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interview: murder by death

Don’t be put off by the name that doesn’t really make sense and sounds pretty hardcore-tastic – it’s a movie reference…Murder by Death have been around  for over a decade now and have released five albums, the most recent Good Morning, Magpie, released in 2010. After finally making it to Australia for their February tour, lip asked vocalist and guitarist, Adam Turia, a few questions about their music style, pop culture influences and what they think of being likened to a blend of Johnny Cash and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds…

For those not familiar with Murder By Death, how would you describe your style of music?
It’s tough. We always say we are a dark (but not heavy) rock ‘n’ roll band with a cello. And a touch of Americana. But that doesn’t really do it.

The name Murder By Death is a reference to the 1976 film of the same name. Why that particular film?
It’s a silly movie. We make dark music and wanted a dark name that didn’t make sense and was kinda funny. I loved the movie as a kid, (its a murder mystery spoof) and I thought it worked. At the time, I didn’t really know about the existence of hardcore music and it never occurred to me that people would assume that our band was a metal band or hardcore or something without hearing us first. That being said, every year, less people seem to worry about that band name.

You have other references to popular culture and folklore in your work, how does this enrich your music?
I like using occasional references to things I’ve learned from books, strange rites and what-not. There’s an old song of ours where I reference this poison that fascinated me. A new song we have touches on some symbolism of a female river diety I thought was interesting. I guess when you are writing lyrics, you should try to write about things that interest you- and hope that other people feel the same way. I’ve never really been interested by pop love songs, so I do this.

You’re now enshrined in popular culture with ‘Comin’ Home’ featured on the trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Was this a proud moment?
Very much so. We were already excited about the movie when I got the email from Harvey Weinstein (the producer) asking if they could use that song. I almost crashed my car when Sarah told me what it said.

What about collaborations with other bands/band members, such as My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way?
I wouldn’t really call it a collaboration- they were on the same label that put out our first album, and we hung out back then. Nice guys. They were fans and Gerard said he wanted to sing on a song so thought, “sure why not!” We had no idea they would become so successful. The idea of fame on their level had never ever entered our minds as a possibility. Our new album we are recording now has a couple guests of whom we are fans, Samantha Crain sings (beautifully) on two songs and Thor from the band Swans has added some very strange sounds to three or four songs to help “spooky-up” the recording. It sounds awesome.

Your bio describes you as the result of a hypothetical collaboration between Johnny Cash and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (which would be awesome). As an Australian musician, were you aware of Nick Cave’s work before coming to Australia?
We often get those comparisons, and don’t complain when someone writes our bio and uses those as a reference. Yes, we are definitely aware of Nick Cave. He’s excellent, and really prolific. Our bass player is a huge fan, and he is one of the few musicians that we would really love to play a show with.

Is your music style still evolving?
I sure as hell hope so. That’s the idea with our band, to continue to try and do something interesting (to us, and hopefully to our fans!) for as long as possible. We always say that we will quit when it stops being fun.

What brings you to Australia?
A 30 hour flight. And the fact that we have wanted to play Australia for many years. We are absolutely thrilled to be finally coming to visit, and are even spending a week off to enjoy the country. I plan to go rock climbing and also snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. Can’t wait.

What’s next for Murder By Death?
We finish mixing our new album tomorrow, and then will head out on the road forever after it comes out in the late spring/summer. We’re really proud of this one and can’t wait to share it.

Murder by Death will be playing a string of dates on the East Coast later this month. Check their website for tour information and tickets!

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