In a society where being strong and resilient is often held up like a badge of honour, it’s much, much harder to acknowledge when enough is enough - to accept when it’s time to let go. It’s a truth that New Zealand singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Amelia Murray has spent years wrangling with, but one whose story thankfully comes with an empowering punchline of personal reclamation in the form of ‘Break!’: her returning EP as Fazerdaze.
“You can get so caught up in these false constructs of niceness and loyalty - these rigid societal constructs of what being a ‘good’ person’ is - but the best thing I did for myself was break free of that paradigm and ruthlessly start putting myself first,” she begins. “This EP is a punctuation mark of that, of being disruptive and severing from the false parts of myself."
Rewind back half a decade and, objectively, things for Fazerdaze were hitting their stride. Then residing in Auckland (Amelia recently moved to a small place of her own in Christchurch in the South Island), an early determination to graft hard and “put herself in the right places” had led to working for and then signing with legendary New Zealand label Flying Nun. A debut LP - 2017’s ‘Morningside’ - followed, full of gauzy melodies and influenced by Frankie Cosmos, Japanese Breakfast, and the dream-pop landscape of the time.
Having made music in various guises since a young age, feeling alternately “boxed in” by the limiting stereotypes of what a young solo female artist ‘should’ be or frustrated by bandmates lacking the same work ethic, Amelia passionately recalls the moment of finally feeling the gears shift and slot into place. “This time it felt different because it all depended on me,” she says. “I was really self-motivated and Fazerdaze was the first time I’d had the confidence to do something on my own, which was super liberating.” Lead single ‘Lucky Girl’ soon became a breakthrough hit, while ‘Morningside’ picked up rave reviews from publications around the world, hailed as “effortless pop songs that are far less effortless than people think” by Pitchfork and “a fuzzed-up, Pixies-worthy melodic high” by Mojo.Taking Fazerdaze out of her native NZ (none-too-easy a task) and onto the wider musical stage, it was, from the outside, everything Amelia had been reaching for for years.
Which all begs the question of why Fazerdaze has been almost entirely absent since.
Finishing up touring for the record at the end of 2018, Amelia speaks of a deep sense of burn out and, more than that, of feeling the “wheels starting to come off” in her general life. A combination of unhealthy personal relationships, feelings of unworthiness regarding her burgeoning success and general mental exhaustion soon began to manifest in her musical output; at a time when she should have been deep in the throes of writing her follow up project, Fazerdaze found she couldn’t finish a single song.
“I lost a lot of confidence during that time, and eventually I just broke down and eroded. I eventually had to surrender to the truth of the whole horrible situation I was in personally and professionally,” she explains. “No longer being stoic and strong was the best thing I ever did for myself. This EP came out of hitting that breaking point and asking for help.
“Giving up on the people and things that weren’t working in my life was this big release where I could finally put down this weight that I was carrying, and ever since then everything has been better in my life overall,” she continues, with an audible sense of relief. “I can hear my intuition and write songs and be creative; I signed a record deal, I moved into my own place. It’s like the floodgates opened for good stuff coming into my life.”
And so, whilst ‘Break!’ with its ‘90s-indebted fuzzy guitars and lyrical moments of clarity (“Something’s gotta give/ Something’s gotta change/ You’re just trying to live/ I’m just gonna break” goes the title track) could feel like an EP full of tension, the reality is one of extreme, vital release. It’s not just the EP that Fazerdaze had to make to move on as a musician, but to find herself again as a human too; as soon as she found the strength to switch up her personal circumstances, the music, she explains, came flooding back out. “New Zealand had a three-month lockdown just after I’d moved in by myself and everyone was so worried about me living alone, but it was the happiest I’ve been in years,” Amelia grins. “I spent all this time finishing music, writing the most I have in years, getting into my zone.”
Embracing the cathartic power of plugging in her guitar (“A guitar is so visceral and physical and that’s what I needed to do with the energy that had been pent up and repressed for so long”) and harking back to her love of bands like Blur and Nirvana, ‘Break!’ is an air-punch purge in musical form. The title track pulses along with a lo-fi, unpolished sense of freedom; ‘Overthink It’ is a grunge-inflected mantra for those prone to a bout of the brain worms, while ‘Thick of the Honey’ traverses Sunflower Bean-esque psych territory.
Then you get the gentler, fluttering ‘Winter’ - perhaps the biggest curveball in the context of the EP, but a sign of what’s to come. “The EP got rid of all the anxiety and frustration that I wasn’t allowing myself to feel. Now I feel more open to the beauty and glittery-ness and prettiness of the future,” she says, “But I needed to go through an evolution to get there, and it feels like I’m coming through that."
“Now in some weird way I feel invincible, things don’t seep into me the way they used to” she nods, confidently. “I feel strong, and I feel like it’s my job now to put it into the music and the way that I carry myself as Fazerdaze. It’s been a tough journey into adulthood, so if I can make that journey a tiny bit easier for the next person then maybe I have done my bit on earth.”