Murder by Death
Bigger is better
Murder by Death knows only one size.
"I tend to be more interested in big things," explains singer-songwriter Adam Turla. "I feel like so many people write songs about simple stuff. One of the reasons why I do write such big, theatrical songs is that there’s not as many people doing it."
Epic struggles between good and evil fill the lyric sheets, and the meaty Americana that saddles up beside it gallops through sonic peaks and valleys. It could be called alt.country-noir, or cowpoke indie rock, but either way, the scent that wafts past your nostrils is robust.
"I don’t sit down and think, I’m writing a concept album."
Adam Turla, Murder by Death
Turla's deep voice adds depth to the dark themes present in the lyrics. But in the band's early days, he couldn't take advantage of his natural range. "I think I started singing a little higher on our first two albums because we were playing basements all the time," Turla says. "If you sing low in basements, you can’t hear the vocals. It was kind of pathetic."
Turla describes Murder by Death's first LP, Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing, as "pure eclectica." Three albums and six years later, Turla says he and his bandmates had chipped away at their sound. The only thing left, Turla says, was a "concise rock record that told one story."
That record is 2008's full-length Red of Tooth and Claw, a concept album about an Odyssey-inspired journey. "I don’t sit down and think, I’m writing a concept album," Turla explains. "What usually ends up happening is I start writing songs and then I start seeing a theme between them. I’ll write the rest of the songs with that in mind and suddenly, I have an album that all fits together."
For Murder by Death's current tour, the band reunites with keyboardist and original member Vincent Edwards. Ironically, Edwards left the band in 2004 because he hated touring. Turla says there are no post-tour plans to reincorporate Edwards into the band, but it's nice to be back on the road with his friend. "It's been fun for us and we knew that our fans would have fun with it, too," Turla says.
After Edwards departed the first time, coping with one less set of hands allowed Murder by Death to grow. "You go from five to four members and suddenly you’ve gotta keep it interesting," Turla says. "Everybody's gotta do something a little more exciting."
Edwards' absence also helped Murder by Death get through the lean years. "I don’t know if we would have financially survived if there were five mouths to feed," Turla admits. "There were times over the last few years that we were absurdly poor."
With less than a month before the one-year anniversary of Red of Tooth and Claw's release, Turla says he's in no hurry to get cracking on a new record. Sometime this summer, he expects the wheels will start turning, but he refuses to rush the creative process. "I like to give albums a lot of time to breathe," Turla says. "I don’t like to jump the gun and just write because we need a record out. I'd rather wait until it sounds good."
Murder by Death's Adam Turla on love and Valentine's Day:
What's your take on Valentine's Day?
It’s a Hallmark holiday, but even though the idea may be convoluted, generally there’s a good message. As far as I understand it, Valentine's Day is a day to take someone out to dinner and have a good time. I can’t argue with that.
What's the most romantic thing you've ever done?
My finishing move is the surprise vacation. It's more than just something you hold; it’s something you do with a person. That’s way more fun if you like the person, I guess.
How big a role would you say love plays in your music?
I try not to write as many love songs because I think it’s a subject that has been beaten into the ground. If I write a love song, I want it to to have an original take on relationships. That’s what I’m going for, at least.
Murder by Death slays the Launchpad on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Fake Problems and The Builders and The Butchers bleed the audience dry during the all-ages show. Tickets are $10 and can be picked up in advance (plus a service fee) at Natural Sound.