The musician Murray Matravers wrote the bulk of his band Easy Life’s debut album, Life’s a Beach, inside his London flat, on his computer, wearing boxer shorts, with a supply of marijuana within arm’s reach at all times. During the height of the pandemic, Matravers was “sat at home,” as the Loughborough, England native puts it—not too far off from what you were most likely up to between March and June of 2020—making songs and sending them to his bandmates, percussionist Oliver Cassidy, bassist and saxophone player Sam Hewitt, guitarist Lewis Alexander Berry, and keyboardist Jordan Birtles.
“Idleness breeds creativity,” Matravers said when we first spoke in October of last year. “Many poets and artists lean on this idea that being bored is almost essential to creation. And since I've been so bored, I've been writing music constantly.”
Matravers formed Easy Life in 2017; he'd grown up playing music with Hewitt, invited Cassidy and Berry to join, then integrated Birtles, who Matravers met at a nightclub, into the mix (“We said, ‘Yeah, man, you should join the band,’ and he said, ‘Go on then.’”). Their approach to making music was pretty lax, according to Matravers, who said they messed around with their indie-pop, jazz-infused sound to get ideas for live shows, while Matravers wrote lyrics and made beats. After releasing their first mixtape, Creature Habits, in April 2018, the band began making waves—appearing on the live music program Later...With Jools Holland, getting signed to Island Records, and snagging a nomination at the 2019 Prospect Music Awards. Their third mixtape, Junk Food, hit No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart a day after its release in January 2020. Today, the second single from the album “A Message to Myself” drops—and Life’s a Beach will be released on June 4.
It seemed like Easy Life was reaching a peak right before the pandemic hit—the band had a US tour planned, plus an appearance at Coachella. While some artists might—and did—take a pause to assess their stress levels and digest such losses, Matravers got to work on what would become Life’s a Beach.
“The process wasn’t too different from how we were working before,” the 25-year-old said. “When the lockdown happened, it wasn't like we had to adjust. All I had to do was move some keyboards into my flat. This has always been the way it is. If anything, it's just given me a hell of a lot more time to do it.”
But Matravers is careful not to celebrate the effects of the pandemic too much. “The world’s fucked,” he said, “and people have been really struggling, including myself.” He’d been forced to move out of his apartment in London and was back at his parents’ house in Loughborough (about a two hour drive from the English capital), isolated from the rest of the family in a carpeted room that was empty save for a radiator stationed in the corner, due to the risk he posed to his grandmother, who also lived there. His keyboards were stuffed into the trunk of a car he’d purchased for 500 pounds a couple months prior.
Throughout all this, the band was finishing Life’s a Beach—mixing and mastering it, doing photoshoots for the album art. Just eight days before this interview, they released their first single from the album, called “Daydreams”; a song inspired by the government-mandated lockdown in the UK and the boredom that ensued. “Day drinking just for something to do,” Matravers croons over a beat that samples Aretha Franklin’s “Day Dreaming.”
“We cut the sample up and then we got another sample off Splice,” the musician says, of making the track. “We put them together in about 10 minutes, and then I literally put lyrics on it. The whole song took around an hour and it was done. The lyrics are about, basically, everyone's lives for six months. I definitely think the process for that one was essential to it being written.”
Our first conversation made it clear to me that Easy Life was not just the band’s name, it was Matravers’s approach to a way of life. All the topics we touched upon (writing music, working from home, spending time with friends, going to the pub,) he described as either “great” “fun” “a great time” or “quite fun.” When speaking of the band, Matravers described their activities with an air of cheekiness. Whether discussing the moment Easy Life got serious about making music (“There hasn't really been a point where we've sat down and been like, ‘Let's take this really seriously,’ because as soon as we start doing that, it might become a bit boring,”) or going on tour (“When we’re on tour, we just get up to as much mischief as possible”), Matravers exuded a youthful spirit that translates to the music the band makes.
But when we speak again in March of 2021, it feels like the effects of the pandemic have taken hold. The musician is in the thick of the UK’s third and longest-lasting lockdown. He’s moved “10 times” since our first interview, and is currently holed up in the countryside near Bristol at his girlfriend’s parents’ house. “It’s just been nuts, a bit of a nightmare,” he says of the past few months. “I think I'm manifesting my personal anxieties into my own geographical madness. I'm just running around the country trying to avoid my own psyche because if I sit down in one place for too long, I'll start thinking about how fucked up everything is. I'm just staying busy, doing not a lot purely because I'm nervous to be on my own for too long.”
Since finishing the album, Matravers has given himself from distance from it—like most other artists, he says he can't listen to his own music after he's done with it.
"When I finish something, that's it,” he explains. “I invest so much in the actual creation that once it's done, I don't want anything to do with it. It's difficult to listen to your own stuff because you're not listening to it with the same ears that the audience will listen to it with; you've conceived the idea and you've dressed it up to be something. You know it inside out.”
Despite the anxiety that most folks are feeling one year into the pandemic, Matravers says he’s hopeful that people will simply put the record on, have fun listening to it, and dance.
“There's a lot of shit that I wouldn't say to somebody, but I'll happily sing about it,” Matravers adds. “I’m pretty anxious and keep to myself, generally speaking. But when I'm making music, I'm totally open. It's difficult to be real with people if you're cripplingly insecure and anxious—it's hard to be the best version of yourself. In music, I'm just like, yeah, I'm having the best time. I'm just fucking living the best life ever.”