Formed a little over a year ago, The Murder Capital have garnered the buzz through a handful of songs and select appearances. Now they are set to unleash their debut album.
When I reach Murder Capital’s Gabriel Paschal Blake by phone, he has just arrived in that evening’s venue. As he moves through the space looking for somewhere quiet to talk, doors audibly swing open, flights of stairs are ascended and descended. Faintly, in the background bandmates are intermittently audible in the midst of their own phone interviews with other (presumably lesser) publications.
In these few moments before our conversation starts in earnest, two truths are evident. Firstly, A LOT of people seem to want to talk to The Murder Capital and the Dublin quintet are more than happy to oblige. Secondly, the band’s vision is a shared one. There is no single mouthpiece here, elected or decreed. Their forthcoming debut LP, When I Have Fears, was deeply collaborative in its conception and, fittingly, each and any of its five sharply dressed progenitors are primed and ready to discuss the fruits of their collective labour. Early in our conversation, it’s plain to see that the frank, unvarnished emotion that characterises their output thus far is deeply felt by all involved. This, as Gabriel is quick to elucidate, can lead to a degree of friction far beyond any of the tiresome vagaries of promotion associated with being a “buzzy” band.
“The only time that we feel huge amounts of pressure, or it gets mad intense, is when the five of us are trying to come to a place where we all agree on something. When we’re trying to reach a point where we’re all 100% satisfied with the art we’re making and know it’s the best we can do. Those are the hardest moments in the band. It can get very intense. We all care about this equally and, obviously, with that comes a feeling that you need to fight very hard for any ideas you have. In the writing process, it can be difficult because you really believe your idea was right and somebody else feels exactly the same way about a different idea. It teaches you to have patience and to really work on how you communicate with each other. Otherwise, it can just end up with us calling each other fuckers and storming out of the room or throwing a tantrum or whatever. That’s why it ends up being good in the end, because every part of the song has been fought over. I think that’s the way we try to approach everything.”
A certain friction will come as no surprise to those exposed to the handful of prickly, propulsive post-punk transmissions that have garnered Murder Capital the aforementioned buzz. Expectations, and the subversion of such, are quickly revealing themselves as a major factor in the Murder Capital story. I wonder, considering the relative scarcity of recorded material and the rate at which the band are selling out venues, do they ever wonder what expectations audiences bring to these gigs? “At the start, people certainly came to [gigs] with the expectation of us just being straight up post-punk band,” begins Gabriel. “As writing the album went on, we realised that wasn’t really what we wanted to be as a band; we wanted to have more diversity in the material, we thought the album should tell a full story. A lot of it is about the human condition, the human experience.
We don’t feel frantic anger all the time. So, creating a record like that wouldn’t be true to who we are or, really, what life is. For the album, we tried to have an arc: a beginning, middle and end. The interesting thing about not having so much material out there already is that people’s expectations are usually driven by the word of mouth of other people who have been to the shows before.
This notion of an arc and the pursuit of a certain catharsis informed by a holistic vision of the breadth of human experience is not restricted to Murder Capital on wax. In fact, for Gabriel and his bandmates, every performance should strive to achieve this same goal. This perspective toward live performance cemented itself in the band’s vision as the album’s tracklisting gradually began to take shape, as Blake explains. “We had a set of songs written before we really committed to the vision of an album and the name, When I Have Fears, was there early on. We used that sentiment as kind of a pillar for any of the songs we were writing. There were plenty of times when we’d be working on writing a song that we were into, but we’d realise they weren’t When I Have Fears. They didn’t match the vision of the album as a whole. That becomes the most important thing; making sure that the 10 songs on the album were a coherent thing. That carries over to our performances. I think it’s fair to say that our shows are quite theatrical as well as musical. It’s like how you can read a play but not get the same amount of enjoyment as if you’d gone to see it live, y’know?”
Considering the lucidity of the group’s vision, it’s somewhat remarkable that the five young men that make up Murder Capital have only been playing together for about a year. With members aged 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26, the record cannot help but reflect the sensation of wrestling with what it means to be a young man in 2019. Curiously, this coming of age narrative only came into focus for the band once they had effectively finished the task at hand. “George, who wrote the press release, came to the conclusion that it is a coming of age album and that wasn’t something we really noticed ourselves until the very end,” continues Blake. “Like I was saying, the main thing the album deals with is grief and understanding the human condition. As a band, we really try to work on how we communicate with one another, so the album kind of became a study on what it means to communicate with yourself. We’re all very aware of the insufficient facilities and support structures in place surrounding mental health in Ireland – especially in relation to young men. We’re all conscious of that and those themes come straight out through our music. I’m not sure if we have a definite message as a band but we’re very aware of those things as people. I think that’s how we can try and use the band to have a broader effect on culture; allowing people to see the vulnerability of five young fellas trying to understand themselves. Showing people how we’ve tried to understand ourselves and what’s going on all around us, in Ireland or whatever, that’s the main way that we’d see ourselves relating to culture. I suppose it’s the same as postmodern art; the art is finished by the people that are viewing it. We’ll only know once it comes out if it has any effect on anyone in Ireland or further afield.”
Blake goes on, “The ages we’re all at is almost seen as a second puberty for a young fella, your body is growing up and maybe you’ve turned in to a man. That stage is when the separation between being and adolescent and an adult really happens. I think that’s one of the main things about coming of age; in many ways you still feel the same emotions that you did as a teenager. But, it’s your first time dealing with adult situations and the expectation that you’re supposed to act like an adult when you’re faced with them. Like, having to deal with loss or whatever else. Or even just drinking too much, you can’t just say you’re 16 and you don’t know what you’re at. Drinking cans in a forest with your mates quickly turns into maybe having a problem with alcohol.”
The notion of taking great responsibility doesn’t appear to perturb The Murder Capital. Despite the advances of various major label suitors, the band elected to self-release their first record through their own imprint, Human Season. “We were lucky to be in that position,” explains Blake. “There had been offers, but getting a record deal these days is kind of atrocious. Unless you are getting it off a really cool indie, it doesn’t really make sense to do it. We just decided that we wanted to hold on to the reins of our art, that was the driving force behind Human Season. We set the label up just for us, but the hope is that someday we’ll be signing other acts. Like, we all plan to be in the music industry and making music or making art for the rest of our lives. So, it’s a bit like that analogy about giving a man a fish or teaching a man how to fish – we’re just trying to figure out how to fish.”
Words: Danny Wilson
Photo: Gavin Ovoca
When I Have Fears is released on August 16 on Human Season Records
Further tour dates and info themurdercapital.com