Music, Print, Reviews April 8, 2021

DEBR4H – “The Court Of Richard II”

by Kevin Johnston

“This isn’t the normal, like, girl-joins-the-band story,” DEBR4H’s Jed Murphy tells BandWagon. “I was really kinda hitting the end.”

Murphy’s dead-end feelings were palpable to his audience and especially to his romantic partner. “Kayna literally got tired of going to shows and just sitting there,” Murphy laughs, “so she joined the band.” 

“I thought, well I know how to play music and how to sing,” Kayna Hobbs says, “I’m gonna do that too!” 

This pragmatism drives the music of DEBR4H and the relationship between Murphy and Hobbs, who recently married, but it’s not that simple. Kayna is currently pursuing a PhD, with time for only tracking harmonies and an occasional show. Bassist Zach Visconti moved to California to allow his wife (who is immunocompromised) better pandemic isolation, and with the music industry crisis, getting married and oh yeah getting vaccinated against covid and then both getting covid one day before reaching full immunity, it’s anything but that girl-joins-band story.

Kayna Hobbs and Jed Murphy of DEBR4H play FoCoMX: Public Trust on April 23. All photos by Ben Ward.

“It’s less about having a band and more about having a team,” Murphy says, citing DEBR4H’s newest single “The Court Of Richard II” as a turning point.

“I’m kind of a history nerd,” he says. “I was writing this song about … kinda coasting. I equated it with Richard the 2nd, who was a boy king. He did whatever he wanted. Then he’s overthrown and they starve him to death. He gets everything he wants his entire life and then dies starving. I really liked that idea: have whatever you want, but it can turn bad.”

Indeed, the DEBR4H team is being put to the test these days (so to speak) pulling together for their health, music, and finding ways to make it work. The single feels like that collective, “court” effort.

Jed Murphy applies analog system textures to Prophet synths for the manual, electronic pop vibes of DEBR4H. All photos by Ben Ward.

Narrating change with synth modulations atop an ever-steady beat, stabs of disoriented Kraftwerk-keyboard undercut Murphy’s Morrisey-like monotone. Hobbs’ harmony evokes Metric’s Emily Haines on “Hey satellite – take me too – I need a ride somewhere new,” where the vibe accelerates into a satisfying, Gorillaz-groove via producer Oliver Mueller.

“I’m making something new now; I’m learning something old now,” they sing, speaking to DEBR4H’s musical reality and that of their founder and muse.

Catch DEBR4H live via FoCoMX: Public Trust at focoma.org/publictrust, premiering Friday, April 23rd at 7 PM. “The Court Of Richard II” is due out later this month. Find more at debr4h.com