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Everything Considered: The Murder Capital Talk Debut Album 'When I Have Fears'

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 Written by Laura Johnson

“It’s about a fear of life and an acceptance of maybe not being able to finish everything you wanted to do. We thought that was a really beautiful statement. It worked with our mentality. So we thought we’d move forward with that and we put that as the pillar for writing songs.”

This, guitarist Cathal Roper tells us, is how the Murder Capital’s upcoming debut album ‘When I Have Fears’ started its journey. It was a reaction to trauma, first the suicide of a close friend and later the passing of bassist Gabriel Paschal Blake’s mother while the post-punk band were in the studio. They also drew inspiration from the work of American photographer Francesca Woodman, who killed herself in 1981 aged 22. Green & Blue, one of the album’s songs, was written immediately following the discovery of her art.

Framed by these events, tracks such as the record’s lead single, Don’t Cling To Life, take on more poignant meaning beyond their dance-worthy appeal. “With hands held tight it goes and goes, the light that once shone on the pale, our steady hands return to stone, let’s stay enclosed for all our days,” vocalist James McGovern sings, before offering a bleak warning: “Don’t cling to life, there’s nothing on the other side.”

Though the experiences that inspired their music may be painful, Roper admits its performance has the opposite effect. “When the song really feels like it’s in its best form I think you just get a sense of relief and [then] real incredible enjoyment playing it live,” he says.

And playing live is when the Murder Capital come into their own. McGovern has mastered a thousand-yard stare and Blake is rarely seen in one spot for more than a second, maneuvering around the intense, wandering guitarists Roper and Damien Tuit, while drummer Diarmuid Brennan relentlessly pushes the momentum. 

They have chemistry to burn, which is even more impressive when we consider that the band’s current line up has only been together for roughly a year. McGovern, Tuit and Roper initially met when the latter pair played in a house band for songwriting classes their vocalist was a part of, while Blake and Brennan joined the party in 2018. They replaced the previous rhythm section, who couldn’t commit to the hectic lifestyle that comes with being in a band.

“I think people have to go through a bit of an ice-breaker period, where they find themselves and find how they react to other people on stage,” Roper says. “But it was very quick with us, which was nice.” After spending six to eight months penning the majority of ‘When I Have Fears’ at their writing space in East Wall, Dublin, the decision to record it live was driven by a desire to capture this effortless connection.

Thanks to a link through their manager, the quintet were able to achieve this goal at Assault and Battery studio in Willesden, London with Flood. The legendary producer has an enviable CV, having previously worked with New Order, U2, Nine Inch Nails, Foals, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Killers, PJ Harvey, and the Smashing Pumpkins, to name a few.

“We pushed to work with him, and he pushed to work with us,” Roper explains. “It was nothing to do with his résumé, or anything like that. He could have had a hundred amazing artists under his belt, and he does, but if we got out of it a session we didn’t enjoy then it wouldn’t have worked.”   

Though he could have easily spent the sessions spewing pearls of wisdom, Flood encouraged the band to embrace creative freedom and experiment. Sometimes, he was even a little generous with this exploratory spirit. “I think he gave us too much time, because we went insane playing with pedals and synths,” Roper laughs. “We could get lost with the whole day just playing around.”

“It’s just about a spark, and trying to find where things fit,” he continues. “What do people feel, where does this song go and what does it mean?” Despite their largely organic methods in the studio, Roper admits “there was definitely creative consideration as to the arc of the album.” 

Thought was given to every move, from the breaths featured in On Twisted Ground to the mid-album placement of Slowdance I and II. The former brings the frantic and forlorn first half to a close, while the latter leads to a still sombre, but ever so slightly more upbeat final act, with a melancholic exception in How The Streets Adore Me Now.

But, even with an impressively adroit debut album and sold out headline shows under their belt, plus having knocked New Order off the number one spot on the UK vinyl singles chart, something Roper admits is “pretty funny”, commercial success isn’t on the band’s to do list.

“It’s not something we’re going for,” he says. “I think we’d be happy to see our songs being reacted to in that way, but if you’re going to start writing music based off that then I think it’ll probably get dry and generic quickly if you wanted to aim for that. Our music’s a bit out there so it’s understandable why it mightn’t be in the charts.”

The Irish five-piece’s aspirations are more focused on longevity: keep writing and playing music, build a collection of albums, gain a loyal audience and have an “everlasting career.” Roper thinks Thom Yorke’s got it all worked out. “I love the idea of what Radiohead have,” he admits, discussing their ability to make music as a band and then amicably split off for solo projects. Ultimately, it’s about “the freedom to be an artist.”  

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. You can also email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. For other international helplines head to Befrienders Worldwide.

The Murder Capital Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu August 15 2019 - CORK Music Zone
Fri August 16 2019 - DUBLIN Button Factory
Sat August 17 2019 - KILKENNY Rollercoaster Records
Sun August 18 2019 - DERRY Cool Discs @ Sandinos
Mon August 19 2019 - GLASGOW Monorail
Tue August 20 2019 - MANCHESTER FOPP
Wed August 21 2019 - LEEDS Crash
Thu August 22 2019 - LONDON Rough Trade East
Sun October 06 2019 - YORK Crescent
Mon October 07 2019 - BRISTOL Exchange Bristol
Tue October 08 2019 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social
Thu October 10 2019 - LONDON Dome
Fri October 11 2019 - BRIGHTON Brighton Concorde 2
Sat October 12 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Castle & Falcon
Mon October 14 2019 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Tue October 15 2019 - EDINBURGH Mash House
Wed October 16 2019 - GLASGOW King Tuts
Fri October 18 2019 - MANCHESTER YES (Pink Room)
Sat October 19 2019 - OXFORD Ritual Union

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