Milloux Suicide Interviews Matt Armstrong of Murder By Death
Jul 2012 13

Milloux Suicide Interviews Matt Armstrong of Murder By Death

Posted In Blog,Entertainment,Interviews,Music

by Milloux Suicide


[Above: "White Noise" from the album Good Morning, Magpie]

I was lucky enough to stumble across the music of Bloomington, Indiana’s Murder By Death almost 10 years ago and since then they’ve grown to be my absolute favorite band of all time. I’ve logged countless hours falling into their heavily visual and moody music. With every album comes new concepts and sounds. Spanning genres from post rock to alternative Americana with strong elements of story, Murder By Death possesses the ability to attract listeners from all ends of the musical spectrum.

After five full length albums, many EPs and splits, and even a soundtrack to sci-fi novel Finch by Jeff Vandermeer, Murder By Death has announced the release of Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon on September 25th via Bloodshot Records. Recorded and mixed by Grammy-nominated producer John Congleton (Explosions In The Sky, Modest Mouse, Amanda Palmer), this album is much-anticipated, and follows their 2010 release, Good Morning, Magpie.

The band are also one of the hardest working bands I’ve ever known. Logging over 1,200 shows in their touring career worldwide, and countless hours traveling, it’s never short of enthralling to see them play live. This summer, they are back on the road, playing not only songs from the new album, but celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their very first album, Like The Exorcist But More Breakdancing, which was released in the summer of 2002.

During their summer tour last year, I spoke with bassist Matt Armstrong about iabout doing an nterview for the site once they announce the new album. Matt has been a member of Suicide Girls since 2007, so he was excited to speak with me.

Milloux Suicide: How does it feel to finally be back home?

Matt Armstrong: It’s nice to be home, but I’ve got the itch to be back on the road!

MS: You guys are on the road almost 11 months a year.

MA: Not so much any more, but there was definitely a time when we were gone more than we were at home in a year.

MS: So this new tour starts this July and you’re covering mostly the Midwest and East Coast?

MA: Yep, it starts the 12th. We’ll be hitting most of the country covering wherever we can make a trip to.

MS: You seem to spend most of your time touring the Midwest. Is this because the outcome at shows is better because the band is from Indiana? Where in the country do you get the most people to come out to your shows?

MA: Well I think probably we do well here because in the beginning we couldn’t get too far away for touring, especially to the coasts. The nearby cities is where we had our start. It’s hard to say exactly but New York, Chicago and LA are where we have our best shows.

MS: I really want to see you guys in Chicago. I bet the shows are crazy there! You tend to have New Year and End Of Tour shows there and I’ve always been dying to be at one of those shows. Are there bigger, better shows in Chicago than in LA?

MA: I’d say they’re just different. Chicago is actually really scary place when you start going there because there’s always a bunch of cool stuff going on that is probably a lot cooler than seeing your stupid band. I remember the first time we pulled into Chicago we were like “Fuck yeah! We’re gonna do this” and it’s been great ever since, but a little daunting at first. It’s like playing a show in Austin where it’s like “Oh really? You’re in a band? So is everyone else.” But when they catch on and they like you, they don’t hold back.

MS: So I heard about the fiasco when it came to booking your first tour in Australia. What happened with that exactly?

MA: Basically the promoter had everything set up and was ready to go and the guy who was suppose to pay for everything just disappeared and apparently it’s not the first time he’s done that. And so we couldn’t really afford to fly everyone and all of our gear down there on our own dime, so we had to cancel.

MS: He just disappeared off the face of the earth?

MA: Yeah, he just went off the grid. We feel really bad because we had it scheduled for February, and then had to push it back because of festival season. We wanted to push it back when there’s less going on so our shows would be better, but that sucked because people bought plane tickets from other places to come see the show and all that. We told everyone, we are really sorry but we’re coming, but then this happened. Now I feel like next time we say we’re coming to Australia everyone will be like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” To any Australian people reading this, we’re really sorry and we totally want to come!

MS: Wow that really sucks, but hey, what doesn’t suck is the band signing to Bloodshot Records. Congrats! That’s really awesome. What attracted the band to Bloodshot? Seems like a really great fit.

MA: Well that has a lot to do with it. Seemed like a good fit and we have some friends, like Ha Ha Tonka, who’s going on tour with us, on Bloodshot. I think we’ve even talked to them before about signing with them, and it just seemed like a good time!

MS: Is that how it usually works with setting up tours? Do you link up based off of being friends? I’ve been seeing you guys for almost 8 years and you’re always with different types of bands – the line up is always so eclectic.

MA: Sometimes it’s like that, other times it’s based off of how good a fit it is. If it’s our tour we definitely don’t bring along bands that we don’t like. We bring bands that we like and that we think you will like as well. It’s one of the best feelings ever to be headlining a tour and you walk around during opening bands and see people getting into it. It’s like “Good! We’ve done our job!” We’re really lucky that people trust us to put together a good show.

MS: Yes! That’s always true. It’s always a great show, especially because the opening bands are often bands I’ve never heard before that are awesome and similar to you guys, but not quite the same.

MA: Yeah we like to believe that if you like us, there is something about the bands we’ve brought along that you’ll like as well. You don’t want to be the band that’s like Slayer that brings along opening bands nothing like Slayer that people have to suffer through.

