Punknews.org
Murder By Death photographed by Greg Whitaker

Murder By Death



Average Rating:

Music

 



Hometown: Bloomington, IN (USA)

About:

They may call Bloomington, Indiana, home, but since their 2000 formation, Murder by Death have been a band without musical borders. Theirs is a world where Old West murder ballads mingle with rock-injected Western classicism; where an album's sequencing can take listeners from a haunted back alley in rural Mexico to a raucous Irish pub. All of which is to say, Murder by Death albums don't just string together songs; they create experiences. With their fifth album (and second for Vagrant), Good Morning, Magpie (04/06/10), Murder by Death continue the tradition of border expansion that drove career standouts like 2006's In Bocca al Lupo and 2008's Red of Tooth and Claw. The difference, however, is that this time, the band literally went off the map to get there.

"Going into the woods helped me write in a way I never would've been able to otherwise," says singer/guitarist Adam Turla, recalling the 2009 retreat into the Tennessee mountains during which, armed with little more than a tent, a fishing pole and a notebook, he wrote the 11 songs that would become Good Morning, Magpie. "There were days where I'd sit down and write for seven hours, make dinner, and then sit down and write late into the night with my little camp light going: just intense, nonstop sessions of pure writing. I've never worked that way, ever, because with all the business of being a band, I've never had so little to do! Every day I was either cooking, hiking while writing, or writing. I didn't speak to a single person the whole time."

Be that as it may, Good Morning, Magpie still speaks volumes. Recorded at Bloomington's Farm Fresh Studios with Jake Belser (who most recently worked with MBD on their all-instrumental soundtrack to Jeff Vandermeer's 2009 book Finch), and mixed by Grammy-winning Red of Tooth and Claw producer Trina Shoemaker, the album weaves 11 disparate stories into a whole that's unlike anything else in the band's catalog. "These songs definitely come together as an album; we just aren't relying on a concept this time," says Turla, referencing the conceptual storylines that drove Murder by Death's last two albums as well as 2002's Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them? "Being out in the woods with no pressure freed me up to explore different moods and different stories, all of which became linked through the experience I had writing them: just that sheer sprint of working in isolation."

With its junk-pile percussion and ramshackle Vaudevillian flow, "You Don't Miss Twice" is the only song on Good Morning, Magpie that directly references Turla's time in the woods-but the song's spirit informs much of what surrounds it. "I was telling a friend how I thought this was our most upbeat record, and his reply was, 'Seriously?'" Turla recalls, laughing. "But 'upbeat' doesn't necessarily mean 'happy.' Take a song like 'Yes'-it's got this fun, shuffling beat and this amazingly catchy melody from Sarah [Balliet, cello], but the lyrics are all about accepting death. Or 'Whiskey in the World,' which is basically a sad bastard's lament about how the whiskey that makes this character enjoy life is also what condemns him. That duality between the music and the lyrics is something we haven't done much until now."

Even though it was written in isolation, Good Morning, Magpie came together over six weeks of rehearsals back in Bloomington-ultimately marking the first time the band recorded a full-length at home. "We ultimately just decided to record in Bloomington because we had a friend here [Belser] with his own studio, and he'd already done a great job with the Finch soundtrack and our B-sides and 7-inches; and we also lucked out and had Trina [Shoemaker] basically making herself available to help us mix whenever we were finished. So then we started thinking, "Man, we have all this time to ourselves; we should just bring in our friends-musicians from Bloomington and Louisville, Kentucky, which is about 75 miles away-and just play parts here and there. It was great-the album ended up with a lot of different instrumentation, and we paid everyone in whiskey."

In keeping with Murder by Death tradition, whiskey also plays muse to a handful of Good Morning, Magpie's songs-including the Balliet-penned opener, "Kentucky Bourbon," which sounds like a Bulleit jingle spun through an old Victrola. But as the album progresses, the songs wind through other locales and moods: from eerie Southern-gothic territory (the creeping, uneasy "White Noise") to an old Spanish cabaret ("On the Dark Streets Below") to the high-noon drama of the title track-itself inspired equally by Welsh legend (the title references a tale of the magpie as Satan's messenger) and the American West. No mere genre exercise, Good Morning, Magpie feels like a travelogue from a band that's logged the miles to write from experience.

"Travel is a big part of this band's reason for being," says Turla, noting that the past few years have seen Murder by Death's passports stamped in Alaska, Greece, Norway and the Italian island of Sardinia, among other far-flung locales. They have challenged their fans to book them all over the world - in as many unique places as possible. "I personally love the sense of variety you get from traveling, and I'm sure that idea influenced the way I approached a lot of these songs. Trying to use different styles and throw in different influences-whether it's the way you turn a phrase or play a certain note-you can suggest different places," he concludes. "That's the fun of fiction; that's the fun of movies, and music can have that effect, too. It's all about being able to transport people to another place."


