Take a mental Polaroid of Murder by Death; what will you see? Pretty-boy metal-heads with black-painted fingernails? Starving rockers with welts under their eyes? You just may be surprised by what develops: namely, three guys in button-up shirts and a girl armed with a cello. The Bloomington, Indiana, quartet composes emotionally heavy art rock gleaned from country-folk roots. Lead vocalist and guitarist Adam Turla talks songwriting technique, band health care and -- oh, yeah -- Great White.
Westword: Your songs tend to be very thematic. What's the inspiration?
Adam Turla: I don't usually like to write very personal stuff, because whenever I tried to be more personal, I always found that it seemed trite. I had trouble creating something that I thought was unique and powerful; instead, it was just incredibly common. It's funny, because sometimes the best songs are the simplest, with the most universal message. But for whatever reason, to me, being personal just wasn't the best way to do it. I just wanted to be more of a storyteller than someone who was pouring out his soul for you.
Our first record was very pieced-together, as we were trying to figure out what kind of band we wanted to be. The second one, we wanted to do something that was more uniform. We wanted to try to lock in a sound and, as an experiment, to do a whole concept piece. I've always said that I never want to do the same thing twice. It grew over time into this pattern of how I wanted to keep this narrative storytelling, but I wanted to present it in a different way each time.
Speaking of that first record, I actually saw you play a few years ago at Monkey Mania with Ten Grand.
Oh, yeah, the kids were packed in there. That was a cool night.
I remember when you guys lit the cymbals on fire. Do you still do that?
No, ever since Great White had that tragedy, where everyone died and all that. The clubs won't allow it anymore.
Did you hear that the tour manager just got sentenced to four years in prison?
It's sucks, because it was his job to make sure that everything was okay. But there are a lot of people, probably, who are looking right by it.
What about your band? Who's taking care of you?
For this tour, we will have a tour manager, a merch guy and a sound guy. We have a permanent tour manager, but he got another job for the summer. So we got some friends from home to come with us.
Is it nice to be able to afford to take your friends on the road?
Absolutely. And not just that, we have a lot of friends who are photographers or artists, who have done posters and shirts for us. It's really cool, because you're paying your friends for their skills. You're not dealing with strangers; you're dealing with people you know.
So it's like an extended Murder by Death family?
Yeah, it's like we have health care, even. We just got it. It's for the band and our permanent tour manager and merch guy -- the two who are always with us -- because we consider them equal members.
Who pays for the insurance?
The band pays for it. We sell CDs on the road, and we allot a certain amount to make sure that we're covered. Most of us couldn't afford health care, and we were just thinking, like, this stinks, you know? We just kind of went out on a limb and did it. We've only had it for about two months now, so we'll see if we can actually continue to do it.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.