The Murder Capital: A Plunge Into The Darkness To Find New Life

It is rare to witness a group of young musicians come together and practically explode within moments of meeting each other, whilst simultaneously produce a body of work that is truly breathtaking. In the space of only nine months, Dublin-quintet The Murder Capital formed, then wrote, recorded, and untethered onto the world their harrowing debut album When I Have Fears’. 

What they began with was fragility, a vulnerable realisation of life’s malevolence. In turn, a dark, brooding onslaught and a crushing cacophony of sound began to emerge — a cry that was a natural reaction to loss, grief, and suffering. This wasn’t just another “post-punk” band; this was something more, something utterly different.

Now, having taken the last three years to grow, bond, and heal, ‘Gigi’s Recovery’ is their latest offering, and what they have returned with fills an entirely new space to what came before. Brighter and bolder, The Murder Capital’s second album is not just the result of their natural evolution but also of an injection of light into their lives. It started with a search, a search for life in a time of global panic and isolation, a search that was found once they realised they had to succumb and let go in order to progress. ‘I had to realign, to begin, to survive’, our vocalist sings on the album’s final single, ‘Return My Head’. ‘Gigi’s Recovery’ is a blossoming sense of optimism and resilience, pushing through the concrete barriers of personal struggle. 

Initially unaware of what exactly they wanted to create, the band understood what they wanted this album to feel like, a feeling that burrowed its way into their lives and relationships. ‘Only Good Things’ then acted as the perfect first release. A bright, playful love song was the last anyone expected from their three-year gap. “This track for us has been an exciting evolution for the band. Its so bright. Its so colourful. This is a part of the narrative of the overall record that we feel reaches a real place of inner calm, inner peace.” Yet on the record, we still hear moments that touch upon the sound of The Murder Capital’s malevolent threat, like on A Thousand Lives’ that hangs upon a tightrope of loving embrace and malice.

The Murder Capital slap you hard across the face with the heart-crushing single ‘Ethel’. A dyadic interrogation, challenging the very path you choose to walk along. This portrait of ineffable beauty is painted with such detail and textural flair; the bell chiming harmonics, the literal pulse-tapping rhythms or the eerie strings that cry out with such desperation, all layered under a blanket of McGovern’s incomparable vocal brutality.

After being emotionally torn to shreds by their debut album back in 2019, the thought of new music has been intoxicating, and The Murder Capital have not disappointed. So, on a surprisingly cloudless day in November, I met up with James McGovern (Vocals), Damien Tuit (Guitar), Cathal Roper ‘Pump’ (Guitar), Gabriel Paschal Blake (Bass) and Diarmuid Brennan (Drums) in an East London pub to chat about their own musical and personal evolution, the feelings intertwined within their new album and their dreams to reach the stars.

Hi guys, it’s a pleasure to see you all again after your Lafayette performance in September; it was really something special. You started your return back to our ears when you released Only Good Things, the first single from your new album and the first piece of new music since When I Have Fears back in 2019. How were you feeling ahead of its release? 

James: Antagonistic! It wasn’t about saying, “Fuck you!” but we wanted to mess with people’s expectations of us. So, we decided to release the brightest thing on the record. We knew the ways in which it was different, and it did exactly what we wanted it to. 

Pump: There was this massive conception of us early on. I’m not saying that was wrong, but it isn’t everything we are. We wanted to completely subvert that and show much more of what we could do. Mostly though, and it’s the same for the album now, we were excited for everyone to hear these two years of us moving forward.

James: Maybe we should put on some leather and write a kinky rock record next time!

I love this mantra you have held yourselves to, the evolution will not be compromised”. You have kept moving as a band rather than standing still. Was the search for the stylistic contrast of Gigis Recovery something that was easy to navigate towards?

Gabriel: That started out as an almost joke in a way, but it transformed into something so much more. Of course, we never want to stand still, so the action and pursuit of the search came naturally, but to get what we found took some time. 

Pump: When starting something new, it can take some time to get all five people into the same place of understanding. You need to understand what everyone else is trying to achieve but also to put yourself out there and translate yourself back to them. 

Damien: And we’re all driven by very different things, so that understanding is so important. 

James: I think it’s the bastardised outcome of those ambitions that makes our sound. 

Diarmuid: John Congleton, who produced this record, mentioned why he liked working with bands because you’re never going to make the same music with four other individuals. You’re not just a role in a band. What everybody is individually feeling ripples out into everything and that always has to be processed. There’s this funny thing being in any band though, there is a lot of looking around, shrugging shoulders at each other and thinking, “I don’t know, do you fucking know?”. Almost every song had that little moment of “Oh, is this right?”.

So were there any tracks on the record that nearly didn’t make it?

Damien: ‘Crying’ wasn’t working for like, two years, and the same with ‘Gigis Recovery’. Just out of stubbornness and of how much they meant to us, we couldn’t let them go.

Gabriel: There were points of writing just a few bars each time, that process went on for a while. It’s until you come back to them with new experiences, perspectives and skills that they finally make sense.

James: We almost left ‘Ethel’ behind. 

Really, Ethel? I’m sure you said during your performance it’s now one of your favourites off the record, it’s definitely my favourite off it.

