Murder By Death Interview with Adam Turla
Bottom Lounge – Chicago, IL
Looking at their cover art and hearing their name you wouldn’t put Murder By Death in the Indie Rock category, but this four-piece from Bloomington, Indiana breaks that mold. They incorporate a mixture of different sounds including the accordion, cello, and trumpet to create this interesting Johnny Cash meets a toned down Misfits sound. In keeping with their unconventional sound, Murder By Death also draws from a different pool for their inspiration as well, referencing the Old West, zombies, and the Devil. I got the chance to chat with lead singer Adam Turla before their show at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago on August 3rd. Speaking with Adam was more like having an in depth conversation with a friend rather than interviewing a stranger about their band. It made for a really great discussion.
I first asked Adam about the origin of their name. Honestly when I heard the name, Murder By Death, my mind went straight to a hardcore band, but the music I heard was the complete opposite. His answer surprised me a little. “We had never heard of hardcore…” Was Adams first response. Growing up in Bloomington, Indiana, they did not get much exposure to the hardcore scene until they started touring on the east coast. “Now we just kind of laugh at it,” Adam said with a big smile on his face. He also talked about the band’s shared love of a murder mystery spoof by the name of Murder By Death, which is ultimately why they settled on the name.
We then started talking about the interesting way in which the band has built some of their albums. It started with their second album Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them?. When I asked why he chose to do things differently rather than follow the regular formula Adam responded, “We are not a pop band…” and talked about how he realized his songs shared a common thread. That’s when he decided to, “make stories,” rather than lists of songs. “Every story has a beginning, middle, and end and so do albums,” he said explaining when he first noticed the themes in his writing. I commented on how this seems to almost make the albums mean more by making them this way and Adam agreed, “It means a lot to us.”
I then asked about their recently released album Good Morning, Magpie and how this album was put together a little differently than the rest. Starting with the writing process. Adam talked about how he ventured out into the Smokey Mountains and camped, “I was alone for two weeks,” he said. All he did was write and camp, with no human contact. “I love to camp,” Adam chuckled in response to my facial expression when he mentioned camping. He also talked about how it was easier for him to clear his head and write out there with very few distractions. I then asked about how it was for him to adjust, referencing the movie Into the Wild. “It was easy to adjust…I went to a bar with Sarah and some friends and, it was nice to be back,” he said with a laugh.
From albums and writing I moved onto touring. I wanted to know about their current tour with mewithoutYou, their upcoming headlining tour, and their recent European tour. When asked about their current dates Adam said, “We’ve been friends with mewithoutYou for a while…” It made sense for them to tour together, but this would only be for 7 dates before they headline their own tour. He talked about how the band was excited to be headlining and looking forward to just playing more shows. Then the mood shifted a little when I brought up their previous tour and the “Paris incident.” Their van brokedown outside of Pairs and they couldn’t get another one for around 7 hours. “We’ve never missed a show in 10 years,” Adam said with a sad look on his face. I could tell the disappointment in voice when he was talking about the situation.
Moving on to a happier subject I asked Adam about something I read on their website calling to their fans to book them anywhere they could overseas. He corrected me, rightfully so, by saying “It’s more like a call to promoters to book us shows rather than our fans…It’s expensive for just us to go out there with no crew…and plane tickets alone are a lot…” So I asked where were some of the craziest places they’ve played so far and his response did not disappoint, “We played the Virgin Islands for 4 days…Greece…we’re looking into the Yukon for future shows.” Astonished with those locations I then asked where they would like to play, but have not yet and his list included Alaska and Asia.
I then decided to get to know Adam, himself, a little more. I asked him what it is like to hear that people compare him Johnny Cash. He said that the first time he heard it he thought it was funny, but now he hears it a lot. “It’s a compliment…He’s an American Icon with a cool voice,” he said. On the other side he doesn’t want to be put in a box. So many people are comparing his voice to Johnny Cash and he said, “You want people to like you for you.” He talked about wanting people to recognize his voice as his own, and not just that guy who sings like Johnny Cash. All in all he talked about it being a pretty cool thing to be compared to someone like that.
My other personal question for Adam was about his musical guilty pleasures, and yet again his initial response threw me off guard. “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures,” he said, “I’m over the idea…” After he saw the look of complete and utter confusion and astonishment on my face he explained, “I like everything…I have no restrictions.” He went on to talk about how if you like something you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. That being said he did mention a couple of bands including Iron Maiden because of their ridiculous lyrics and guitar solos and Air Supply because when he first listened to them he, “started laughing and then ended up loving it!” We shared a pretty good laugh after that and I reminisced about some pretty awful bands that I love.
As our time drew to a close I had one final question for Adam, what’s in store for Murder By Death? And he responded excitedly with, “Touring!” Adam talked about the band’s love of the road. “We’re a blue collar band…we’re always working,” he said, “some bands tour for three months and make enough to cover [everything].” There was an interesting excitement in his voice when talking about this aspect of the band. They plan to be on tour until next summer. After touring Adam said they will probably take some time off and then get back to writing again. “We love what we do,” he said.
You can find Good Morning, Magpie and all of Murder By Death’s previous albums on iTunes, Amazon.com, and most other retailers. Also check out their website, www.murderbydeath.com for recent news, upcoming shows, and merchandise.