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20th January 2023

In conversation with The Murder Capital: “The emotional potency is there, and if anything, it’s stronger now”

The Mancunion speaks to The Murder Capital about life on tour and their much anticipated second album, Gigi’s Recovery
In conversation with The Murder Capital: “The emotional potency is there, and if anything, it’s stronger now”
Photo: James Kelly @ Prescription PR

The Murder Capital are back. Following on from a lockdown of writing and recording, and a series of sporadic live shows, the Irish five-piece are finally able to showcase their second album, Gigi’s Recovery, to the world. Just before the months-long tour schedule commenced, I spoke to guitarist Cathal Roper about songwriting, life on the road, and Ethiopian jazz.

Cathal is speaking to me in the morning before rehearsals. Asking how he feels about the schedule, he answers “Completely buzzing. We’ll be doing the record stores for a solid week, and pushing the album as much as we can, and then we have four days off before tour starts in Antwerp”.

The Murder Capital have been a presence in the live music scene since before their first album, When I Have Fears. However, it has been almost three-and-a-half years between then and now. This is largely due to lockdowns, and the album not coming out until now. “We wanted to come back the whole time, but we were writing, and how many tunes do you give away before the album’s out? We were always gearing towards this release, we have the songs here and can’t wait to play them”.

The band’s live shows have garnered a huge reputation for their fearless intensity. “People really felt that they were taking something from it, and we felt the same in our songs”. Describing the new tour, Cathal tells me, “the emotional potency is there, and if anything, it’s stronger now. It’s songs that feel much bigger than us and expansive and dense. We were so inspired by textures and colour”. Citing Bjork’s Utopia as a key influence, The Murder Capital are geared up to present their world to essentially every major city across Western Europe and the US.

It’s about getting busier, that’s what this year is about

Another string to The Murder Capital’s bow is their strength in song-writing. Their songs span a range of subjects, all with poetic lyricism. The last cut before the release of Gigi’s Recovery is single ‘Return My Head’. “I had the synth patch for that song first. It has this random jumping in pitch that I set up. Something about that energy was erratic”.

When asking what the song means to him, Cathal’s interpretation was very literal. “Being okay with what you have, or learning to live with yourself, I kind of feel the song is overcoming that. Before you go into therapy you’re always told it’s how you deal with your stuff, and then that stuff doesn’t exist in your life anymore. I think it’s the opposite, and you just learn more about yourself […] the times that are most difficult is when you’re just not happy with yourself, and it’s learning to understand when these things come up and that they’re just patterns that have been built into you. You just learn to live with them and it gets easier. There’s triumph in that.”.

Looking back to the first album, When I Have Fears, I wanted to find out more about track ‘On Twisted Ground’, written after the suicide of a close friend. The song holds unparalleled power live, having seen it on the first album tour to a room of pin-drop silence.

“It’s funny, that song showed up […] the song was there but the structure and the arrangement of it wasn’t, we had a very post-rock version of it originally […] but for us it took away from the truth of it a little bit, we really felt like we had to make that our own”. After the producer sent all five members to different rooms to come up with different arrangements, there was a call to go back to basics. “I was just like, man, what’s going on here? Why don’t we just record Gabriel [Pascal Blake] (bass) and James [McGovern] (lead vocals) and start there and just build on that, and I think they did it in one take […] and from that point on, it was like, okay, that’s a brilliant fucking take and let’s just go with this and experiment on it. We were so much more able to serve the song.”.

The When I Have Fears tour was an incredible success, but was cut short by lockdown before The Murder Capital could showcase their work to the US crowd. “We went over to America, and we played Boston, and it was kind of developing the whole time. We landed in New York the next day, and Tara (tour manager) took us for lunch and she said ‘it’s getting a lot more serious, so we’re gonna pull the tour after the show and you’re gonna go home tomorrow’”.

Photo: Neighbourhood Festival Official Press

The show was sold out, and only half the people showed up. “It was the last night to go out in New York. We had a big night out and I remember at one point on Times Square the next day, it was empty […] you know the Naked Cowboy? He’s like one of those characters. Wearing a cowboy hat, and American underpants and goes around with an acoustic guitar singing country tunes. We met him. Times Square is empty and we’re here with a guy who looks like a cowboy stripper”. It’s clear that a Murder Capital US tour has been a long time coming, and they will finally return in March.

Roper is not only a musician with clear concentration and talent for his craft, he’s a deeply knowledgeable music fan. “I’m an album guy. I love albums. I don’t really like putting on songs – putting on singles – by myself it just feels a bit indecisive and I don’t know what to listen to […] lately, what’s been great is finding compilation records. I’ve been listening to this Ethiopian Jazz instrumental stuff […] Hailu Mergia, the song ‘Tezeta’ means nostalgia in Arabic, that tune is unbelievable; it’s hazy but it’s really warm.”.

He tells me it was part of a protest movement against censorship on Ethiopian radio, with the absence of lyrics meaning there was nothing regulators could do. “Apparently there’s 30 volumes. I’ve got to get to those at some point.”. On top of this, Mergia is a taxi man at Washington D.C. airport. “I could be romanticising it now but on his Wikipedia, it says that he’s commonly seen in a taxi with a weird shitty keyboard practicing”. Roper also cites Dear Nora and Turnstile as on his rotation at present.

The tour schedule is looking packed for The Murder Capital, but it’s a challenge that they’re relishing. ‘The tour is pretty well-structured […] it’s not a punishing one anyway. At the end of the day, it’s also work. It’s just about getting busier, that’s what this year is about.” With the bit between their teeth, The Murder Capital are definitely looking good for a 2023 to remember.


Gigi’s Recovery is out now on Human Season records.

The Murder Capital play Albert Hall on February 17. 

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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