James: Haha yeah, it was really fucking close. 

Damien: We were going through old demos and it wasn’t till I showed it to my girlfriend and her telling me how much she liked it that it started to make sense.

Diarmuid: When we were writing the album, our friend Richie Kennedy, who was engineering our first album, came down to see us. I remember he came down and we showed him ‘Ethel’ and he started getting really excited about it, he was so confused about why we were even worrying. 

James: He said, “Oh wow, The Murder Capital can write a four-chord pop song” hahaAt the time, I remember thinking of ‘Ethel’ as what it is now. You can lose sight of that when you’re in a band because you’re not trying to drill what you think is right down the throats of other people. If we stepped out of this band and went to go co-write with someone else, and they didn’t like the middle eight let’s say, we wouldn’t be like, “yeah you fucking do!”, you know what I mean?

That’s the thing, as an artist, you see every process of what goes into your record and the way you hear it compared to the way someone else hears it for the first time must be completely different.

Gabriel: Absolutely!

James: We were in isolation for so long that we had nowhere else to project life onto than these songs. So where some people might hear them as a bit depressing we really hear optimism.

Would it be fair to say that the first album felt like it was you learning to be vulnerable and looking back at the past, whereas Gigis Recovery still explores that vulnerability but it seems to have its sights looking out into the future?

Gabriel: I think that’s a fair summation of it, for sure. 

James: Our first record was so directly about grief and loss, but also wondering about what could have been. A lot of it was about remembering. Whereas with ‘Gigis Recovery’, it’s both reflective and forward searching. It asks those questions like, ‘what kind of life do you want to lead?’ What we began with was this feeling of, ‘searching for life’. It began during the Lockdown era and I think that was a time where everyone was searching for life. There was this feeling of trying to find that wherever we could, in the midst of our relationships and within ourselves. Most importantly is that grief does come to an end and we’re here now trying to live a new life, I think that’s why there’s a lot of hope on this record.

What were the influences that helped lay the foundations for it?

Gabriel: Well, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Radiohead and Scott Walker all played a part.

Pump: I remember watching a lot of David Lynch and that surrealist stuff at the time. 

Damien: For me an album that comes to mind is, Floating Points’ ‘Crush’.

James: I probably find it as one of the toughest questions, ‘what do you think inspires you?’ I can latch onto a band or a director for a couple of weeks or maybe a month and then my attention span goes onto something else and it’s completely sporadic and unpredictable. So if I were to go through what we were listening to at the time and I said Frank Sinatra and also Young Lean, you would probably be like, ‘What the fuck are you on about?’ haha.

You can definitely hear Nick Cave and ‘Kid A’/In Rainbows throughout! When you first started out, can you remember the local bands that you were looking up to? 

Damien: Definitely Gilla Band.

James: Fontaines DC had a few years on us as well, always going to their shows was really inspiring.

Diarmuid: And Burnt Out!

Gabriel: I was still working in a music shop up in Letterkenny when I first heard all the Burnt Out stuff. To come to Dublin and be amongst people who were close to that was crazy.

James: Burnt Out had a very unique and sort of thoughtful visual aspect to their music that’s so intertwined. It’s almost like the songs were written through the visual media.

Diarmuid: The bands that always stood out in Dublin are the ones that weren’t trying to be something they’d seen already. Meltybrains? was another that comes to mind. 

Credits: Marcus Prouse Jr

You mentioned David Lynch earlier, and it made me think that theres quite a cinematic soundscape that you manage to create within your tracks. If you could put one of your songs into a film or work with any director, what/who would it be? 

James: I’d love to get some music in a Joachim Trier film, he’s got some amazing stuff. I think an instrumental ‘Ethel’ would be so good in a Tarantino.

Damien:Crying’ would be great in a film.

Diarmuid: When I first showed my mum the record, she said “you could imagine this in a movie or something.” Like you said, you don’t have that outside perspective, it’s nice to be reminded it has that effect.

Can you tell me about how this album has impacted your bond with each other and what was it like to spend so much time with each other when writing it?

James: Honestly, you could probably write a novella on how our relationship has gone over the years. During these two years, we spent about 9 months alone together in a house in Wexford.

Damien: We’d only been in the band for nine months when we did the first album. We hadn’t lived together or anything like that before. We did the bulk of the touring after that as well so the time we had together before was nothing. We barely knew each other in someways.

Gabriel: I think because we were afforded more physical time in each other’s presence than we would ever have had, our relationships have been put forward so much. Much further down the line after these two years then we might have been in say, five.

James: Throughout this time writing, everyone has had something to confront within themselves, which the album has helped us to grow and is what it’s about. In normal circumstances, you can’t let everything be there onto the fucking floor from your personal life, but because we were with each other so much and had been through so much, it allowed space for that in Wexford. 

Diarmuid: We also discovered a massive love for smoked salmon, haha.

James: Or, seeing how many eggs you can eat that day. When you’re living in a house together, there’s a lot of everyone coming downstairs slowly and joining the table one by one. 2 hours after you’ve said you’ll start, everyone knows that we should probably be in there writing, but then you could always be sure that there’s going to be a story from Gabriel’s school years to be told. 

