The times they are a-changing, sang the Duluth bard, more than half a century ago. But even that visionary would have struggled to foresee a rock’n’roll world being turned upside down by passionate young men, singing about male vulnerability with a seething intensity that can be both exciting and unsettling to watch and hear. The Murder Capital are one such bunch, the band visually coming across like nattily dressed gangsters whilst they theatrically weave around each other, singing about suicide, romance, fear, impotence, mental health, and weakness, but set against a sometimes violent musical maelstrom. As singer James McGovern says about the brooding and propulsive ‘Feeling Fades’, the first song they released as a fully formed studio recording, “I like brutalism because it’s not trying to be beautiful.” Indeed, their beautifully brutal music brilliantly encapsulates their pent-up emotions, before being released in a torrent of controlled chaos and turmoil, with McGovern repeating the refrain “the now elapsed ‘round you and me, and it kept us all together.” Joy Division, The Pixies, The Birthday Party, The Sound, Savages, Idles, and Shame all come to mind, post-punk old and new, adding new and interesting layers and angles to this most dexterous of genres. A certain genre has proven itself to be a saviour of music, one that allows the political, to mingle with notions of art and the avante garde. The profound social changes we are currently going through are being encapsulated by this Dublin five-piece’s heart-on-sleeve music, along with fellow Dubliners Fontaines D.C., with whom they shared a practice space, and Girl Band.
Via a controlled campaign that has only allowed a small amount of material to seep out on the web, The Murder Capital are about to release their eagerly awaited debut album, When I Have Fears, produced by Flood, and which includes the track that brought them to a wider world, beyond the environs of Dublin, where they had been working out exactly what they wanted to do. It had taken a bit of time, but ‘More Is Less’ became a statement of intent, captured by a session video they made at the time. “We played at The Prince Albert – in Brighton – October of last year, just a few months after we recruited the new bassist and drummer. By that time we had written maybe 20 songs together, all of different qualities, and broad in terms of sound, and genre. ‘More Is Less’ felt like an arrival moment – ‘this is the first actual decent song we have written’,” says guitarist Damien Tuit.
Forged at Dublin’s BIMM, The Murder Capital took some time to find their feet, and to forge a sound they felt right, and true to their selves. Being a democratic unit, where all five members have an equal say, has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day it often allows for the cream to really rise up to the top, the band becoming more than the sum of its parts, as they dispense with material that may only be ‘OK’ or ‘not quite good enough’.
Songs come about in different ways,” says Damien. “It might be your average rhythm; ‘let’s all play this one rhythm and see how it feels’, and then someone may play something slightly against it, and that will be enough to get the ball rolling. Other times, it will be just jamming and pulling ideas out of that. It’s different every time. Keeps it kind of fresh, I think.
In the beginning we were fumbling around, trying to figure out what it was we wanted to do. It wasn’t until we wrote ‘More Is Less’ that we thought we had come across something that had lasting power, and it became an opening statement for us. We thought we had arrived at some original sound. Before it was all derivative, I think. We were tough on ourselves. It’s all instinct, and we have a five way system where all of us have to be happy. If one person isn’t feeling the same, then it’s a flag that something isn’t quite right.
Sonically everything is trial and error. Creating music is like a time thing, putting in the hours. And then you pass the plateau to the point where the song happens. Most of the songs happen like that; a period of drought, and then just boom. I think we are very lucky to have met each other. Good chemistry.
“’More Is Less’ is actually a capitalist anthem,” says singer and lyricist James McGovern. “A good musician knows when not to play. We’re always aware of the economy,” says James. ”And the Dow Jones!” adds Damien.
It’s a universal emotion, loneliness and isolation,” says James. “I imagine it is something everyone has felt in their lives. For me it was something I felt in the lead up to writing it. It was personal. If you become unsure of who you are, and maybe you struggle to understand your past as it was, then things can become skewed. If something bad happens in your life, and you start looking the wrong way, the world can start looking like a dark place.”
It’s funny, but when people talk about the song they talk about it as being “more or less” says Damien!
Following the release of ‘More Is Less’, they finally released their first proper studio track in the form of ‘Feeling Fades’, McGovern’s razor-sharp voice coming to the fore, while follow-up track ‘Green and Blue’ is held together by a rumbling bass line and drum beat, before the bands urgent twin guitars underlie McGovern’s freewheeling voice and lyrics about mental isolation, promising someone “I’ll correlate the blue, the green and blue, the green for you.”
The album and album title When I Have Fears is an extension of their overarching concerns. “It’s taken from a John Keats poem,” says Damien about the album title. “We found it early on and it was inspiring in a lot of ways. It became the structural pillar for the album. When we were writing a song we would ask, ‘does this fit the world of the album?’ Obviously, it’s a lot easier to write two or three songs that fit together, than 10.
It’s a poem that is important to all of us. It encapsulates all joy and fear in any existential thought. It brings forth all happiness of life, but also it’s that fear of dying before you’ve communicated and created everything before you possibly can. The joke is you will die, because you’ll never be done.
There are overarching themes of grief, mortality and fear, all that fun stuff,” continues Damien. “We wanted to explore lots of different sides of one thing, we didn’t want it to be just fast-paced, like with ‘More Is Less’; we wanted it to be more three-dimensional. You can listen to it from start to finish and it brings you into different worlds.”
“The homelessness, the suicide, the mental health issues,” says James, about some of the issues that permeate When I have Fears. “ The lack of services available to people who aren’t from even middle class backgrounds. We just want to talk about it as much as possible, and make sure that the government knows that we’re not happy with the standard of where it’s at. People have real issues in their lives, and they need somewhere to go and talk about these things beyond their friends and families. I know bad things that have happened to people that were avoidable.”
As for the band name itself, Damien says, “It’s a commentary on the lack of mental health services around, and suicide is a result of that, a lot of people dying. It’s becoming a big issue, especially among young males. You see it everywhere.”
“You can think, ‘What am I contributing to society by doing this, in relation to, like, a nurse?’” James has said. “But I think we all think we’re contributing at least something to someone. We’ve all had those moments with albums where they’ve changed our lives, or helped us see a completely different perspective on things. It’s all a process of communication and understanding.”
“It’s trying to reach that fucked-up 15 year-old kid at home, alone, and change their perspective on something,” Damien sums up.
Romance is also inherently integral in how The Murder Capital view the world, even with such utterly devastating events such as suicide. It’s something they explore with immense passion and vulnerability on ‘On Twisted Ground’, as they showed when putting in a truly spellbinding performance, again at The Prince Albert, at this year’s The Great Escape, McGovern visibly overcome by the gut-wrenching emotion towards the end, re-living through the song and performance, the tragic passing of a friend. “You can find the romance in any situation depending on how you look at it,” says James. “There are many romantic ideas in life, but also tied in with death as well. You try and go through your life, looking at things romantically, and ease the pain in some situations. Without that romance, life would be unbearable. You can see the romance in things, takes away the sting a little bit.”
With the album about to be heard beyond a small coterie of friends and family, is Damien experiencing nervous anticipation?
No, I don’t think so,” he says without missing a beat. “We made the album we wanted to make, and whatever happens, will happen. I don’t have any goals in mind for how it will be perceived. The record is as it should be. Because we’re such a young band, it was great to be able to draw on that pillar, that poem, deciding on the title early on.”
There wasn’t any big plan hatched to crack the industry or some shit,“ says James. “We knew ‘More Is Less’ was our opening statement, so we did think about what we wanted to say first. But if you’re doing it for any other reason than because you love it, you’ll only get so far.”
“We just got a feeling of authenticity from ourselves,” says Damien. “It feels like we are true to what we wanted to say.”