Interview: Liverpool quartet Courting – hyper-pop theatrics from future icons

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Featured image: Charlie Barclay Harris

Liverpool-based quartet, Courting, are one of the most exciting new names on the scene. Merging hyper-pop with post-punk (and really anything else they feel like) provides limitless potential to their sound and following the release of second studio album, New Last Name. It seems there’s no stopping the outrageous theatrics of Courtings’ cinematic universe. We caught up with lead singer and creative director, Sean Murphy-O’Neill, to discuss the New Last Name record, tour, and more.

In the short break home between their UK tour and upcoming European dates, Courting sacrificed resting to spend time working on even more new material. Speaking over Zoom from Liverpool, Sean talks about the rewards of seeing real-time feedback to the new album: “I think often when your perspective of how people see art you’ve made is solely on the internet, it can be hard to gauge how realistic it is”.

He tells us the audience response “adds a layer of realness to what you’ve made”. For Sean, playing ‘Flex’ is a highlight of the live shows: “It’s one of the only moments in the set that the chorus is so laid-back and quiet that you can listen to the crowd singing, when you actually get to hear everyone enjoying the music, it’s really reassuring.”

Making reference to a tweet sent years before the realities of touring, Sean speaks about the joy of playing YES’ Pink Room. In a full-circle moment, they sold out the venue on Valentines Day this year.

Released in January, New Last Name creates a story for the listener, dipping in and out of narratives and genres. “We feel like a lot of music doesn’t get points for style, we wanted to add conceptual layers to the record without making it overly dense”, says Murphy, on the inspiration for the album.

Referencing his love for Wes Anderson’s aesthetic layering, he spoke on the artistic approach they took: “With an album, you’re so limited to the box of what you can do in a genre, so it’s much more interesting to approach it like you’re making a movie or writing a book – something that can play with the form of what an album can be.”

Courting actively try not to make the same song twice. Sean shares, “It’s very easy as a band to pick a sound, do nine songs that are similar and call it a day. But realistically, all you’ve achieved is spreading yourself really thin, diluting a few good ideas across songs.”

Claiming there are no genres they’d never explore, we can expect to hear all kinds of influences in their work. If it holds their interest for more than a week, they’re delving in.

From the get-go, Courting have mocked and played with the ideas of pigeon-holing themselves into one sound. From Frank Ocean to anthemic 2000’s theatrical indie-rock, Sean says they’ll listen to anything that can widen their horizons. 

Under-selling themselves, Sean tells us that they think of themselves as the most accidental band in history: “We just started a band one day and now we’re here”. In the span of just two years and two albums, Courting have gone from playing the Festival Republic stage at Reading and Leeds, all the way to billing the Main Stage and collaborating with The Cribs. He speaks ominously on this, hinting at big plans for their Main Stage debut, with very little detail.

Talking briefly on their fictional arch nemeses, The Throwbecks, Sean reassures that they won’t be a problem for them anymore – a true confirmation of success from these rising stars.

The New Last Name tour concludes with a hometown date at the Liverpool Hanger 34, on May 24th.

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Jess Berry

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