Gabriel: Haha, I bring it back there every time man, it’s a way of comfort like.

You mentioned that you each had something to confront within yourselves in that time, being with each other so much must have felt like the strongest support network? 

Gabriel: Definitely. It’s about trying to be there as much as you can for each other, and we do come to each other all the time with stuff. There are five people sitting in that room; somebody must be going through something at some stage. Once you talk to one of us about it, it’s already made things easier. Being heard is one of the most important things as well as an element of taking responsibility in your own well-being. Oh, and exercise is pretty good too.

Diarmuid: Getting around people’s emotions at certain times can sometimes be hard to accept. It’s never nice to watch somebody going through a bad time, you know? You want to be there with them, feeling those emotions, so you can really bring it together. 

Pump: Relationships are just about figuring out how you approach those emotions, you learn things and it’s not always the same approach every time. That’s just part of our growth. But when you look at something like stress, most of the time if one of us is going through it then all five of us are going through it — that’s a nice thing to have. 

How do you keep yourselves sane when on tour and by being with each other all the time?

James: I don’t think I’ve toured in a sane state yet. Well, I do remember a couple of tours towards the end of ‘When I Have Fears’ where there was some semblance of sanity. I think the last tour we did, I did the whole thing sober, so it was a very different experience from the chaos of the early tours. I don’t know if there are any pro tips, but I just know that you got to try avoiding eating anything from a fucking garage if you can. 

Diarmuid: I was just in Berlin last week, and my friend is just about to go on a seven-week tour in his new band (Somebody’s Child). And he was just like, “seven weeks, what do you do? Do you have any advice then?” I could tell you not to drink because that would help. But it’s also your first time up on the road like you’re going to want to do that. There’s no point in putting an old head on young shoulders in that sense.

James: It’s not like you have to piss on the Travel Lodge floor to know what it’s all about, you know?

Diarmuid: You have to go out and see what happens because you don’t know what it’s going to be like or what problems you’re going to run into.

Apart from pissing on the Travel Lodge floor, what would be some of your biggest dreams to achieve?

James: Headline the Pyramid stage, or do a From The Basement session.

Gabriel: Just to be able to keep doing it. There are so many things that we’ve been able to achieve together that I’m blown away by. I just don’t want it to ever stop. 

Diarmuid: I want to scroll through Wikipedia and see a nice list of things on there. 

Pump: You know what I love? Those gigs on YouTube that everyone seems to go back to all the time. I watched the Black Sabbath one in Paris in the ‘70s recently and it’s just unbelievable. It would be great to have one of those, you know?

Damien: When I was a teenager it was the Chilli Peppers, live at Slane Castle, or Radiohead’s Live From A Tent In Dublin.

James: Also, Nick Cave in Copenhagen, incredible. We’ve already achieved so much that we never thought was fucking possible. We’re not disillusioned in any way, like I think we have a pretty humble view of where we’re at. It’s now that we’ve done so much already, these goals can be outrageous, because why not? Making that conscious connection with the fans though, that’s what’s really special. We started this thing called The Capital Letters. It’s an opportunity for us to long-form answer some of our fan’s questions. Just getting more and more people involved in our world and getting to know them more, that’s something that really excites us now. With the first record being so intense, the things people were asking were too much to handle at the time. Whereas now, things feel more open and free, I feel like we can be open and free now too. 

That sounds like it would make a great book! It’s your Café de la Danse show that always mesmerises me, so which of your shows would be that iconic show for you?

Damien: Maybe that Netherlands show at the Lowlands festival. That was special.

Gabriel: When we played Paradiso, that was pretty cinematic.

Pump: I guess it’s not really for us to decide though. You could have a shocker, and people would say it was grand.

Gabriel: Each one of our shows feels so different, and that’s all down to the people that are viewing it. I remember we played in this tent in France this summer, and that was crazy.

You do a lot of festival shows, if you could put together your own festival, what would the main stage lineup look like for a day?

Diarmuid: I think the revival artist has to be Dido.

(Everyone cheers)

Diarmuid: If you’re putting together a festival for everyone, she’s the one like. We’ll also put Kean Kavanagh on, seeing as I can hear him in the background.

James: I’m going to have to say Kendrick Lamar. His shows at the moment are just fucking insane.

Gabriel: Me and Pump really want to go to a COBRAH show, so I think this might be a good way to see them as I don’t think they come over too much.

Damien: We’ll get John Cale in as the Legacy act.

James: His new record is actually coming out the same day as ours, so we currently have beef with John Cale.

Lastly then, how do you plan to celebrate? 

James: I don’t know. Hopefully, they get us a fucking cake this time. All I want is an album-themed cake. Maybe we’ll have a party with some friends and family.

Gabriel: A cake would be lovely man. The last time we were driving in the van, we timed it perfectly so that we listened to it one last time before it became the rest of the worlds. Maybe that might be a nice thing to do again.

Thank you, The Murder Capital, for everything.

Follow The Murder Capital On Instagram

Pre-Save ‘Gigi’s Recovery’

Photographer: James Kelly, Marcus Prouse Jr

Words: Will Macnab