A blooming purple flower. A smashed TV. A burning car. All these are visuals found on the Instagram page of Murray, a rising R&B duo from Portland and New York. You’d be hard pressed to find much more information on the pair, but this is exactly what their aim is. With a mysterious presence and trippy visual teasers, Murray are working to generate buzz for their debut project, Polar (out December 4), in a time when traditional marketing is a challenge. The effect seems to be positive. And it certainly helps that the clips of the songs themselves sound as good as they do.
Made up of Portland natives Kyle dePinna—the producer—and Jack Graham—the singer—the duo are used to distance. When Graham relocated to New York a couple years ago, the two quickly adapted to a bicoastal workflow, trading beats and voice memos via Dropbox folders and settling into a remote collaboration. This has been their primary workflow since the project’s inception. Then, of course, Covid-19 happened.
“Obviously it came out of left field. I don’t think anyone was expecting that,” says dePinna, who himself has his own career as a DJ and lost most of his regular work as a result of the shutdowns. For Murray though, their already remote collaboration was able to trek on. But down the line, the pandemic brought a new challenge: how to market a new band and grow a following without being able to do shows.
Being on opposite sides of the country, the opportunities to get together for video or photo shoots were rare. But luckily, with both filmmaking and art direction experience under their belts, Murray were prepared to adapt and set out to create some visual content that not only worked with the distance and limits, but embodied the project in style.
“There is no blueprint for how to deal with this. So rather than trying to sit back and see what happens, we’re trying to step forward and pioneer some stuff,” Graham says. “One of the things we realized was that a single these days doesn’t have to be a song that’s on all streaming platforms and has a video with it. That single could be a 30-second clip on Instagram. That actually kind of opens up a visual world too.”
So that’s exactly what Murray did. Their very first post on Instagram is a glitchy, close-up shot with a retro VHS look; the intro to the duo’s track, “Comeback,” loops over the top. It’s a mysterious clip, but with the quality of the vocals and production as well as further proof in consecutive posts of visual and audio teasers, the effect is just what the two were hoping to achieve.
“I think we definitely want to call attention to our roots and kind of give people a little bit of a world to experience,” dePinna says. “I think, for us, it’s really about the music and the content lyrically, and just allowing people to experience that without us invading the territory.”
With their visual tactics building momentum, the duo dropped the first two singles from Polar on November 4: “Comeback”—a smooth, moody R&B track about starting fresh—and “Vacant”—with a harder hip-hop beat perfect for an introspective late-night drive. But as for the rest of the eight-track album, Murray are hoping the mystery of it all will allow for the experience they’re aiming for.
“We really want people to experience Polar as its own full narrative,” dePinna says. “We wanted to show people the full breadth of what we’re gonna do eventually.”