MS: So what’s the line up for this summer tour?

MA: The line up is a little wacky and people are coming and going. Cory Chisel and The Traveling Sun are doing a lot of it, Ha Ha Tonka is doing a lot of it, and in a couple places there will be some local and regional bands.

MS: So the new album is coming out! Are you playing a lot of new songs on this tour?

MA: Yeah! We’ve played a lot of new songs live, and we’ll definitely be playing a lot on this tour. The album will be out soonish. More announcements pretty soon.

MS: What can you tell me about the new album? I hear there are a lot of similarities to Who Will Survive – would you say that’s true?

MA: I think a lot of our songs are reminiscent of that time, and I think that has a lot to do with our new guy, Scott. When we were doing Who Will Survive we had a full time keyboard player, and then we didn’t for a while and we were doing double duty. We weren’t able to write in the same way because we didn’t have a clone to play keyboards all the time. Now, with an extra set of hands on deck, we’ve been able to write like that again. Yeah, a lot of stuff will kinda remind you of that time. Then there’s some other stuff that will hopefully make you say “I don’t know where all that came from, but I’m into it.”

MS: I was going to ask you that; I was really curious if having Scott Brackett and his multi instrumental abilities has an affect on this album, and if he brought back some elements lost from not having a keyboardist.

MA: Yeah! There’s a lot we weren’t really able to do before and he’s able to play so many different instruments. But also working with John Congleton who did the record – it’s mixed really crazy and I’m really excited about it. When we were looking for producers he said, “I’m a big fan of the band but you’ve only been recorded as a rock band and I think there’s creepy, moody things that I’d like to play up.” We were like, “Damn, you’re the guy.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff. I did a lot of ambient noise loops and there’s a lot of weird textures that we had fun with.

MS: Lyrically, is there a story follows through like a concept album?

MA: It’s not a concept album like the few that we’ve done in the past. This is more a set of songs, but if you look at it as a whole there’s some phonetic stuff that happens. We are telling people that it is kind of David Lynch-y in a way. There are some songs that are very Midwestern, heartland feeling, but with all this creepy stuff happening under the surface. It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s sort of like moving to a place that seems like a nice place to live then finding out that everything is crazy bad.

MS: [Laughs] Sounds so awesome, like a horror movie. Is there any music you’ve been listening to lately that has affected the outcome of this album? Or is just the natural transition you’ve made as a band growing into something new?

MA: Well, part of what makes us, us is everybody’s into different music, so that’s kind of what’s been part of the deal, everyone has such different influences. By the time we get it together and agree on something…well, that’s what makes us sound the way we do. Every member brings something different to the table. I don’t know what everyone else has been listening to, but for me I’ve been on a big Grinder Man kick. You know Grinder Man, right?

MS: Yep! Nick Cave.

MA: All the crazy stuff Warren Ellis does, like loops and sounds and such. I’ve definitely latched on to and wanted to do more of and it finally happened. Let’s see what else…There’s been some ideas from tones and sounds. There’s a lot of dirty bass, you know, kind of grind-y.

MS: I love the dirty bass. The dirty bass is pretty much what caught my ear about Murder By Death so long ago. Speaking of which, how’s your crazy pedal set up coming along? Is it still an ever-expanding pedal board?

MA: Well, it’s weird, I’m kind of set right now because I put everything on a bypass switcher and it’s a pain in the ass to put anything on or take anything off. It’s helped clean up my tone a lot, but I’m kind of stuck. If I want to add anything on, I’ll have to build another board.

MS: How much time would you say you’ve put into that board? It’s pretty elaborate!

MA: It is pretty elaborate. I rewired it when I was done in the studio. I’ve probably spent 6 or 7 hours doing it, making cables and stuff whenever I didn’t have anything to do that day. It’s been great. It should have been something I did years ago. But I can tell you, if I go any bigger it’s going to pose a problem.

MS: On another note, I wanted to point out how awesome the Murder By Death merch is. From shot glasses to butt-flap pajamas, that I wear every so often on the town.

MA: [Laughs] Yep! That’s a hot item.

MS: Is there anything else you want to let readers know?

MA: You should all come out to our shows. It’s going to be fun! We are working on some actual stage pieces on this tour, so there will be some scenery.

MS: Can you give more details about that?

MA: We’re going to try to make it look like we’re in a weird watch.

MS: Woah! Is there a set design team working on this or is the bands idea that you’re building?

MA: It’s an idea that we are still working on building.

MS: That’s incredible. Well, I’ll definitely be going, of course, I always do. And I’ll bring all my friends.

MA: Yes! Bring an army of hot people.

MS: My group of friends have all been converted to the biggest Murder By Death fans aside from myself, so my entire posse of MDB fans will be there to cheer you on and dance the night away.

MA: We haven’t done an LA show in a really long time so it will be fun to get back over there.

MS: I cannot wait to see you guys. Round of drinks on me for my favorite band!

MA: Yes. Deal!

For more information on tour dates, updates, and cool merch go to their website murderbydeath.com

1 comments
roobar
roobar

MS: Milloux, thanks for the link and introducing me to some new music. Liked the interview; gave a good feel of what the bands about. MA: As an aussie down under, no worries, come on down, we'll give you a hard time, buy you a beer! Course if u bring MS with you, you're all gold!