A few months ago, The Murder Capital burst into the public consciousness with ‘Feeling Fades’, a raucous banger that turned heads from Dublin to London. The resulting explosion led to sold out tours across the UK and Ireland, as well as a swift turnaround on their excellent debut album ‘When I Have Fears’.
When we catch up with them in a swish pub in central London (the label’s paying, the band haven’t quite earned their millions just yet) the toll of constant touring, recording and staying up late is clear. Frontman James McGovern hasn’t slept at all in the last 24 hours, unless you count the 15 or so seconds he nods off for during the interview (we didn’t know we were that boring, lads) and the rest of the band are all nursing hangovers of various intensity.
Despite the circumstances, they’re clearly enthused about the upcoming debut and the reaction their music has been receiving so far.
“How well the band has been received just gives us more encouragement to write what we want to write,” explains bassist Gabriel Paschal Blake. “A lot of artists don’t get to have a clear plan or payoff, and I think sometimes you might not give it as much energy, or you might not finish writing an album, because you don’t know what the end goal is. If we weren’t getting tours out of it, we wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to it.”
Drummer Diarmuid Brennan nods in agreement, saying: “People being keen to see the band and that, it’s a real boost. The word of mouth promotion kicked in, and we just concentrated on that – just getting festivals and adding songs to each set, one at a time. Then eventually you get to the point where you have this collection of songs and making an album is a hell of a lot easier from there.”
Not that they’re willing to buy into the narrative too much though. “Hold on,” James says. “What hype was there really? Billie Eilish had hype! I didn’t see any for us, and I don’t think any that was there influenced what we were writing and what we were doing. I guess touring will have influenced the album, but only in the same was that the sandwich I had for breakfast probably had some influence on us too.”
“The progression of the band has been very natural,” Gabriel adds. “A few people have said that we’ve held off from releasing anything, but that isn’t how it felt on our end. I suppose the fact that the album is coming out quite quickly from when we started playing together might have been different if we hadn’t got the attention we did, but every release has happened in a very organic way.”
“We just refuse to let anything compromise the evolution of the band,” James cuts in, leaning in and resting his elbows on the table. “How can you possibly take validation from anyone except your inner circle of people you trust? We don’t give a shit what anyone outside the band, our close family and friends, and our team think.”
Evolution is the key word for ‘When I Have Fears’, with the loud, abrasive sound that The Murder Capital are known for dialled back on some tracks and barely present at all on others. “Doing ten aggressive punk songs just wouldn’t be true to us as people,” Gabriel explains. “I don’t think any choice we make as a band comes from how the industry or anyone else views us. The choices we make are for us, not them.”
“We just wanted to be honest with ourselves,” guitarist Cathal Roper agrees. “If we were going through something that we felt ten punk songs would express, that’s what we would have written. But we weren’t, and the album is an honest reflection of what we were – and are – going through as people.
“Digression should be allowed,” he continues. “Punk is one of our influences, but it isn’t an especially big thing for us at all, and we’d rather be showing compassion than anger. I think the album is about trying to understand the human psyche and what people go through, more than anything else.”
“‘Green and Blue’ fits that ethos,” James says when asked about the album’s second single. “It fitted the narrative of the part of the band that we wanted to expose to the world, simple as that. We make our decisions by just sitting down and thinking ‘what do we want to say next?'”
When asked about the difficulty of exposing a more vulnerable side to the band, he’s quick to answer. “I don’t think it’s any harder, to be honest. It’s a valid question, definitely. Do we feel more naked on stage when I’m not as angry? No, because it’s as much an integral part of me as anger or any other emotion. It’s something I’m feeling, and I don’t think it matters why you feel. You can dissect these things all you like, but you feel things and act on those feelings regardless.”
“It came together really quickly, too,” Cathal adds. “We wrote it in a day or two, and that’s when you know it’s good. You get excited when it’s going fast, and it’s just this great feeling when it’s all coming together. There were other songs we wrote that we weren’t so sure of and they just didn’t make the cut – you’ve just gotta trust your instincts.”
“We also had songs that we liked that just weren’t songs for the album,” Gabriel cuts in. “We had the title sorted quite early on, maybe halfway through the writing process, and that meant that any songs we wrote had to fit into the emotions suggested by ‘When I Have Fears’.”
This process of elimination meant that it wasn’t exactly tough to work out what was going on the album, and nothing got left on the cutting room floor. “Too many songs?” laughs James. “No, we didn’t have enough! We went in with nine and wrote the tenth while we were in the studio, so there really wasn’t much of a decision to be made over what we left in there. It all had to fit, and it all does.”
“People can get a bit shocked when they see us live,” muses Gabriel when discussing the breadth of influences and genres on the album. “If they’ve seen us on that first tour, when the majority of the set was pretty in your face, they might be a bit surprised coming back now and seeing there’s more diversity there.”
While stepping out of their comfort zone might be risky, The Murder Capital credit the diversity of the Irish music scene with broadening their horizons. “What’s interesting about Ireland is that the bands are all authentic, that’s the connecting thread,” enthuses Cathal. “They aren’t all the same genre, Junior Brother, Fontaines, Kojaque, all completely different, but all united by the authenticity of their music.”
“It’s an interesting one too,” Gabriel says. “Traditionally, guitar bands have to be recognised in the UK before Ireland takes them seriously. Sometimes Irish people will only start listening to you if you’ve played in the UK, like we need that validation. But now because there are so many more bands breaking out of Ireland and Dublin, it really feels like that might not be the case anymore.”
He pauses and takes a sip of his pint before continuing: “Touring the UK is still great though, people will come out to see you all week long. There are loads of great venues in Ireland, don’t get me wrong, but with the likes of places like Limerick, people might only go out on the weekend. In Dublin, people will go out every night, in Belfast too, but other places around the country they’ll only go out on a Friday or a Saturday – you can’t do a tour that only takes place at the weekend!”
“We’re tied to the UK as well as Ireland though,” he says. “We recorded the album in London and had this really romantic notion of what that would be like, which largely panned out. I remember we went home after the six weeks there, and there was this feeling of ‘fuck, we’d love to be back over there’, but it just didn’t make sense not to be rehearsing in Dublin.
“In my mind, everything we’ve experienced in Dublin in the last three or four years has impacted on the album, as well as growing up in Ireland. My fear is that if we come to London to live, all our writing would reflect that move. London’s great and touring is absolutely class, but we’ll always miss Ireland when we’re not there.”
And has the experience of growing up in a city like Dublin influenced the social and political themes of their music? “We’re just politically active and socially conscious as much as we should be as people.” Sighs James, wearily rubbing his eyes. “And probably not enough, to be honest – are we a political band? I don’t know; we’ll just be whatever the fuck people start calling us next week, that suits us.”
Taken from the September issue of Dork. The Murder Capital’s debut album ‘When I Have Fears’ is out now.
Words: Jake Hawkes