Reviews

Murder By Death Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Murder By Death

Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon (2012)

Bloodshot Records

Murder by Death live in Boston

Murder by Death

live in Boston (2012)

live show

Murder by Death / Fake Problems live in Charleston

Murder by Death / Fake Problems

live in Charleston (2011)

live show

Murder by Death Good Morning, Magpie

Murder by Death

Good Morning, Magpie (2010)

Vagrant

mewithoutYou / Murder by Death live in New York

mewithoutYou / Murder by Death

live in New York (2010)

live show

Gaslight Anthem / Murder by Death live in Brooklyn

Gaslight Anthem / Murder by Death

live in Brooklyn (2009)

live show

Gaslight Anthem / Murder by Death live In Denver

Gaslight Anthem / Murder by Death

live In Denver (2009)

live show

Murder by Death live in Chicago

Murder by Death

live in Chicago (2009)

live show

Murder by Death live in Chicago

Murder by Death

live in Chicago (2008)

live show

Murder by Death Red of Tooth and Claw

Murder by Death

Red of Tooth and Claw (2008)

Vagrant

Thursday / Murder by Death live in Farmingdale

Thursday / Murder by Death

live in Farmingdale (2007)

live show

Murder by Death In Bocca al Lupo

Murder by Death

In Bocca al Lupo (2006)

EastWest / Tent Show

Murder by Death / This Providence live in Levittown

Murder by Death / This Providence

live in Levittown (2006)

live show

Poison The Well/The Bled/Murder By Death live in Detroit

Poison The Well/The Bled/Murder By Death

live in Detroit (2004)

live show

The Weakerthans / Lucero / Murder By Death Live in Providence

The Weakerthans / Lucero / Murder By Death

Live in Providence (2004)

live show

Braid / Murder By Death / The Response live in Milwaukee

Braid / Murder By Death / The Response

live in Milwaukee (2004)

live show

Thursday/This Day Forward/Murder By Death live in Columbia, SC

Thursday/This Day Forward/Murder By Death

live in Columbia, SC (2003)

live show

Murder By Death Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them?

Murder By Death

Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them? (2003)

Eyeball

Murder By Death Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing

Murder By Death

Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing (2002)

Eyeball

show more

Interviews

Picture of Murder By Death

Adam Turla (Murder By Death)

Monday, April 19, 2010 at 8:00 PM (EDT)

Franz Nicolay announces 'To Us, The Beautiful!'
Franz Nicolay will be releasing a new album entitled To Us, The Beautiful! with producer J. Robbins, who has worked with acts such as Against Me! and Murder By Death.…
December 30, 2013
Interviews: Jamin Marshall (Larry and His Flask)
Larry and His Flask have been rocking the world for over 10 years with their eclectic take on folk music. The band has adding punk rock energy to the genre-inspired beats to craft a sound all their own. In a few short…
August 27, 2013
Media: Murder By Death: "Lost River"
Murder By Death has released the music video for their song "Lost River" off 2012's Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon. You can click Read More for…
May 22, 2013
Media: Murder By Death: 'As You Wish'
Murder By Death have posted an album of covers, titled As You Wish, to their Bandcamp page. The album resulted from the band's Kickstarter…
April 03, 2013
Tours: Murder By Death / Man Man (US)
Murder By Death and Man Man have announced a co-headlining tour for the late winter/early spring. Each band will be performing full-length sets at the shows. Prior to that tour, Murder By Death will be…
December 11, 2012
Tours: Your Favorite Records from September
The results for your votes for the best albums of September are in. It was a tight race, but Winnipeg's Propagandhi narrowly beat out NOFX to take the top spot. Strong…
October 04, 2012
Media: Murder By Death: 'Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon'
MTV has posted a stream of the latest full-length from Bloomington, IN's Murder By Death, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, as well as an interview with frontman Adam Turla, where he discusses the band's name, the new record, and…
September 18, 2012
Punknews Podcast: Two Gregs interview Murder By Death's Adam Turla
Punknews.org is happy to continue our exploration of the regional scenes with a new episode of Two Gregs One Podcast, our spotlight of the U.S. Midwest from Org staff reviewer Greg Simpson and pal Greg Moore. On this episode: ...we abandon our normal…
September 18, 2012
Media: Murder by Death: "Lost River"
Rolling Stone is offering a free download of "Lost River," a new song from Murder By Death. The song appears on their latest album, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, due out…
September 12, 2012
Media: Murder By Death raises $187,048 via Kickstarter
Murder By Death is now officially the third biggest musical project to fundraise through Kickstarter. The Indiana band raised $187,048 through the service when they used it to fund the deluxe vinyl edition production of upcoming album, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon which is due out…
August 14, 2012

Exclusive Streams

Newest Reviews

Punknews.org Team

Other Places to Go