Somewhere in the middle of 2020, Murray Matravers heard a pocket of wisdom on the radio. It seemed to speak to the DNA of easy life: a band born in the Midlands, with frontman Murray growing up on a farm in Loughborough, and his bandmates Oliver Cassidy (drums), Sam Hewitt (bass), Lewis Alexander Berry (guitar) and Jordan Birtles (keyboards/percussion) on either side of him in Leicester and Nottingham. Up the M6, it was Mancunian bard John Cooper Clarke who suggested – paraphrases Murray - “it was his idleness that made him so good.” Turning the parochial majestic, and finding the sublime in the mundane, is a philosophy entwined with easy life’s, and proved something of a eureka-moment for Murray when distractedly contemplating the band’s own debut album. “I could totally relate to what he was saying. This record is born out of the productivity of idleness.” In its own unassuming way, it also marks easy life’s graduation into the UK’s definitive young band.
Idleness, on this occasion, comes with its own caveats. Perhaps it should be rephrased as working at one’s own pace. Since 2017, easy life have paved their own way via a catalogue bursting with introspective, escapist, outsider-anthems. Their effortlessly accomplished mixtapes – ‘creature habits’, ‘spaceships’, and the top-10-charting ‘junk food’ (which featured their only duet to date, with Arlo Parks) – have led the rascal band of brothers to debut album, ‘life’s a beach’. A title that makes total sense, argues Murray, when you’re “from slap bang in the middle of the country, geographically as far from the nearest seaside as possible.” Like all things that sound crafted on the hoof, a lot of love (and pain) goes into making easy life sound as easy as they do. Or as Murray sums it up, “it’s a record that wishes it was anywhere else but here, yet at the same time fixates on a dreary middle England existence.”
The beach of ‘life’s a beach’ is not a Caribbean hideaway. It’s Margate and Morecombe, the postcard imagery of Martin Parr, the swimming pool of Sexy Beast. It’s burnt British skin on a Spanish Costa, a cheeky garage weekender in Aya Napa and swimming trunks that sag in the all the wrong places. easy life’s simple, existential mantra is about finding the fun by whatever means necessary (even in a pandemic). As GQ wrote when profiling the band, “imagine what would happen if Alex Turner, Kaytranada and Loyle Carner collaborated, and you’ll get something fairly close to Easy Life’s indefinable sound.” Here is a band, then, formed for the collective escape from the everyday experience, a world built out of chip wrappers, late nights and finding yourself – if even for a moment – stupidly happy.
Beneath its sun-kissed and at times gloriously odd sound, ‘life’s a beach’ also shows how much more there is to easy life than their apparent musical confidence. One of pop’s more unsuspecting stars, Murray takes his observational and deeply personal songwriting to disarmingly candid heights, right from the album’s chaotic opener, ‘a message to myself.’ A symphonic essay on depression and a rallying call for self-love, the track was produced alongside Grammy-nominated Bekon (known for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN’ and BJ The Chicago Kid’s ‘In My Mind’) and arrives alongside a brilliant video directed and animated by Andy Baker (a collaborator on Adult Swim’s ‘Rick and Morty’). ‘A message to myself’ is a reminder to keep doing you,” says Murray. “It’s a celebration of individualism at all costs. Be yourself, nobody can do you better.”
‘life’s a beach’ further navigates the choppy waters of mental health on ‘lifeboat’, as well as the band’s hit single ‘nightmares’ (which was featured in Michaela Coel’s ‘I May Destroy You’). Elsewhere, the kitchen-sink drama (via DM culture) of young love are explored on the boredom-turned-blissful ‘daydreams’, and high-energy/high-anxiety lead single ‘skeletons’ – which, says Murray, “plays with the idea that everyone has baggage, and a slightly mysterious/potentially terrifying past.” ‘ocean view’, meanwhile, “is about generally managing expectations; taking your mate/lover on a wild trip to the seaside, but it’s massively underwhelming.” easy life’s silver-lining ethos is also evident in album highlight ‘have a great day’, a getaway anthem which stems “from my need to see the positives in every possible situation. There’s a hint of sadness behind the song as it feels, like all good things, the story will be short-lived…but for the time being, we’re at the beach, sipping our favourite drink, and everything else doesn’t matter one little bit.”
To understand ‘life’s a beach’ is to dive deep into Murray’s colourful back-story for the first time. Raised on his parents’ turkey farm, this taste for idleness – and smoking weed – saw him leave school aged 18: a straight A student, Murray was more intent on following his musical dreams, and managed a milkshake shop to make ends meet. He saved up to go travelling around Europe following a side-hustle selling jacket potatoes, finding and briefly losing something of himself in Berlin. Murray returned to Leicester to form easy life, recruiting final member Jordan at Horse Meat Disco. And over time, the fiercely creative five-piece have become a proper gang. Because that’s how gangs work. Something special ties you together, encouraging each other to strive for something bigger and better.
It’s easy life’s glass-half-full attitude that shone through during lockdown, and the surreal backdrop against which ‘life’s a beach’ was completed. Whether protesting in their local Leicester neighbourhood, Zooming with fans, connecting with students locked-down at university or letting Sam loose on a series of saxophone covers (ranging from the Mario Kart theme to Game of Thrones), easy life began 2020 landing their first NME Award (“one of the last good days of the year”) but closed it, despite everything, with the album their huge young audience had been waiting for finally finished. The fact they’re set to release it as the UK enjoys – hopefully – a safe return to the British beach seems oddly fitting.
By the time ‘life’s a beach’ closes on ‘music to walk home to’ – a spontaneous, Streets-like stream-of-consciousness, which sounds like a hymn to the year’s lost nights out – a rounded study of forgotten Britain has concluded; as has a trip into the head of one of its most exciting new songwriters. What Murray wants people to take away from the record, essentially, is the strength from allowing others in. “We should speak about these things. My girlfriend is forever asking me to open up, and it’s funny that I find it so easy when writing, but genuinely quite difficult in day to day situations. Sometimes I feel like it’s not even me who is speaking, it’s just some lonely dude who has too much time to think about the way he feels…but this headspace should be encouraged. I didn’t even understand myself until I started being super open in my lyrics. Now I feel like I can say anything and someone somewhere will understand me. How lucky I am.”
A band formed right down to the name itself as an escape (from Middle-England, or from your inner demons), their debut album sees easy life find their place in the world: as young (sometimes idle) men, but ultimately as optimists. “I guess we are the most unlikely boyband ever to grace the pubs and clubs near you!” says Murray of the easy life experience. “Five friends who are unbelievably gassed to say that we are professional musicians, even though my grandma – who I love to bits – still tells me I need to think about getting a proper job so I can get a mortgage, have children and take the wife on holiday.” There may be more rain on the way, but ‘life’s a beach’ is easy life’s absolute moment in the sun.