Chet Faker is Nick Murphy, a young Australian musician noted for his unique marriage of songwriting and sonic experimentation. Murphy understands texture and production as much as lyrics and melody. He recently shot to fame when his cover of Blackstreet's 'No Diggity' was featured in a Superbowl advert for Beck's beer. Most of the words in the previous sentence might put off the discerning listener, and I sympathise. An ad campaign is by no means a fair representation of Chet Faker's work, so better to get it out the way, first off.
The now-famous track comes from 'Thinking in Textures', his independently-released debut EP. Murphy - a handsome, humble, gruff guy with a fiery beard - tells me that the album was made from start to finish in his garage, the same garage where he's been tinkering and thinking his way through songs since his mid-teens. Now, at the age of 24, those years have been whittled down into a handful of well thought-out pieces. Murphy has been playing music most days since he was 15, briefly training as an audio engineer before entering Melbourne's music scene. He always played guitar, took piano lessons in his late teenage years, and has been fiddling with Ableton Live (intuitive but powerful production software) since not long after that. The last six years or so were a struggle to bring his love of honest songwriting and electronic production together. Chet Faker follows the archetype of his generation: playing and recording everything himself and in doing so, trying to join the "two polar opposites" of popular music. Importantly for Murphy, software's infinite possibilities are a red herring: "I think limitations are the most important thing with creativity. If you can do anything... you will do anything." You'll end up with experiments, not songs. That's why you can hear subdued chord stabs alongside catchy lyrics, Burial-esque rhythms and a soulful Wurlitzer. In fact, the UK electronic music scene is something that continues to influence his sound, because it has often been syncopated; a legacy from garage and, before that, Jamaican/British Dub producers' love of the broken beat possibilities of delay.
Despite his newfound popularity, Murphy only recently moved out of his garage. He's glad there's no tin roof interrupting recording when it rains, but it all remains decidedly lo-fi. The integrity of his music -and honesty, judging by the sexual nature of many of his lyrics - comes from what he sees as songwriting's "medicinal purpose". Writing is akin to therapy, he says. Perhaps this provides another explanation for the entirely solo, homemade nature of it all: every inch is his brainchild, his emotions, his catharsis. Murphy keeps referring to Chet Faker as a "project" and it seems as if he's still experimenting with his sound, still on the path to master-craftsman. An impending fully-fledged album will feature new sounds - some bass, some sax, more Rhodes (and less Wurlitzer) - all lovingly made with the same, steady approach that had 'Thinking in Textures' turning heads. All in all, it seems doing the Superbowl ad was the right decision: "Money is time, and if you have more money, you have more time to dedicate to your craft."
All images courtesy of Lisa Frieling.