The Murder Capital, the latest essential punk outfit hailing from Dublin, released their debut album When I Have Fears a couple of months ago. I sat down with guitarist Cathal Roper in the smoking area of a pub where they were preparing for a gig and we chatted about how life in a breaking-out rock band is treating him. We go over some of the darker themes of the album, and how the music maintains a sense of romance in spite of its murkier corners.
The new album When I Have Fears released in August. How has it been touring for that album so far?
Amazing. It’s nice to hear people singing back the songs, it just kind of feels really good. Before, the only people who were really singing back had come to a few shows. It’s just really nice to have a nice response back.
There are a lot of heavy themes on this album so playing it every night might wear away at that a bit. How do you manage to keep the songs engaging for you and the audience?
We change up the set a lot. I think now we’ve got like three setlists that we know are like absolute bangers. I think it’ll get to a point where we’ll also be basing it off the crowd like, ‘where should we go next?’ and ‘what song into the next one?’ We’ve tried so many different ways of compiling it and experimenting with that and sometimes when you come off after a really good set it just makes it so interesting, it just reopens the songs again.
The album title is from a Keats poem called When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be. Is that poem important to you or to any of the bandmates?
I suppose it’s particularly important to James [McGovern, frontman]. It’s important to all of us, that’s why we picked it. It’s particularly important to James because his friend Paul Curran, who was in Burnt Out, showed him it and it’s what the song, On Twisted Ground, is about, so its relevant in that way to the band. I also think that poem represents ambition and existentialism and I think a lot of people creatively feel that, now, if you really want to do something you have to put your whole being towards it otherwise it just doesn’t happen.
So do you think it’s important to be conscious of how things could go? Is that a motivating factor?
Yeah. Its worked out that when we really did put ourselves through just constantly working, constantly writing and writing and writing, when we were doing that before everything had blown up – just being in the rehearsal room six days a week – it paid off really quickly. I was in bands before and usually the regular thing is you do like two maybe one rehearsal a week. But when you really devote all your life to it and kind of get rid of your social life it pays off quick.
You guys get lumped in with a lot of the post-punk revival bands that there are at the moment, but I think the unique thing about The Murder Capital is that there is a kind of healing quality to the music. Do you think it’s important to have a positive message and to inspire hope in spite of some of the darker themes of the album?
Yeah, I think that’s kind of what we go for. Maybe James will look at it differently but sometimes I feel when you talk about those issues or sing about those issues there’s a certain optimism that will always come out of that. You’re kind of acknowledging that we’re all going through it like its a universal thing and it brings people together.
Do you think that there is a need for angry, angsty punk music to speak to some people, some young men?
Yeah, it’s clicking at the moment isn’t it, because you have IDLES and stuff like that. The fact that that stuff is blowing up in its own little circle [shows] that it is needed, it’s there, people are connecting with it. We have songs like More Is Less that really get people going. We like to dance as well.
The album has a grittiness to it, do you think that was inspired by where you guys wrote the album [Dublin]?
Yeah, well wrote it in a room with no windows in the middle of an industrial estate, and it was very very cold. Then you walk out and you see a car parts thing and a Russian wrestling training camp thing, and if you look above all the building you just see cranes. It’s that part of Dublin where the Celtic Tiger left its mark.
There’s a lot of romance in this album. How do you guys find romance in some of the darker themes of the album?
I think it’s very common for humans to even romanticise depression, artists particularly. It gives birth to a lot of different things, it could be songs, it could be friendships, things that get you out of it or just a new lease of life. So romanticising that can be good and bad. I think it’s understandable when it is bad.
Well some of the songs do dwell in the darker areas, like On Twisted Ground, which is a very tragic song. But a lot of the songs bounce off the darker songs. Were you guys thinking about the track listing in [this] way?
Constantly thinking about it. When we drew our first track listing for the craic we all had a few drinks and we were like, ‘alright let’s f***ing do this; everyone get a piece of paper and write your own [track listing] and we’ll compare them’.
Whose was the closest to what it ended up being?
I want to know myself to be honest. There were certain things that everyone did, and that was nice, that was kind of pointing us in the [right] direction. But the track listing wasn’t picked until mid March, maybe late March even, and we still hadn’t recorded all of it then. It was constantly being shifted and moved and then someone three days later would get out of bed and be like, ‘Oh my God, it should be this!’ or whatever.
How long did you guys spend writing the album?
I think relatively short compared to other people’s debuts.
You guys only finalised who was in the band a year or two ago right?
Last year. We met our manager and everything last year and Gabriel [Paschal Blake, bass] and D [Diarmud Brennan, drums] joined the band in August. When they joined we only had two songs: For Everything and More is Less. We had loads of other songs but none of them lived through all the touring, you know what I mean? It was funny ‘cos we had that offer for a video, that SOMA thing, and we had a big argument for what it would be. I’m glad we picked More is Less.
Finally, I wanted to ask about the artwork. Is there any story behind that?
Yeah, that’s refugees in Jordan. Its a real photo, I don’t know how he got the picture to be honest with you. They’re refugees protecting themselves in a sandstorm. We thought that it was – I guess it’s romanticising it – but beautiful because it’s obviously a really dangerous photo but they are together, they’re huddling.
It does kind of find the romance in tragedy again. The first time I looked at it I thought it was a couple.
That’s what we like about it, everyone doesn’t know what it is and its nice that it’s kind of blurred. It was blurred for us and we looked at the photo and thought, ‘this is sick,’ and I think a week later we got the information on what is was about and it just opened it up a bit more for us it was like, ‘this is exactly what we need’.
Well thanks a lot for the interview and I look forward to seeing you tonight.
Written by Joe Melly.