a car crash. Although he didn’t reveal all the details, Lou Barlow tweeted during the sessions Murphy was powering through injuries.
“Yeah I actually had a car accident, a pretty bad one,” the drummer says. “I was pretty banged up but I was able to do the record literally five days later. I broke my nose, I broke my ribs, I broke my foot. I think that it actually benefited me because I was able to…you know when you’re in pain every movement is very deliberate. So when I was playing I was just really super focused.”
As for the album, I Bet On Sky is a strong natually guitar-oriented effort throughout highlighted by “Watch The Corners,” the opener “Don’t Pretend You Don’t Know” and “I Know It Oh So Well.” Murphy says he can’t really elaborate on the writing process for the follow-up to 2009’s Farm as it always revolves around the mind of Mascis.
“J has kind of his own vision and he doesn’t really…we never know what it is,” he says. “He just has his own vision and it comes out. I think this record is more poppy. It’s more pop-oriented because J spent so much time on the vocals I think.
“J is like an odd fellow, he’ll write songs wherever. We might be in a restaurant on tour and I can just tell that he’s thinking, he’s writing. So it could have just been something very matter of fact, like we’re having dinner and he just decided in his mind to write that song.”
Prior to recording I Bet On Sky Dinosaur Jr. sailed the seas literally as part of the bill for the Weezer Cruise in January.
“It was bizarre, we had never done anything like that,” Murphy says. “J asked me, ‘Should we do this?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’ Because we’re not really people that would go on a cruise. So I thought this was our only chance, seriously. Lou ended up playing seven times in three days with Sebadoh, Dinosaur and then solo, so it was pretty crazy.”
Murphy says the cruise idea might be enticing again but probably only if they were to curate the lineup themselves.
“If we were headlining or if the headliner was really good but otherwise probably not,” he says. “If it was more tailored or if it was like ATP (All Tomorrow’s Parties festival) and we could pick the bands we wanted to go with us we would. But otherwise probably not.”
Dinosaur Jr. played a few one-off festivals in Europe this year before playing a few festival dates Stateside. Fans in Toronto will get to hear the new material first as Dinosaur Jr. didn’t offer much I Bet On Sky material during the summer dates.
“Toronto is going to be our testing ground,” Murphy says. “We haven’t played them at all, that will be the first time we’ll be playing them. We’re going to practice at J’s house in Massachusetts and we just have to go through them and see which ones translate better live. We don’t actually know until we play them.”
Murphy says the three-night Toronto stand also allows the band to enhance the show over the mini-residency.
“It’s nice because you get to refine your set and we make a different set every night,” he says. “I think it gives us a chance to relax and refine it. I kind of feel like we’re playing better than we’ve ever played. I’m really psyched to be in Toronto.”
A video created by FunnyOrDie.com for Dinosaur Jr.’s “Watch The Corners” was released this summer before the Sept. 18 release of I Bet On Sky. Murphy – who really likes the single – says it was the humour site’s idea to do a video for the tune.
“We liked what we saw so we just went with them,” he says.
The video rarely shows the band and when they are shown they appear in a pixelated format. So who is the best looking pixelated member of Dinosaur Jr.?
“(Laughs) I mean it seems like all the same to me,” Murphy says. “I was actually surprised. Like they don’t….our presence in that video is very murky which is fine, which is good. I don’t really think we think about it other than that.”