Murder By Death

mbdMurder By Death (hence MBD) is a band from Bloomington, Indiana, see website. The band name refers to the 1976 film “Murder By Death” by Robert Moore. Initially their name was “Little Joe Gould”. They changed their name to MBD because they thought that it better represented their sound. Murder By Death was formed in 2000 by Adam Turla (lead vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar and keyboards), Matt Armstrong (bass), Sara Balliet (cello and later keyboards), Vincent Edwards (keyboards) and Alex Schrodt (drums and percussion). Vincent Edwards left the band in 2004. Dagan Thogerson replaced Alex Schrodt in 2007 and Scott Brackett (keyboards, accordion, cornet, theremin, mandolin, backing vocals) joined the band in 2011. The founding members all went to the same college in Indiana and met at parties where they found out they were all musicians and also shared an interest in creating music. They began to play at small venues and parties. However, they quickly outgrew this format and began to tour extensively. They made 13 tours before they played in a place with 500 people. They worked persistently and purposefully to create a strong fan base. They are today, by “gothic country” standards, a very successful band. An important part in this development has been a close interaction with their audience and a lot of “do-it-yourself” activities, including crowdfunding of one of their albums (for example MBD would perform in your living room or basement for $4 000). In fact, the album became highly overfunded. The members didn’t have any jobs before they started MBD as full-time thing. It’s very rare in the genre. You don’t become a millionaire in the "gothic country" industry (very far from), so it’s nice to realize that they actually can live on their music (however, not really as millionaires). In an interview for Hybrid Magazine Adam Turley explains: “I've learned that when you're in a band, it is a business. Even if you don't want it to be. It has to be. You have to pay your taxes. So at least you can learn something along the way. Maybe when you're not in a band, years later, you can apply it to something else.”  My amateur assessment approximately 5000 km away is that the band will be able to keep going for another couple of years, before the members will have to pick up some other line of work (bank, insurance company or something even worse).

By some purists (that is, other than myself) MBD is labeled “indie rock”. Well, this label on the band is a matter of dispute. There’s perhaps more of rock than country in the music. But on the other hand, MBD would be just another ordinary indie band, if it weren’t for their weird, brooding and gothic sound. These properties qualify them for my prestigious article series. And someone has to patrol along the disputed and unsettled borders of gothic country and mainstream indie rock. MBD has been labeled "gothic country", “southern gothic”, “American gothic”, “dark whiskey devil music”, “true-grit Americana” and “western gothic”. The last epithet is very accurate, since MBD (from Indiana in the Midwest) seems to be obsessed with western stories and themes. According to their current record company Bloodshot Records biography of the band their trademark themes are “lust, betrayal, and classical archetypes of good and evil. Their songs have been called the sonic equivalent of ‘No Country For Old Men’.”

  mbd logo

 

Their production is by no means an overproduction. Only six full-length albums in fourteen years, but on the other hand the band tour relentlessly. Between the tours MBD works on new material. Their slow production rate may also be determined by their “market strategies” (no valuation in this). MBD works both thematically (first albums) and non-thematically (later albums). The songwriting process normally begins with Adam Turla writing the melodies and lyrics. The music to the songs is then added by the whole band. The songs are then bent and shaped back and forth into the right mood and sound. Adam Turla has a deep beautiful baritone voice, which fits perfect to their dark lyrics.

Murder By Death has released seven studio albums. The first three albums are regarded as concept albums. The album covers are also very stylish. Their first album “Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing” was released in 2002 on Eyeball Records. The album is full of film references and inspirations from independent movies to dance recitals to BMX videos. The suggested compilation below starts with "Those Who Left" (an eight-minute instrumental song) often played live in total darkness. The song is often followed by "Those Who Stayed", a shorter instrumental from the same album. They are usually performed during encores and are called "The Two Evils" or "Medley of Evil" (in my opinion, this is somewhat pretentious). Their second album “Who Will Survive And What Will Be Left Of Them?” was released in 2003. The theme is a story in which the Devil wages war against a small village in Mexico. The album cover was designed by Vincent Edwards (text art by Drew James). Their third album “In Bocca Al Lupo” was released in 2006 and was inspired by Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. The album is their darkest (and best) album. The album cover was designed by Mike Pappa. Their fourth album Red Of Tooth and Claw” was released in 2008 and is the most rock-oriented (and weakest) album. The album cover was designed by Ben Bussell. Their fifth album “Good Morning Magpie” released in 2010 meant a shift to a more restrained sound. The album cover was designed by Catya Murray. Their sixth album “Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon” was released in 2012. The album cover was designed by Celeste Byers. On this album MBD continues in this new restrained direction. Personally, I think the new direction is the right direction for the band. But then, I prefer country music before rock music. Their sixth album “Big Dark Love” was released in 2015. Murder by Death has always gone from strength to strength. Until this album with a total length of 32.37 minutes was released. However, the title track “Big Dark Love” gives some consolidation.  

 

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Below is a suggestion for a CD compilation.

 

No

Song 

Album

1

Those Who Stayed

Like the Exorcist But More Breakdancing

2

Those Who Left

Like the Exorcist But More Breakdancing

3

Until Morale Improves, The Beatings Will Continue

Who Will Survive And What Will Be Left Of Them?

Three Men Hanging

Who Will Survive And What Will Be Left Of Them?

Intermission

Who Will Survive And What Will Be Left of Them?

6

A Masters In Reverse Psychology

Who Will Survive And What Will Be Left of Them?

Dynamite Mine

In Bocca Al Lupo

Organ Grinder

In Bocca Al Lupo

Sometimes The Line Walks You

In Bocca Al Lupo

10

The Big Sleep

In Bocca Al Lupo

11

Shiola

In Bocca Al Lupo

12

Steam Rising

In Bocca Al Lupo

13

The Devil Drives

In Bocca Al Lupo

14

Theme (for Ennio Morricone)

Red Of Tooth And Claw

15

On The Dark Streets Below

Good Morning Magpie

16

Piece By Piece

Good Morning Magpie

17

Good Morning Magpie

Good Morning Magpie

18

No Oath, No Spell

Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

19

The Curse Of Elkhart

Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

20

Go To The Light

Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

21

Oh, To Be An Animal

Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon


 

Best album: In Bocca AL Lupo

Best songs: Until Morale Improves The Beatings Will Continue, Shiola, Steam Rising, Good Morning Magpie, No Oath No Spell, Go To The Light

 

 

 



 

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