TUNS The Three Tenors

TUNS The Three Tenors
Photo: Vanessa Heins
"Oh, to be back among friends. Even when the harmony ends." It's the first line on the self-titled debut album from TUNS, a pop-rock group uniting '90s Canrock stalwarts Chris Murphy (Sloan), Matt Murphy (Super Friendz) and Mike O'Neill (Inbreds). While bittersweet, the lyric is a red herring of sorts. Matt Murphy cops to the song taking root in a bit of temporary band drama that transpired during the making of the album, but it's ultimately about the sticktoitiveness of, well, a group of super good friends.
"I was tired, or irritable," Matt Murphy says. "I remember thinking about that and consciously deciding that I wasn't going to narrate this experience in that way. I was going to try and see the positive. That's me trying to dig back into the things that hold us together, that mean something to us in a universal way. I'm touching on experiences in Nova Scotia, and the kinds of music we played when we were younger. It's me being a tour guide to our past."
For the Murphys — unrelated, for the record — their history goes back to the 1980s, when they met while working at Halifax's Victoria General Hospital. They bonded over music, and both were active in the local scene. Following the rise of Sloan, Matt's Super Friendz were signed to Murderecords; Chris would also drum in the band for a time. Over the years, they'd also play together, along with Jale's Jennifer Pierce, in the Certain Someones, and for Matt's country-minded Little Orton Hoggett. TUNS is just the latest adventure to bring the two old pals together.
"He's always been a strong motivator," Matt Murphy says of Chris. "He taught me how to play a proper drum beat. He would encourage me to write songs. He had that belief in himself, and was able to pass it on to others."
TUNS unofficially got together in 2013 when the Murphys opted to act as Mike O'Neill's backup band at a Murderecords anniversary party in Toronto. While Matt Murphy had side-stepped a full-time music career to work as a news producer, Chris felt it was time to get his buddy back in the game.
"Matt is one of the heaviest players and singers that I know," Chris Murphy explains. "He doesn't do that professionally anymore. Part of me thinks that's a drag, but maybe that's just the other side of me thinking he's more talented than I am, and I get to make a living at this. It's sort of an injustice."
O'Neill, who has been friends with the guys for decades as well, signed on for the project, and the threesome set to work. Their nine-song self-titled debut is marked by elements of the members' collective pasts, as well as the best bits of '70s power-pop, the Beatles, R.E.M., and more. Through it all, they intertwine their voices into a fantastic, familial blend.
"We all have the same register," Matt Murphy explains of their unified harmonies. "There's no baritone in the group, or a soprano. We are all tenors, the three tenors — a joke name we had for ourselves."
While it took a couple of years to bring to the public, the trio's first album is out now. Additionally, a clutch of song ideas are ready for round two, and they plan to tour in the near future. It's looking like TUNS' fun is for everyone now.