This Friday, July 29th, gothic Western outfit Murder by Death will be releasing their ninth studio LP, Spell/Bound, which frontman Adam Turla tells me he is exceptionally excited about, during a recent phone chat: “I am really proud of this one.” Like most albums being released these days, Turla tells me that the process was a little different this time around: “We gave ourselves more time to work on it than usual… During the pandemic, I told the band and management I’m not gonna stress about writing. It just doesn’t feel like the right time.”
May of 2021 saw Turla begin putting together Murder by Death’s latest album, which he has said he continues to think of as a series of novels, each one expanding upon both their sonic aesthetic and thematic narratives. This one actually saw the band taking inspiration from artists like Massive Attack and Portishead, in addition to film soundtracks like Blade Runner, Labyrinth, and Dario Argento’s Goblin-scored works. The band has released two singles from the album, “Everything Must Rest” and “Never Be.” And while the two tracks do have a certain atmospheric ring to them, similar to some of cinema’s most impressive sounds, it’s the group’s still-gritty Americana performances that are at the core of their beauty.
Spell/Bound also sees the Indiana-based band boasting a slightly new lineup, one which Turla is quite happy about: “Working with this group of people is the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve had.” “This is the first album we were writing with Emma Tiemann on violin,” he explains, who he tells me first appeared on their Christmas album, 2020’s Lonesome Holiday, before becoming an official member. However, he tells me she has actually been in their lives for quite some time: “She started as a fan of the band. She was in a band that opened for us in Springfield, Missouri years ago, and we got to know her, and at one point she said, ‘If you ever need someone to sell merch, I’d love to come out,’ so we had her out for a few shows and then she said, ‘If you ever need someone to play violin, I’d love to,’ but we weren’t looking for a new member at that point.” However, he says that she wound up making the perfect addition: “It was such a natural fit, because she knows the band so well.”
In addition to the release of Spell/Bound, this weekend will also see Murder by Death kicking off more than a month of US dates, including an August 18th stop at Union Transfer (where they played just last November). And although it’s been less than a year since the band has played the Eraserhood mega-venue, Turla says that it will likely be a little bit longer before the next time fans will get to see the band, so they should make it a point to come out and hear the new songs.
“We’re trying to limit the amount of touring we’re doing to one tour a year. The goal now is to just try to get through this tour, as there’s a lot of sickness going around with the pandemic… These songs are pretty epic! We’re really excited to play these songs for the first time… I think it’s gonna be a great tour.”
However, for longtime fans with their own favorite selections from the Murder by Death catalogue, Turla tells me there will certainly be something for them as well: “We’ll be debuting a bunch of new songs, but we also do a career thing at all our shows and acknowledge all of our albums. We’ll see what people want to hear.” He also tells me that he always seems to make good memories in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, saying, “The last few times it’s been really good,” before going on to reminisce about the North Star Bar, playing First Unitarian Church with Melt Banana, and their show at the Trocadero back when the Phillies were in the World Series. But while he still thinks fondly of those years, most of which are many moons ago, he tells me that the band’s touring routine has certainly come a long way since then.
“We’ve done this so long. You go through phases. When we first started, we just wanted to see everything: the Grand Canyon, Redwoods, and all that. We used to go on tour and just play shows when we get them, but it’s more organized now. I always go rock climbing whenever I have free time. We used to party really hard in our twenties, but now we want to focus on the show being really good.”
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