The Murder Capital are a band for whom ambition knows no bounds. Barely two years into their existence and the quintet from Ireland have found themselves skyrocketed from the smallest stages of suburban Dublin to an ever-expanding audience, transfixing people young and old with a brutal yet tender punk assault that marks them out as something special.
Frontman James McGovern is the band’s magnetic focal point, and it’s his brooding mystery that provides the lifeblood for The Murder Capital’s dark and twisted world. “We’re trying to capture the complete range of the human experience,” begins James as he sets out The Murder Capital’s mission statement. “We’re trying to incorporate all the things that we experience as young men. In that sense, it can be quite broad.”
There’s a degree of complexity and nuance when you try to analyse the human condition, but it’s a challenge that they embrace on debut album, ‘When I Have Fears’. They have a fiercely uncompromising commitment, and you can hear that throughout the album’s channelling of the bleakest emotions and our most primal reactions.
“The overarching theme throughout is a journey to understanding grief and coming to terms with losing someone,” explains James as he talks about the album’s lyrical inspiration. The suicide of a close friend in Dublin both gave the band their name as well as inspiring the philosophy that runs throughout everything they do. “It’s about learning to empathise with yourself. For me now, I can look back on it with a bit more clarity.”
It’s clear the making the album was a cathartic experience for James and the band. This is music that they feel compelled to make. “You want people to be affected in a manner that gives them a different perspective,” he says. It’s a record that challenges and subverts expectations as the band question everyone and everything around them, for example, the way ‘More Is Less’ explores religious conformity and ‘Slowdance 1’s’ murky waltz with the shadow of death. These are grim themes for a grim time.
The music that The Murder Capital create is powered by a real sense of intensity and propulsion. At their most energising on thrilling tracks like ‘For Everything’ their rhythmic post-punk assault courses through your veins. There’s also a sense though that they have infinite directions they could move in. There are elements of industrial and electronic rock that seep in, suggesting The Murder Capital ultimately see themselves as more than a punk band.
“We’ve already bought all the synths for the second album,” says James. “We don’t confine ourselves to any idea of what we should sound like,” he continues, as he explains their desire to not be pigeon-holed.
As much as the twisted, grisly underbelly of the human psyche is central to the band’s writing, they recognise that it’s important to temper the bleakness with just the right amount of light. It’s something they do masterfully throughout the album, especially on the rousing highlight ‘Don’t Cling To Life’.
“To just focus on the dark in certain situations can be short-sighted, or withhold you from understanding on a deeper level,” emphasises James. “If you explore the light, then you can understand the dark in a different way. It was important to expose hope.”
For such a relatively new band The Murder Capital have created a stunning debut statement. The sound is filled with power and propulsion, while the words “were written as poetry originally,” reveals James, offering up a stirring resonance.
Much of the visceral sound is down to the influence of esteemed producer Flood, who was responsible for similar gloom-rock masterpieces like Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ and Depeche Mode’s ‘Violator’.
“He really cleverly understands people’s psychological needs,” says James. “He communicates with each individual member differently to always get the best out of them artistically. It was a joy to converse with him about life and art.”
The album they created is raw, brutal and incredibly powerful. “We recorded it all to tape live. It was always the idea that it would be a living, breathing record. It wouldn’t be polished. When I listen to the record now, it really feels like a sentient being.”
In their literary and artistic inspirations, The Murder Capital have lofty beliefs about what a band can be and the power that they can hold. They aren’t the only ones coming out of the thriving punk scene in Dublin, but there’s a certain allure to The Murder Capital that makes them stand out. They’re equally charming, disconcerting and thrilling. One thing that’s for sure though is that they mean every single thing they say and do right down to the last drop of sweat on stage and the last curdled growl from James’ voice.
“The things that we’re trying to say and the things that we’re trying to communicate, none of it is a joke,” says James, conscious of people who may try to deride the band for being joyless or overly earnest. The Murder Capital aren’t trying to tell you how to live your life. Their music and all the dark-hearted intensity that goes into it is here to magnify and allow you to explore your own thoughts and feelings and come to your own conclusions.
“I’m not here to convince anyone to like what we do,” says James confidently. “That’s not my job. We’re not here to say you need to understand this or you need to be affected by this. You either are, or you aren’t. I don’t put too much thought into people who don’t get it. I don’t care.”
Taken from the September issue of Upset. The Murder Capital’s debut album ‘When I Have Fears’ is out now.