The 4 of Us: We chat to musical brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy
Newry-born brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy are the founders of The 4 of Us, whose hits since the late Eighties include the singles Mary and She Hits Me. They’re on tour next month to celebrate 25 years since the release of their first album, Songs for the Tempted.
Name: Brendan Murphy
Relationship to Declan: Brother
Declan was a cute baby. Everyone loved him because he was always in great form. He was the youngest of three brothers and there was a five-year gap between us, so I used to offer him sweets in return for doing household chores.
Like all younger brothers in his early years, he looked up to myself and our other brother Paul.
I loved music and started a record collection in my teens. Declan was just like me in that regard and was always trying to sneak a listen to my latest single or album.
When punk hit Newry, I was doing my A-Levels and desperately wanted to form a band. I wanted to sing but figured that buying a drum kit would get me a foot in the door as all the local musicians would know I was serious.
When Declan started taking guitar lessons, I could tell he was a natural.
We both hatched a plan to form a band and persuaded our other brother Paul to join with us. That's how The 4 Of Us started.
Declan is the Keith Richards of the band. Anyone who knows him can't understand how he's managed to remain so youthful-looking.
If there is an after-show party, he is invariably the last one standing. I feel sorry for anyone who tries to keep up with him.
He's a night owl while I'm an early bird and weirdly enough that works really well for us. In the studio he frequently works late into the night. He's also a great technician.
My eyes glaze over the second someone starts talking about types of guitars and amps or whatever.
I think we complement each other perfectly and that is the reason we still enjoy working together.
There's no-one I'd rather share a stage with and we're really looking forward to playing some shows here over the next few months.
Name: Declan Murphy
Relationship to Brendan: Brother
Brendan is five years older than me, so growing up he was closer to our brother Paul, who he shared a room with. I was the typical annoying little brother, wanting to join in everything. They used to go out to the youth club on a Friday night and I'd be stuck at home eating sweets and watching Starsky and Hutch, willing myself to get older so I could go with them.
We all had to do party pieces for guests at home. At six, mine were Gary Glitter's I'm The Leader Of The Gang, and Remember You're A Womble; Brendan's was Fever, the Elvis version. Our music tastes began to merge as I got older – I used to listen to his Beat and Police LPs when he was away at Queen's University. He'd have his record collection locked up in a flimsy box but I found the key. I was always very careful not to let him know I'd been snooping but one day he came home early and in the scramble to put away the LPs, I busted the hinge on the box and there was a whole family investigation. I denied all knowledge – and he'd no proof it was me.
At that stage he was the drummer in a local band and I'd sit in at their rehearsals in the garage and pester them to let me have a go on the guitar. I'd been playing since I was nine, then when Brendan started to write his own songs when he took up the guitar at 18, we began to play together and decided to form our own band with Paul. We got a record deal when I was at the Art College in Belfast and after we recorded our first album, Songs For The Tempted, we started touring immediately.
I'd travel and party with the crew on the sleeper coach, whereas Brendan preferred the hotel rooms. We were in our 20s and being on tour was like being on holiday with your best friends, laughing all the time.
Back in Belfast, we shared a house with Paul and our tour manager, and wrote songs together most days. We'd rarely disagree over the music but we'd argue over other things like who would answer the door.
Seven albums later, we're living virtually next door to each other in Carlingford. Most of the gigs we do now are as a two-piece so we've got closer, musically and as brothers. We only socialise together after gigs – Brendan's a very funny storyteller. He's a logical thinker and gives good advice but he's a bit of a dreamer and useless at practical things like tuning his guitar. After 25 years together, we're still developing musically and both feel our new songs are our best yet.
Band of brothers still going strong
- Some 25 years since their debut album Songs for the Tempted came in at No. 1 in the Irish charts, The 4 of Us's first hit single, Mary, is still one of the most played tracks on local and Irish radio
- Each of the band's seven albums has earned major critical plaudits; the track Sunlight from Heaven & Earth was voted among the top five Irish Singles Ever by Today FM and has featured – along with many other songs from their back catalogue – on British , Irish and US TV shows.
- The 4 of Us will be playing the Ards International Guitar Festival in Newtownards on Sunday, October 5, at 3pm (visit www.ardsguitarfestival.co.uk), and Lisburn's Island Arts Centre on Friday, October 17, at 8pm (visit www.islandartscentre.com).
- For further Northern Ireland tour dates, visit www.the4ofus.com and the band's Facebook site.