"We talk in black and white, / ones and zeros and satellites, / and one day we just might, / replace our very souls," is the poignant opening to John Murry's latest single "Ones + Zeros" that will feature on the artist's third studio album. These words can be interpreted in so many ways; speaking in black and white without any grey areas suggests a lack of understanding and flexibility, whilst there's also the digital aspect, denoting our constant communication over text chats and emails. Maybe you're reading these cryptic words in an entirely different way. The same goes for "Ones + Zeros" prayer-like chorus, "I'll darken the pale, / I'll fight the crown, / They'll string me up, / They'll hunt me down, / Our day has come, / Don't make a sound." There's a Les Misérables (Victor Hugo) tone to this series of statements in which Murry's ever-rebellious core peaks out through the admission that he's at the mercy of whatever may come as a result of it.
These shifting lyrics and the song's lilting melody were sketched out bit by bit. First during a couple of songwriting sessions with Tim Mooney (who passed away shortly afterwards) and later through times of grief and healing as Murry came to terms with the sudden loss of his dear friend and colleague.
“Sometimes songs almost write themselves; Ones + Zeros being one of those that did just that, albeit in fits and false starts, and over two recording sessions,” comments Murry of the new single. “It was something I wrote very quickly one afternoon many moons ago and recorded the following day as a sketch, or demo, with Tim Mooney of American Music Club. It would prove to be the last thing we recorded together. Tim passed away suddenly only a few days after, and The Graceless Age was released a couple of weeks later. I ended the sketch I’d ‘drawn’ before we recorded it at the studio the next day with the line, ‘I stare at the ceiling while they fall asleep, I wish I was dead, you wish it weren’t me... lying still: learn to love or don’t.’
I didn’t know where to leave it as a song after Tim died, so I tried to shelve the thing permanently. One day, while filming our upcoming documentary film, director and friend Sarah Share filmed me at The Watergate Theatre in my then adopted hometown of Kilkenny, Ireland. She asked me to play a melody on the Steinway grand piano there, and for whatever reason, this song was the first thing to come to mind, and - without singing any of the lyrics - I played it while they filmed and recorded... maybe because it is simple, and intentionally so, even necessarily so. Immediately after filming it, Sarah asked me what that melody was. I told her, and she brought it up and couple more times in the following days while filming at other locations. That was the permission I needed to take it seriously, as a melodic and lyrical impulse.
I took it to the sessions at Rockfield with John Parish as it was. We began recording it and, because I wanted to see what would happen if I chose to write in this way. Sometimes ya just get lucky, gotta trust the creating and not the thing you think you intend to create, because that’s often when magic happens. This felt like that. I could tell immediately that Sarah Share and John Parish and Rick Vargas and Joe Jones dug it, too.... the song and I felt incredibly alive, meeting one another again there, seeing how things had changed over the years, and how things hadn't; realising nothing is within our control, that we are just kinda dancing with time itself, hoping to find the same groove but different needles.”
The video for "Ones + Zeros" was directed by Sarah Share (known for her documentary about the Pogues' frontman Shane McGowan).