Interview with Matt from Murder By Death; Played The Haunt in Ithaca, NY @murderbydeath @dansmalls @bshq
Bloomington, Indiana’s Murder By Death has the perfect name for a grindcore band, but the music they perform couldn’t be further away from that. The group, who play an Indie/Americana brand of Rock and Roll, is more for the thinker than the thrasher and, given the prevalence of heavy on Live High Five lately, I can dig it.
The 5-piece has remained true to their DIY roots and tireless work ethic, and it continues to pay of with new fans and noteworthy performances. Currently touring in support of their latest release Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, on Bloodshot Records, I caught up with bassist Matt Armstrong after their sold out stop in Ithaca, NY (presented by Dan Smalls Presents and Ithaca Underground) to talk about the release, life on the road, and the music scene in Bloomington.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?
M- I am Matt. I grew up in Dallas and play bass. Adam is from Detroit and plays guitar and sings. Sarah is from Louisville and plays cello. Scott is originally from California but now resides in Austin and plays keys, accordion, mandolin, cornet, sings back-up, yadda yadda. Dagan is from Mishawaka, Indiana and plays drums and sings back-up as well.
G- So Bloomington, Indiana isn’t a name we hear too often when it comes to music… Tell us a bit about where you are from… How is the music scene out there and how are the responses at your shows?
M- It’s actually kind of hard to say because we are on the road so much, but there is definitely a vibrant music scene in Bloomington. We don’t play here that often, so when we do it usually gets pretty rowdy.
G- You’ve recently released your latest album, Bitter Drink Bitter Moon, on Bloodshot Records. Can you tell us a bit about the tunes on the record? Where did you find the inspiration to write your new material, and what subject matter is covered in the lyrics?
M- That’s really more Adam’s department. I can say there is a loose Indiana theme on this record. Things like moving away from the farm where you grew up. Stuff like that. There is also a song about some missing girls that we heard about while writing the album.
G- What was the writing process like, and who in the band came up the new music? Do you have a primary songwriter, or do you write music more organically through jamming during rehearsals?
M- There’s some of both. Adam generally comes in with an idea and we all flesh it out together. We’re not particularly ‘jammy’, but somethimes we do have to just keep playing until an idea clicks.
G- As a group that has performed across the pond, how would you say reception compares in the states versus your performances abroad, both in terms of how you play, the audience reaction, and hospitality?
M- Hospitality in Europe is way better with the exception of England. Germany is particularly fun. The shows aren’t as big most of the time, but the response is usually excellent because the crowd appreciates how far we traveled to get there.
G- So, you guys spend a good amount of life on the road, and the road is a hard place to be at times. How do you guys maintain such a rigorous schedule and how do you occupy your time when you’re traveling between gigs?
M- Honestly, it’s something you get used to. We watch a lot of movies in the van, and we listen to podcasts and stuff like that. Naps eat up a lot of travel time, too.
G- What should your fans, both old and new, expect of the performances when you guys hit the road, and what should some of the first time listeners expect to see when you take the stage?
M- They should expect an energetic, loud rock show. There will probably also be some amusing stage banter and the occasional rodeo clown bonanza.
G- Do you have a favorite song you have ever written or like to play? If you were to give someone who’d never heard Murder By Death one song to try and make a new fan, what song would you offer them and why?
M- I don’t have one total favorite. It can change depending on mood. Lately I’ve really been enjoying playing “King of the Gutter, Prince of the Dogs.” It covers a lot of ground in terms of what we do.
G- Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? Is there a dream lineup that you hope to see happen in the future? Who else is on it with you?
M- I would absolutely kill to play with Swans, Mogwai, Queens of the Stone Age, The Cure. Can you get on that?
G- Haha I would certainly be glad to help you try! What would you say is the most memorable show that you have played to date as Murder By Death in your opinion? Where was it and what was it like?
M- There have been too many to list. A great show is a really transcendent, joyous experience.
G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
M- Make sure you’re in a band with people you love or you will tear each other apart the nanosecond the going gets rough, Play every show you can. Make friends. Tip the bartender. Buy good cables.
WTHT Question: Do you wear hearing protection when you perform? Why or why not? Do you think it is important for your fans to protect their ears?
M- I definitely wear hearing protection. I want to be able to keep doing this and don’t want to blow out my ears. I advocate the use of hearing protection for the fans, especially if they go lots of shows. Not everybody is Lemmy and can handle that kind of auditory abuse.