The Murder Capital: ‘We’ve had people tell us watching us felt like a light switch turning back on’
Their debut album, When I Have Fears, is easily one of the most anticipated releases in a fascinating year for Irish music.
The Murder Capital: “We’ve had people tell us they used to go to shows in the Hacienda and had seen bands like Joy Division, who say watching us felt like a light switch turning back on.”
Last August, The Murder Capital played three rapturously received shows, upstairs in Whelan’s, Knockanstockan and Electric Picnic, which made the fledgling band feel like they were really on to something. Exactly one year later, the quintet are poised to release their debut album, When I Have Fears, which is easily one of the most anticipated releases in a fascinating year for Irish music.
Also, a certain producer by the name of Mark Ellis, better known to the music world at large as Flood, has produced their first album. Other debuts Flood has worked on in some capacity include Movement by New Order, Wonderland by Erasure, and From Her to Eternity by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Even U2 didn’t get around to working with him until well into their career with The Joshua Tree.
“Our manager [Tara Richardson] suggested Flood after hearing the songs,” reveals guitarist Damien Tuit. “Flood heard some demos and was really into it, so he decided to do our first single, Feeling Fades, to test the waters. Instantly, the chemistry was off the charts. It was so cool to have him on our team. It is clear why he is who he is. He has this incredible ability to manoeuvre and take in everybody’s needs in terms of how to speak to them, and encourage them.”
Tuit and vocalist James McGovern are sitting on a battered couch upstairs in the Workman’s Club, the official bar and HQ for so many Dublin-based musicians of recent times. The singer and guitarist are sandwiching in this interview between lunch in Wow Burger and a live radio session, a busy schedule also signifying the difference a year makes. When I Have Fears has been in the can for months. McGovern, Tuit, and their band mates Cathal Roper, Gabriel Blake and Diarmuid Brennan, can’t wait for people to hear it.
The reaction to The Murder Capital to date has been overwhelmingly positive. “We’ve had people tell us that they used to go to shows in the Hacienda and had seen bands like Joy Division, who say watching us felt like a light switch turning back on,” McGovern says. “Something like that is unbelievable to hear. We’d love to bring joy back into people’s lives.”
On a wave of word-of-mouth momentum, they quickly progressed from playing upstairs in Whelan’s to selling out its main room. Last weekend, The Murder Capital were the standout act of the closing night of Altogether Now, packing out a tent with punters eager to witness their feral post-punk in the flesh before they potentially go supernova. “Seeing 15- or 16-year-old kids sing along to every word is an unreal experience,” Tuit says. “We were that age and then music feels like everything, then we get old and jaded and you can see through the smoke and mirrors a bit more.”
As its title suggests, When I Have Fears goes right into the heart of darkness. “There are certain feelings that are certainly at the forefront of the record lyrically,” says McGovern. “It all comes down to trying to understand myself, explore grief, and find the light, although I never thought of this album as having a theme as such, but it is written from personal experience.”
Their debut also reeks of a palpable sense of unease with the modern world. ”Your environment should naturally affect you as an artist,” McGovern adds. “I wouldn’t say we are a political band as such, but if you are not effected by your surroundings, then are you really creating honestly? A lot of the lyrics are directly personal but it is more about what it means to you as a listener and how they project their own lives on the lyrics. That’s the beauty of music and words.”
The Murder Capital hail from all over the country, namely Cork, Donegal, Meath and Galway, but like their contemporaries, Fontaines DC, they met at BIMM music college in Dublin. “It definitely helped and they teach you to be one step ahead of the industry,” McGovern says, even though he dropped out of his course. Tuit adds: “We were going to meetings in London and we’d already have a grounding and awareness about exactly what was going on.”
Art and aesthetics
The quintet also use their sleeves and posters as another platform for their art and aesthetic. “These are just other forms of expression so we like to have a bit of fun with it all,” McGovern says. “We’re lucky enough to have the backing of our management to set up our own record label, so we don’t have A&R or anyone else telling us what to do or what to make or what track to put on the album. It is all down to the five of us.”
The Murder Capital have an acute awareness of the pitfalls facing any young band starting out as novices in the music industry. In one interview, McGovern intriguingly said: “Obviously, drugs are everywhere all the time. We’ve been offered them by promoters 15 seconds after coming off stage. Some days you’re just like, ‘What the f*** is my job?’”
“It’s completely true,” McGovern says, laughing at the query on who were the promoters in question. “These things are funny and they’re not,” he continues. “It’s funny until someone falls off the edge.”
Tuit chips in: “It’s like the classic Aslan story of going over to America and doing all the drugs you’ve ever wanted. Twenty years later, there’s a price to be paid.”
The Murder Capital write hard, work hard and play (live) hard. After the imminent release of their first album, their priority is to resume writing new songs. “We’ve got a few weeks off in September, so we’ll write then before we do a seven-week tour,” McGovern says. “For us, it is important to maintain control of what we write and create. We haven’t written since the start of February, which doesn’t sound like too long ago, but it feels like it is. For a touring band, this is perfectly normal, but this is our first experience of it. The live show is very important to us. Having an opportunity to tour the world is the dream, but we still want to find time to write music.”
The Murder Capital’s name was inspired by James losing his best friend to suicide. “We would love to somehow partially burst the bubble of preconceived perceptions about the time frames we should adhere after the loss of someone,” McGovern says. “It is about gaining a perspective where you are not trying to cure your grief, or whatever it is you are suffering from, but giving yourself time and space. It should be more about surrounding yourself with new positive things that make everything feel a little less overbearing.
“Suffering loss leads to light over time, and that’s what this record is trying to grasp, and getting to know that this is okay, and that the darkness doesn’t exist forever.”
The Murder Capital release When I Have Fears, on Friday, August 16th, with appearances at Tower Records and the Button Factory, Dublin. They also play Rollercoaster Records, Kilkenny, and Steamboat Records, Limerick, August 17th; Strange Victory Records, Belfast, and Sandino’s, Derry, August 18th.