Murder By Death

True Endeavors presents - Late Show

Murder By Death

Mutts, The Sharrows

Friday, January 18th 2013

9:30 pm

This event is 18 and over

UW Students pay $10 at the door with Student ID

Murder By Death
Murder By Death
They may call Bloomington, Indiana, home, but since their 2000 formation, Murder by Death have been a band without musical borders. Theirs is a world where Old West murder ballads mingle with rock-injected Western classicism; where an album's sequencing can take listeners from a haunted back alley in rural Mexico to a raucous Irish pub. All of which is to say, Murder by Death albums don't just str
ing together songs; they create experiences. With their fifth album (and second for Vagrant), Good Morning, Magpie (04/06/10), Murder by Death continue the tradition of border expansion that drove career standouts like 2006's In Bocca al Lupo and 2008's Red of Tooth and Claw. The difference, however, is that this time, the band literally went off the map to get there.

"Going into the woods helped me write in a way I never would've been able to otherwise," says singer/guitarist Adam Turla, recalling the 2009 retreat into the Tennessee mountains during which, armed with little more than a tent, a fishing pole and a notebook, he wrote the 11 songs that would become Good Morning, Magpie. "There were days where I'd sit down and write for seven hours, make dinner, and then sit down and write late into the night with my little camp light going: just intense, nonstop sessions of pure writing. I've never worked that way, ever, because with all the business of being a band, I've never had so little to do! Every day I was either cooking, hiking while writing, or writing. I didn't speak to a single person the whole time."

Be that as it may, Good Morning, Magpie still speaks volumes. Recorded at Bloomington's Farm Fresh Studios with Jake Belser (who most recently worked with MBD on their all-instrumental soundtrack to Jeff Vandermeer's 2009 book Finch), and mixed by Grammy-winning Red of Tooth and Claw producer Trina Shoemaker, the album weaves 11 disparate stories into a whole that's unlike anything else in the band's catalog. "These songs definitely come together as an album; we just aren't relying on a concept this time," says Turla, referencing the conceptual storylines that drove Murder by Death's last two albums as well as 2002's Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them? "Being out in the woods with no pressure freed me up to explore different moods and different stories, all of which became linked through the experience I had writing them: just that sheer sprint of working in isolation."

With its junk-pile percussion and ramshackle Vaudevillian flow, "You Don't Miss Twice" is the only song on Good Morning, Magpie that directly references Turla's time in the woods—but the song's spirit informs much of what surrounds it. "I was telling a friend how I thought this was our most upbeat record, and his reply was, 'Seriously?'" Turla recalls, laughing. "But 'upbeat' doesn't necessarily mean 'happy.' Take a song like 'Yes'—it's got this fun, shuffling beat and this amazingly catchy melody from Sarah [Balliet, cello], but the lyrics are all about accepting death. Or 'Whiskey in the World,' which is basically a sad bastard's lament about how the whiskey that makes this character enjoy life is also what condemns him. That duality between the music and the lyrics is something we haven't done much until now."

Even though it was written in isolation, Good Morning, Magpie came together over six weeks of rehearsals back in Bloomington—ultimately marking the first time the band recorded a full-length at home. "We ultimately just decided to record in Bloomington because we had a friend here [Belser] with his own studio, and he'd already done a great job with the Finch soundtrack and our B-sides and 7-inches; and we also lucked out and had Trina [Shoemaker] basically making herself available to help us mix whenever we were finished. So then we started thinking, "Man, we have all this time to ourselves; we should just bring in our friends—musicians from Bloomington and Louisville, Kentucky, which is about 75 miles away—and just play parts here and there. It was great—the album ended up with a lot of different instrumentation, and we paid everyone in whiskey."

In keeping with Murder by Death tradition, whiskey also plays muse to a handful of Good Morning, Magpie's songs—including the Balliet-penned opener, "Kentucky Bourbon," which sounds like a Bulleit jingle spun through an old Victrola. But as the album progresses, the songs wind through other locales and moods: from eerie Southern-gothic territory (the creeping, uneasy "White Noise") to an old Spanish cabaret ("On the Dark Streets Below") to the high-noon drama of the title track—itself inspired equally by Welsh legend (the title references a tale of the magpie as Satan's messenger) and the American West. No mere genre exercise, Good Morning, Magpie feels like a travelogue from a band that's logged the miles to write from experience.

