- 13 Aug 19
They’re the hot new force in Irish post-punk. As their hugely-anticipated debut album arrives THE Murder Capital talk about overcoming grief in the recording studio, the importance of retaining an air of mystery - and their debt to depressive Sixties architecture.
The moment Irish punk fans have been waiting for is here. The Murder Capital’s debut, When I Have Fears, is finally about to be unleashed upon a (mostly) unsuspecting world.
The album drops August 16, the same day the Dubliners headline the capital’s Button Factory. That’s ahead of a European tour from October. The new album is a big deal - and for one reason in particular. Fans have had to get by on scraps since the live single ‘More Is Less’. That track showcased the Dubliners’ relentless guitars and gravelly vocals. How we wanted more!
Still, a paucity of EPs and singles hasn’t prevented The Murder Capital topping various ‘ones to watch’ lists in Ireland and overseas. This was down to their ferocious live shows which many caught as the group supported Fontaines D.C, Idles and Shame.
“Any live show is a beautiful thing. It allows for a great escape from everyday experience,” says frontman and lyricist James McGovern. “I like challenging the crowd. If you leave a show and you’re not affected in some way, we haven’t done our job.”
When I Have Fears is confrontationally intense. Then, what would you expect of a band who cite brutalist architecture and the monochrome photography of the late Francesca Woodman as influences?
“In terms of brutalist architecture, there’s something great about a building built from the cheapest materials possible – not something perceived to be beautiful at first – that turns out to affect people and become romanticised over time,” notes McGovern. “Woodman’s work also provided great inspiration, bringing us out of a dry well at one point to write our second single ‘Green and Blue’. I see true beauty in her ability to portray isolation and to be so personal.”
McGovern is also an avid reader, telling Hot Press in the past he sometimes carries three books at a time with him. It’s the title of a poem from English Romantic poet John Keats that gives the album its name, one which explores death, the fear of it and the impact its inevitability has on the writer’s life.
“It’s not only a reference point,” says McGovern. “It encapsulates all existential thoughts for us, as well as even just the human experience of being alive. It captures the light and the dark that you are constantly battling with when you are living. The poem is the blood within the body of record.”
To wrangle all these inspirations and themes together, When I Have Fears needed a great producer. Luckily, the band found that in the legendary Flood, well-known for his collaborations with New Order, Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Ros and U2.
“His back catalogue speaks for itself. There’s no question of his brilliant legacy,” says McGovern who also cites Sigur Ros as an early inspiration. “Our manager, Tara Richardson, knew him. She showed him a couple of demos last autumn. You could feel his sincerity and excitement for what was about to happen.”
“He’s really fun to be around. He is a normal dude that has this incredible ability to understand each person’s needs in the studio, as well as the collective’s needs. He brings you and the songs to places maybe you sometimes can be afraid to go.”
One of When I Have Fears’ greatest strengths is it manages to translate the rawness of The Murder Capital in concert while also feeling like a proper studio album. “It was very important to us to capture the live nature of our band. So everything was recorded live to tape,” tells McGovern. “That allows for those unvarnished moments. We weren’t afraid then to overdub guitars, vocal parts or different things we wanted to add afterward. For me, there’s many imperfections across the album. But that’s what makes it human – a living entity as opposed to a shiny pop record.”
It’s clear speaking to McGovern that he and his band have a great respect for the concept of the album. One of the reasons the group held off on releasing singles for a while: “For us, the art of narratives and storytelling will never die. Every track on the record is there for a reason, the same way every song is in a certain order.”
In fact, the sequencing of the album seems to have been planned with listeners of vinyl in mind. This makes sense given The Murder Capital’s first two singles topped the vinyl charts. Comprising of 10 tracks, the record alternates between the more fast paced tracks like opener ‘For Everything and the slower ‘Green and Blue’. The two modes are bridged together by brooding Mogwai-esque instrumental ‘Slowdance II’, which ends side one with McGovern playing cello.
“Classical music is important to us so the idea was to bring in a classic stringed instrument. I played cello as a kid. If you are listening to the album on vinyl physically, the cello solidifies the end of side one while also tying it into the tenderness of ‘On Trusted Ground’ on side two.”
Reflecting on the theme of his band’s debut album, McGovern states: “Some of us throughout writing and recording the record had personal experiences dealing with grief. A lot of it is about learning how to live with the loss of someone close to you and understanding that the absence of fear creates love and the absence of love creates fear.”
That said, McGovern on the record avoids specifics in his lyrics, preferring the evocative slightly enigmatic metaphors you typically find in poetry. On ‘Slowdance I’, he sings: ‘I spoke to the ocean and the depths became my well / Nobody noticed but I’ve never been myself.’
“We try to avoid explaining the meaning of our lyrics. It would take the enjoyment and experience away from the listener if they were always being told exactly what’s going on,” the singer states. “What’s incredible about music is that anyone has the ability to apply the words and feeling songs give to their own life and for them to feel personal. Hopefully, people will be able to project their own lives onto our songs.”
• When I Have Fears is out on August 16 and is available to pre-order now.