The Road To Recovery: The Murder Capital Interviewed

"If there was anything that we had to face personally or also as a band, it all came out..."

“There were a couple of nine millimeters to the head during the process” is how lead singer James McGovern describes the making of The Murder Capital’s sophomore album ‘Gigi’s Recovery’. Of course, no one was harmed in the studio, a space which saw the five piece rock band escape their post-punk past. “We see ourselves as more of a rock band. It seems more fitting to the music that we’re making and it’s a broader stroke that isn’t so tied to something,” is how the frontman describes the change that occurred between album one and two. Speaking in the run up to the LP’s release, we discuss the reflective nature of the record, working with producer John Congleton, and the collaborative process behind the album artwork.

Evolution was the name of the game for The Murder Capital who spent the best part of two years putting together their second release. Caught up in the global disruption to musicians everywhere, pandemic lockdowns saw the first seedlings of Album No. 2 appear. “‘Gigi’s Recovery’ itself was an inward-looking journey. Over the two year writing period, we were a year and a half in isolated parts of Ireland and a lot of that was lockdown. If there was anything that we had to face personally or also as a band, it all came out onto the table.” 

Bookended with tracks ‘Exist’ and ‘Existence’, all parts of the human condition are touched on and making the connections both within the tracks themselves and throughout the album more broadly was an important ambition for songwriter James McGovern. “I had a crime scene of lyrics, torn lyric sheets from my journal put up on my wall, fucking sitting and staring at them like a crazy person for months,” he says. “Trying to figure out where the narrative lay, how I could find the story in each individual snapshot. We put a lot of work into that and into the tracklisting, making it a narrative where you can follow it, going from ‘Existence’ to ‘Exist’, you can clearly feel the beginning and the outcome. Everything is there for a reason.”

Initially all the time for reflection brought about a record that The Murder Capital’s management described as setting “a new standard for depression” but it wasn’t the band’s goal to make it into the new edition of the dictionary of medical terms just yet. “In reality, we had to go further,” the frontman insists. Then, we did another six months in London after that and that’s when the pulse, the impetus came into it. “The evolution was a self-set challenge. What John [Congleton, producer of the record] brought out of us in the studio was he showed us how to really trust each other which is something we had been working on throughout that time was to stop fighting each other and trust each other when it comes to the creative process.”

The Road To Recovery: The Murder Capital Interviewed

Adding The Murder Capital to his already deeply impressive roster of artists, John Congleton allowed there to be a space to take risks. “It was a joy to work with him and the way that he mixed this record was so exciting for us. Everything’s really out there. Nothing is as you would expect it to be and it’s always pushing for that. I think that’s how you make something exciting. He told us that from the outset. It was a very pleasurable but painful experience because it was very much asking him ‘holy shit, are you sure that’s the way you want to do that John?’”

The short answer was yes and what was produced is a powerful album, intricately layered with melodies and even opera samples that have you gripped from start to finish. ‘Gigi’s Recovery’ is more controlled and refined than its predecessor without sacrificing the intensity from their debut ‘When I Have Fears’. ”The whole process demanded depth. The beginning of the writing process, we were all pulling completely different ways but we knew we wanted to change. It was hugely built on creating new atmospheres and all we spoke about was texture and colour. New instrumentation, new pedals, new song mixing, everything was layers. That was the main focus.”

Working with artist Peter Doyle was on the cards before the first note had been recorded for album number two. “We approached him at some point in 2020. We were in P Mac’s in town and we had written out this little letter and slid it across the table. It said something to the effect of ‘we want you to paint our album cover and the singles too’. This is before the music was even made. We knew we wanted to do it with him. We sent him some music along the way. He started to get some ideas together and effectively, he was sending us some pencil sketches and one of them was the figure turned away. That felt like it encapsulated the introspection of the record.” 

“We’re so proud of it and so happy to have made it with such a great friend,” the singer adds. “It makes it feel all the more real for us. It’s a bit of a tactic from us because we say ‘well I love you so you go off now’.”

Taking to the road once more, they will be kicking off their tour with some intimate shows which will see James McGovern take to the stage in a different way. “Doing acoustic shows isn’t something that we approach on the first record so it’s been really enjoyable to see and feel the songs at their core and play them in that way. The connections in those rooms are different. There’s more room for … a bit of stand up comedy, you know, it’s a different space,” he jokes. If you’re lucky to find yourself at one of their smaller shows, however, you may see him do a tight 15 minute routine if things go awry with the amps…

Getting back in touch with the physicality of the music is the part that James McGovern is most looking forward this tour cycle. ”I’m looking forward to getting out and shaking hands, meeting fans again, playing the shows and all the things that service the time of writing and going away, living that very isolated life worthwhile,” he says but most of all, “I’m beyond excited to get out and give everyone a good wink.”

‘Gigi’s Recovery’ will be released on January 20th.

Words: Sophia McDonald
Photo Credit: James Kelly

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