"Travel is a big part of this band's reason for being," says Turla, noting that the past few years have seen Murder by Death's passports stamped in Alaska, Greece, Norway and the Italian island of Sardinia, among other far-flung locales. They have challenged their fans to book them all over the world - in as many unique places as possible. "I personally love the sense of variety you get from traveling, and I'm sure that idea influenced the way I approached a lot of these songs. Trying to use different styles and throw in different influences—whether it's the way you turn a phrase or play a certain note—you can suggest different places," he concludes. "That's the fun of fiction; that's the fun of movies, and music can have that effect, too. It's all about being able to transport people to another place."
Mutts co-founder Mike Maimone was raised in rural Ohio on Church, football and classical piano. After failing to make the football team at Notre Dame, he joined his first band. Like many alter boys/athletes/classical musicians, Maimone found freedom like never before in rock music. But his rebellious urges were tempered by conservative Catholic expectations. Upon graduating in 2004, Maimone went to work at a Big 4 accounting firm, and all was right with his family.

When Mike quit this job in 2005 to play music full-time, the reception was mixed. Four turbulent years later the keyboardist met Bob Buckstaff when both were hired to tour in Company of Thieves on Wind-Up Records. They instantly clicked over records by Tom Waits, Elliott Smith and Nirvana. And their first gig together – an appearance on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly – finally helped Maimone convince his family that music might be a viable option for him.

As session players, the pair quietly endured many injustices to the ways of their favorite artists. It seemed that the headlining bands who augmented their sound with backing tracks and auto-tune were rewarded more than honest ones.

One June evening in Jacksonville, FL while escaping headliners The Plain White T’s in a nearby bar, Buckstaff and Maimone planned to make an honest, spontaneous recording together the next time they were home. They booked 3 days that July in a dark, humid, dirty warehouse on the North side of Chicago – recently outfitted with a 1960’s 7-track tape machine (one channel was broken). Jon Alvin engineered, Chris Faller drummed, and the trio recorded live to tape. It was such a catharsis that they repeated the process twice more between 2009 and 2010. Giving the results of these whirlwind sessions away for free, Mutts quickly attracted an audience for their unique sound.

The band’s reputation for rambunctious live performances grew, and they soon headlined renowned venues such as The Empty Bottle, Subterranean and Double Door. Loud Loop Press called them “poised to become one of Chicago’s top acts.” However, its former-athlete-and-recovered-auditor frontman still had something to personally own up to.

Many Mutts songs condemn the duplicity of corporate greed, divisive politics, fear mongering media and closeted public figures who supress the LGBT community. But Maimone felt hypocritical in his socially conscious songwriting, having recently come out to himself and his band mates. So with Buckstaff’s encouragement, he started opening up to his friends and family – news that was also met with mixed reception. But, the songwriter was finally able to write and speak openly about an important part of his life.

Mutts released their first full length album – Pray for Rain – in December 2011. It charted on CMJ in its first week and made many year-end “best” lists. An amalgam of rock, metal, soul and blues music, this album reminds us that we are all Mutts. By making truthful art, we can encourage people to live honest lives and celebrate the diversity among us and within us.

With six consecutive weeks on the CMJ Top 200 and named The Deli’s Chicago Band of 2011, Mutts are not stopping to rest. Along with new drummer Chris Pagnani, they have begun tracking a double LP for Summer and Winter releases, and are currently touring throughout the Midwest and East Coast.
The Sharrows
The Sharrows
The time has come to suit up for liberty and ride. With words like steel-tipped whips, into the soul of America we go, where rage and nights that flame with fire prevail. Your feet may be cold, your heart’s been sold, but don’t let it stay; there’s nothing worse than too late.
Venue Information:
High Noon Saloon
701A E. Washington Ave
Madison, WI, 53703