Behind The Music: Interview with Blue Fish Diamond

‘Our aim is always to serve the song, and being an independent artist we can do just that.’

Ahead of their second album ‘Frozen Stars on the Night’ arriving 28th October, we chatted with founder Jim Murphy to discover the story behind the band’s name, their future sonic direction, and why they can’t wait to play live once again.

Hi Jim, thanks for taking time to chat with us. What five words best describe the sound of Blue Fish Diamond? 
Vibrant, dynamic, harmonious, melodic and catchy!

How did the band’s name come about? 
The name was inspired by a conversation with a friend in the early hours of the morning! We had just formed the band and he asked if we had a band name. We said no and the conversation moved on. Twenty minutes later, he said “What’s your favourite colour?” followed by “What’s your favourite food?”. This led to “Blue Fish Pie” but we reckoned it didn’t have enough sparkle so we adapted his suggestion and ‘Blue Fish Diamond’ was born!

Who is involved in the musical and non music side of Blue Fish Diamond?
On the musical side, everyone in the band plays a role in shaping the songs and putting their own musical stamp on them to create what has become the Blue Fish Diamond sound: Shay on drums, Ronan on bass, Laura on piano, Axel on lead guitar, Matilda on backing vocals and Jim on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. We recorded our new album ‘Frozen Stars on the Night’ with Gavin Glass at his studio Orphan Recording in Co. Wexford and his musical DNA as producer of the album is also an integral part of our sound.

On the non-musical side, the artwork for the album was designed by artist and musician Mark Keogh and Kevin Murray of Vamp & Fade PR has been a torch bearer for us in promoting the album to press, blogs and radio. When it comes to all other band activities ourselves e.g. booking gigs and managing social media, we look after that ourselves.

What/who would you cite as your biggest influences? 
From a songwriting perspective, our biggest influences are some of the great 70s folk artists such as Tom Petty, Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen as well as more recent indie artists like R.E.M. and Big Thief. When it comes to arranging the songs though, our net is cast wider and you might hear the influence of artists as diverse as Tedeschi Trucks Band, Laura Marling, or say Van Morrison.

Turning to your forthcoming album release, how has the journey of creating ‘Frozen Stars on the Night’ differed to that of your debut ‘From Dark to Light’? 
When we recorded ‘From Dark to Light’, it was the first time in a professional studio for most of us. Gavin Glass also produced that album and we learnt a lot under his stewardship. When it came to starting work on ‘Frozen Stars on the Night’, we were able to draw on our previous studio experience and that of doing more live gigs together as well as the ideas each of us drew from other musical projects we were involved with.

‘Human emotions are a unifying theme throughout the album.’

There are beautiful uses of vocal and instrumental harmony throughout the album. How much input did the individual musicians have in the construction of these? 
The sound you hear is very much a collective effort as we have a very open approach when we’re working on new music. Everyone feels empowered to make suggestions and more often than not, those suggestions make their way into the final version of a song.

And also on sound, I love the contrasting atmosphere of Track 5 ‘The Devil Beguiled’. Is this a musical direction you might explore further in future releases? 
‘The Devil Beguiled’ definitely takes the listener on a bit of a detour when they listen to the album. The lyrics are quite dark and sinister and this is echoed in the music. We are already working on new material for album number three and we envisage a similar edgy vibe for some of the tracks.

In all your releases it always feels like you are being true to your musical selves. How important is it to you that this is the case? 
This is a very important factor for us. To borrow a phrase from our producer Gavin Glass, our aim is to “serve the song”. As independent artists we have the creative freedom to do this and that makes for a very rewarding outcome when making new music.

Returning to the album, I understand that some songs were inspired by the pandemic. Were you already planning your next album when everything kicked off? 
Two of the songs from the album were inspired by the pandemic – the opening track ‘Free’ and the fourth track ‘Alive Again’. That said, we think their sentiments are universal and enduring. As for the other tracks, we had already written half of the album when the pandemic started, but the arrival of the pandemic accelerated the process and timelines!

So how did you approach combining those with tracks from other sources of inspiration?  
All of the tracks, including Free and Alive Again, were inspired by personal experiences or experiences of friends and family so human emotions are a unifying theme covering love, desire, hope, sadness, and elation.

‘The sound you hear is very much a collective effort.’

What does a Blue Fish Diamond recording session normally involve? 
A lot of fun! Each recording session we’ve done has typically run from a Monday to a Friday.
We arrive on the Monday morning and spend the first couple of hours setting up and testing sound levels and inputs with the engineer. Once we’re set up we then sit down with the producer in the control room and listen to the demos of the tracks that we’ve sent beforehand and bounce around ideas. Our approach has been to record the rhythm section live with a guide vocal, which might bring us up to Wednesday evening for say five tracks.

Thursday and Friday would then be spent doing overdubs – percussion, additional guitar parts, additional piano/organ/synth parts. Our vocalists would then come back at a later date to record final lead and backing vocals.

One of the reasons why we like recording at Orphan Recording is because they offer a residential option. This means that we socialise as a band in the evenings and discuss various band plans … and because Wexford is by the sea, we also get to go for a few swims during the week!

So would you still be involved in music if you weren’t part of Blue Fish Diamond? 
Absolutely, music is in our veins and we need it to continue to exist! In fact, we’re all individually involved in other musical projects which can help to bring fresh perspectives in how we develop our sound.

And finally, I hear that the live music scene in Ireland is hopefully reopening soon. What are you most looking forward to about getting to play live again? 
We actually have an album launch gig booked at The Workman’s Club in Dublin on 3rd November. We can’t wait for that moment when we walk on stage and play the opening chord of the first song. It has been a year and a half since we experienced the buzz of playing our own music to an appreciative audience. We’re counting down the days!

Thanks Jim Murphy of Blue Fish Diamond for chatting with Listen to Discover
Photography Credit: Jason Ennis
Artwork Credit: Mark Keogh

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