Maritime band Walrus talks new album, new tour, & new sound

Mansion concert teases the upcoming release of sophomore album Cool to Who

Walrus band members.
Supplied by Walrus.

With their dreamy, synthesized rock sound and drifting vocals, Nova Scotia’s Walrus is coming into their own.

The band has kept up a gruelling live schedule for the past few months that has whisked them across North America, leading them to Kingston on Sept. 18 for a show at the Mansion.

The four-piece band from Truro, Nova Scotia, consisting of brothers Justin and Jordan Murphy and their childhood friends Scott Nicks and Justin McGrath, will be dropping their sophomore album Cool to Who in October, fresh from touring with Canadian rock giant Wintersleep.

First arriving on the scene as a psych rock band, lead vocalist Justin Murphy is happy with how their sound has grown since their 2012 debut EP Onetwotree.

“Now we’re definitely more of ourselves,” he said on behalf of the band in an interview with The Journal. “Not really trying to sound like anything in particular or trying to look a certain way, just a lot more comfortable in our own skin.”

Entering the studio to record their second album, the band enjoyed the confidence lent by experience. They recorded the 10 tracks on Cool to Who over two days in the hulking, yellow Old Confidence Lodge—an old family residence-turned-recording studio in Riverport Nova Scotia—a far cry from the cramped Halifax studio that they were used to.

“You have giant rooms, so your drums will sound way different. Murphy explained. “They’ll sound dead in a studio but there’s so much life in this giant room where we recorded them [...] there are more possibilities in a place like that.”

Listening chronologically through their repertoire, listeners can track their growth. The band has developed from two brothers recording songs together at home to a fully-fledged rock band hopping from province to province, living their dream.

Although the brothers had always talked about playing music together, their age difference meant Jordan, the elder, was always busy in bands of his own. Before Walrus, he and the other two band members had already been working together.

The addition of his young brother Justin, the band’s primary songwriter and lead vocalist, was the final ingredient needed to bring the four childhood friends together.

Ever since, they’ve been changing their style to suit both themselves and their growth—recording studios and stages required more from them than their cramped bedroom.

For some band members, opportunities to play in the US have been the first time they had ever left Canada.

With the energy of a folky Tame Impala, Walrus gained attention across the country, sharing stages with national favourites July Talk and Tokyo Police Club. They’ve also secured spaces in festivals across the country, including a spot at an Osheaga after party in 2016.

Criss-crossing the country has taken them through Kingston many times, although this will be their first performance at the Mansion, as far as the band remembers.

“I’m not sure if we’ve played the Mansion,” Murphy said. “But I think we played the Grad Club one time and we were partying with a guy afterwards and went to the Mansion, so we’ve definitely been there.”

The band has travelled outside of North America for gigs, allowing them to see some of their favourite places.

“We’ve seen most of the places that have been on my bucket list to go see in the world,” he said. Overseas in England, the band got to visit some of the iconic locations referenced by The Beatles in their songs. This was a particularly special experience because their band name, Walrus, began as an homage to the band’s 1967 psychedelic hit “I Am the Walrus.”

“That was really cool to me,” Murphy said. “I felt like we were in the place where we were supposed to be.”

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