For a musician who used to have his guitar gear transported in road cases by crew members, Dan Murphy seems surprisingly proud of his current setup.
“Hey, that’s a attractive laundry basket, “he insisted.
That’s right: instead of having “Soul Asylum” on the rack it carries its assorted pedals and accessories in, the name on Murphy’s road case these days reads “Rubbermaid”.
A sign of his estrangement from the music world after three decades in two of his most beloved rock bands (also: Golden Smog), Murphy’s ultra-low-tech transporter also symbolizes how unintentional and fun it is to play. again. .
“It was all very impulsive, and I think it made it even better,” the self-exiled Minneapolis rock veteran said of his new band, the Scarlet Goodbye, whose official first gig is Friday. at Hook & Ladder.
In fact, a pretty fancy and ambitious new project – not to mention the lo-fi transporter – the group started on a whim just before quarantine last year after Murphy befriended another. Minnesota music staple singer / songwriter / producer Jeff Arundel.
Owner of the Aster Café and two neighboring restaurants, Arundel’s diverse and variously successful musical career spans from his heartfelt new hit “Harmon Killebrew” to his former concert promotion company Compass to nature-y CDs “Lifescapes “which he produced for aisle ends in Target stores in the late 90s.
Arundel, 63, had never met Murphy, 59, until the guitarist became a regular at the Aster a few years ago.
“This is perhaps the most unlikely game in Minnesota music history,” Arundel mused. “Dan used to learn a whole Aerosmith record as a kid, and I would learn a James Taylor song.”
Murphy added, “I really didn’t know anything about Jeff’s career, and he probably knew this song on the train and that was all about my career.”
“But,” Arundel added, “I think that’s part of the chemistry and the charm.”
The casual friends became collaborators after Murphy attended a holiday party at Arundel’s house in St. Paul and took a peek at the cozy recording studio upstairs.
“We got up there and started working,” Arundel recalls, “and Dan got homesick. He said quietly,“ I really missed that. “”
After a couple of writing and demo sessions as a duet, Arundel brought in a rhythm section from his production team, drummer Ben Peterson and bassist Pat Nelson. They thought maybe they were going to release some songs. Instead, they ended up with an entire album, which they already sent to producer John Fields for him to mix and they are now shopping for the record companies.
A preview of the album, tentatively titled “Hello to the Scarlet Goodbye,” shows the balance between the two leaders’ disparate musical backgrounds and the comfort of their collaboration.
Arundel transforms the rocker at full volume into the Golden Smoggy “Sandy” and makes “Firefly” a climactic anthem. Murphy, conversely, turns into more folkloric and intimate songs than those heard in his previous bands, including the pandemic-inspired “Fresh New Hell” and a punch called “Minor Things,” about struggles of his mother against Alzheimer’s disease. Even their cover of Hüsker Dü’s “Celebrated Summer” is smooth and harmonious.
“Dan took a lot of risks, and he tricked me into taking a lot of risks,” said Arundel, marveling at how quickly his new bandmate came back to peak form after such a long break. in music.
“He walked in with the lyrics finished and thought, ‘Alright, you’re going to sing this one, and we’ll try with this song.’ He kind of got back to work. “
It is no exaggeration to say that Murphy had stopped playing rock’n’roll altogether after leaving Soul Asylum in 2012. He had already started a successful side business, Grapefruit Moon Gallery, specializing in vintage pin art. up.
“I only had two guitars left, and I would say I picked them up and played a total of two hours over eight years,” he said, reiterating that his reasons for tilting were more because of him than his bandmate Dave Pirner (who continued with Soul Asylum; their usual Christmas concert at First Avenue is scheduled for December 17th).
“Dave’s desire to continue playing these songs night after night was greater than my desire to do so,” Murphy said.
“I felt like music had a big impact on my marriages, on my child’s education. I felt like I had to move away from it. People would ask me ‘Oh, are you went to this show ‘and me’ I say, “I’ve been to this show every day for 20 years.” “
The Scarlet Goodbye has it (ironically, given the name of the group) reintroduced to the joys of playing. Look for more gigs in the coming months, including a December 18 opening act concert for the Jayhawks at the Palace Theater. Murphy and the Jayhawks Gary Louris and Marc Perlman will also reconvene Golden Smog with Kraig Johnson and possibly another alum in the group next spring at First Ave, catching up with their May 2020 concert postponed by COVID.
“It’s exciting to have shows to look forward to,” Murphy said, while pointing to the less than exciting role the pandemic has played in facilitating his new music with Arundel.
“It was a great way to have a really good [crappy] year.”
The scarlet goodbye
With: Butter Boys and Low Rats.
When: 8 p.m. Fri.
Where: The Hook & Ladder, 3010 Minnehaha Av. S., MPs.
Tickets: $ 20, thehookmpls.com.