November 9, 2021
Big Space is a Canadian trio based in St. John’s, Labrador. They feature original music, brilliantly blending jazz, rock, indie, funk and more. We interviewed Ian Murphy, the bass player of the group.
How was Big Space born?
Grant and I are old friends from the same town in Newfoundland and have been playing music together for years. He studied guitar at Berklee and at the Longy School of Music and became very focused on jazz and improvisation, and especially enjoyed playing in the trio format. After he moved home to Newfoundland he had ideas for a jazz rock trio and thought I might be a good choice for bass. Our drummer Ashley is from Montreal, and soon after he moved to Newfoundland he saw Grant playing keyboards with another group at a club. It was an indie rock band but Ashley could hear a lot of jazz in Grant’s playing. After the gig Ashley introduced himself, and Grant was surprised to find that he had a lot of the same influences – jazz musicians like Wayne Krantz, John Scofield, Medeski Martin & Wood, and the same taste in other genres like metal and electronic music. Grant thought he would be a great drummer for the guitar trio he had in mind. The three of us jammed together for the first time in 2013 and have been playing together as Big Space since then.
Your music is a mix of rock, indie, funk, jazz: who are the artists you listened to when searching for your own style?
When we formed the band in 2013, our goal was to improvise and play freely without limitations, mixing all of our influences from jazz, rock, metal and other genres into one sound. Contemporary jazz fusion players like the Wayne Krantz trio with Keith Carlock and Tim Lefebvre were very inspiring in the way they emphasized improvisation and capturing live performances, as well as trio albums by other guitarists like Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, and Julian Lage. We’re also influenced by a lot of artists outside of the jazz world, everything from Radiohead to Aphex Twin to Tool, including classical influences and music from diverse genres like metal and hip hop.
How do you work on compositions and arrangements? Is it a group work or do you prefer a more personal approach?
We compose and arrange the songs together as a band. Most of the compositions start as a guitar piece written by Grant with writing contributions from all three of us. The band works out arrangements together and we always leave a lot of space for group improvisation.
Your music is a crossover difficult to propose (too rock for jazz clubs, too jazz and instrumental for rock places): how are you working on broadening your audience?
It can be a challenge if venues are very focused on one genre, but we’re lucky that St. John’s has a very thriving and eclectic music scene, especially for a small city. There are some great clubs here that regularly feature jazz, indie rock, folk, etc., and we’ve shared the stage with musicians in many different genres. We’ve also been fortunate that our music has been well-received by jazz fans and people who are into indie rock and more experimental genres like post-rock and math rock.
One challenge being from a geographically remote island is that it’s difficult to tour and bring our show to new audiences. We’ve tried to overcome that by sharing our music and videos of our shows online, and by reaching out to sites from other areas that we hope might be interested in our music like Jazz Espresso.
Which are your projects for the future?
This album took quite a while to complete because of delays due to the pandemic. We’re really looking forward to recording some new material. Our plan is to start work on the next record early in 2022. There was a 5 year gap between In Relation To and our first record. We’d like to start releasing music a bit more frequently, and plan to release more singles, EPs and live videos of our shows to get our music out there.
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