Dinosaur Jr. (from left): J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph.
When he calls back, Murph — as in Emmett Jefferson Murphy III, the longtime drummer for ’90s guitar-punk revivalists Dinosaur Jr. — is in the middle of doing his part to inspire the next generation of musicians.
But not at all how you’d expect: He’s in Boston, spending a Thursday morning taking his nephew to a tour of the Berklee School of Music.
“He’s not into my thing,” says Murph. “He’s a classical jazz guy, turning me onto stuff I’ve never heard before.”
If it sounds like Murph is mellowing a bit, he is. And so are his bandmates, J Mascis and Lou Barlow, as they prep to rock the Majestic Theatre on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) in support of last year’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, the fourth album the Amherst-based band has released since reuniting in 2005. But we’re not talking about levels of performance energy — we’re talking big-pic things like songwriting and shifts in life outlook.
“It started out as a reunion,” says Murph. “By the second album, it was like, ‘Okay, we’re doing this. We’re at the age where we might as well keep going.’ We came from such a dysfunctional place. We still have problems, but to get old enough to get beyond that, it’s much easier now.”
Murph’s referring to the band’s troubled dynamics. Mascis and Barlow (also of Sebadoh and Folk Implosion fame) are legendary iconoclasts, a pair of musicians who’ve spent more years not talking to each other than actually speaking and working out their problems. Murph’s always been Dinosaur Jr.’s intermediary and scheduler, a role he hasn’t exactly relished.
“It was in my nature, but I didn’t like to do it,” says Murph, who was forced to mediate the relationship between his parents when they divorced when he was a kid. He’s happy to report that having families of their own has changed his bandmates for the better. And he also believes Mascis’ songwriting has reached new peaks. “The well is just running deeper,” Murph says. But while the lyrics on Give a Glimpse tackle more weighty subjects like aging and broken relationships, the guitar riffs rock just as hard as they ever have.
Wait a minute. Could it be that Dinosaur Jr. is finally having...dare we say it...fun? Kinda sounds like a win for all of us.
“We’re at that age where we can formally enjoy what we’ve been doing,” says Murph. “Before, it was the struggle. Now we’ve got this kind of momentum going.”