GETTING (DIS)ORIENTED WITH THE BLURRY NIGHTS – INTERVIEW WITH IAN MCGUIRE
The Blurry Nights are a relatively fresh name but the creators of the new psychedelic grunge rock band are no strangers to the music game. Ian McGuire, keyboardist and singer, had a chance to sit down with Joe Gurreri from Headspace Magazine to discuss the backgrounds of each member of The Blurry Nights and the extraordinary story that brought them all together.
Ben and I have known each other since preschool and he grew up in Cheltenham, which is right outside of central Philadelphia. We both actually started piano lessons at the same time from the same lady and he sort of shifted eventually into guitar and I stuck with piano. He can actually still play piano really well. With Dave, it turns out that he went to the same college as me, which was Berklee College of Music and he also went to the same high school as me and Ben, which is Cheltenham High School. He graduated a couple years before Ben and I so we didn’t know him from going to school but he grew up in the neighborhood. He played with a band called BLIVIT and they did some great studio recordings. The most recent addition to the group is Jeremy Worthington. He was most recently in a band called Bodega with some other great musicians. Bodega was a funk group that played West Chester, Philadelphia and beyond and now we got him. We all knew each other from playing in Philly and hanging out in Philly so its bound to happen if you play an instrument.
I had known Ben Karp our guitar player for the longest. That dates back to our high school band, which was MJ Project. That band started a little bit before the beginning of high school in 8th grade. That was an instrumental sort of jazz-fusion rock kind of outfit and it was all guys from our grade school. That group kept playing in the northeast for a number of years until we were all 25 and then the band broke up. That’s how I started playing music with Ben and we found we had a good connection from all that time playing together so that was something we didn’t want to let go of. That led into a newer project called Sonic Spank. That started in 2008 right when MJ Project was wrapping up. There was a little bit of an overlap between the two groups when we realized MJ Project wasn’t going to be doing much more, that’s when we started coming up with some other projects. Ben and I kept collaborating with Sonic Spank. It started off as just the two of us and that’s really when electronic music really took a big step in America with acts like Pretty Lights, we started seeing that with spending some time in the studio, doing a lot of production work, that we could compose music with computers and everything and we didn’t necessarily need the full band like we had in MJ Project. That led into a period of discovery with technology. Our song writing changed, it was a lot more loop based, a lot more effect and production driven and we messed around with samples a lot, made our own samples and over the years that Sonic Spank was together. We slowly, as musicians started getting bored of how reliant we were on computers. We were playing these shows and even though we had been studying music since age 5, we were spending a lot of time with our hands up in the air and triggering things but not really doing it on the spot so as Sonic Spank started diminishing we added a bass player, a drummer and started substituting vocoder vocals for actual vocal singing. That brought on a whole new direction and that sort of brought us back to our roots. As Sonic Spank started experimenting at the tail end, you could really hear that illustrated if you compare Sonic Spank ‘s first EP Who Wants To Get Spanked? to our last EP Drama. There was a definite progression of sound and songwriting so by the time you listen to Drama you can already hear that. While there is a lot of studio production, we were able to play those songs live with the help of computers but we started to integrate vocals back into the mix and actual acoustic instruments back into the mix. It really broadened our horizons for a new setting where we could wean ourselves off of computers. It was really helpful to spend time where we were reliant on them and then sort of wean ourselves back off. We saw how they were capable of helping us, but then we also realized that we wanted to be able to do more in front of people because that showcases our natural abilities and skills. That change led to The The Blurry Nights. You can listen to Drama and then you can listen to The Blurry Nights first EP release that came out last April and you can hear a connection but you can hear a growth of songwriting in terms of “first verse, chorus, bridge” type songwriting as opposed to electronica where it might be two different sections going back and forth. You can hear a big change in songwriting by the time we made it to The Blurry Nights. Once The Blurry Nights started we got a new drummer, Jeremy Worthington and we kept the same bass player that joined at the tail end of Sonic Spank, David Palan. That sort of led us to The Blurry Nights and our taste in music changed a little bit. Instead of the house kind of dubstepy kind of thing we drifted into with Sonic Spank, we felt like we wanted to return to our roots with music that really moved all of us from a young age which was classic rock, psychedelic rock like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, progressive rock and all that kind of stuff that we initially fell in love with. We felt like we strayed a little bit too far away from it and now with The Blurry Nights you are hearing a return to psychedelic grungy kind of stuff that I guess we grew up on in the 90’s. That’s where we are at now.
Sure. It’s a self-titled EP. There are 5 songs on it. You can download that for free at our bandcamp page, or you can go to our website and find the link for that. Some of the tunes were written in that middle period where we were writing for Sonic Spank but the songwriting changed so drastically. Some of it was composed at little bit toward the beginning of The Blurry Nights. We actually went into the studio with the hopes of recording a whole 10 to 12 track album and what we ended up with was two EPs where we completed one of them that is the self-titled EP and then there are some extra tracks that are going to be released next year that we are still playing around with in the studio. What you will hear is a four piece rock band with usually three part harmony vocals. I do a lot of vocals and so do Ben and Dave. You will hear elements of grunge because that’s something we were really into when we were teens or even a little before then. You will hear some elements of some heavy guitar playing, vintage keyboards and heavy beats. There is a little more care put into the lyric writing than some of the stuff you might hear on any of the Sonic Spank stuff. I feel like the last couple years of writing lyrics has led to what you listen to on the The Blurry Nights EP that’s out right now. It’s a mix of things. You will hear some jazz, funk and stuff like that but it’s all mixed in. It will come out when we play and jam and everything. It’s mostly 4 to 6 minute songs so it’s a little past the pop spectrum but its all over the place so you really have to listen to it to get an idea.
With this year we are real excited. We have management; Full Circle Music Productions and we are finally starting to play some shows in markets we haven’t played in under the new name. We have played some shows in Philly already and now we are starting to branch out and re-explore New York and the northeast in general. We are just starting to expand and spread the sound around because this new group even though we have our roots in Philadelphia and we’ve played all over the place between the last two bands from all the way up in Maine to down to Florida and all the way over to Chicago and the Midwest, right now this new group is still starting to get exposed to new markets so this year is all about bringing the name with us wherever we go and pushing the studio recordings we have. You will see us at some festival spots this summer. It’s all one-step at a time. It’s a new group so its exciting and at the same time you get the element of feeling like a new person and you have to let everyone know who you are and what you are all about and that really comes with people being exposed to our music and seeing us live.
Photos and interview by Joe Gurreri. “GETTING (DIS)ORIENTED WITH THE BLURRY NIGHTS – INTERVIEW WITH IAN MCGUIRE“. Headspace Magazine. January, 2015.