On the surface, Murder By Death is a Louisville, KY/Bloomington, IN quintet with a wry, ominous name. But behind the geography and moniker is a band of meticulous and literary songwriters matched by a specific brand of brooding, anthem-riding balladry and orchestral indie rock.
Murder By Death's path began in the early 2000s as most Midwestern college-town groups do, by playing to small crowds at ratty venues and frenzied house parties. While many of their formative-year scene-mates failed to make it much further than campustown's borders, Murder By Death translated their anonymous beginnings into a 10+ year career founded on a bedrock of five full-length albums, tireless D.I.Y. touring and performing ethics, and, most importantly, a dedicated, cult-like fanbase.
Since the band began in 2001, their audience has blossomed due in part to extended tours alongside similarly hardworking musical kin such as Against Me!, The Gaslight Anthem, Lucero, The Devil Makes Three, William Elliott Whitmore, Ha Ha Tonka, and others. Throughout relentless touring across the United States, Canada and Europe, Murder By Death has gained word-of-mouth devotees and support from the likes of media outlets like SPIN Magazine, who said of the band:
'They brawl like Johnny Cash's cellmates or dreamily swoon like Nick [Cave], stomping saloon floorboards in 4/4 time as grand strings fade into high noon.'
What resonates most with supporters is the band's energetic, unique, and altogether consistent sound and conceptualized vision. The personnel and ingredients of the group consist of Sarah Balliet's throaty cello melodies, singer/guitarist Adam Turla's booming baritone vocals and brawny guitar strumming, drummer Dagan Thogerson and bassist Tyler Morse's locked-down, post-punk rhythm section interplay, and David Fountain's multi-instrumentalist bag of tricks (including piano, trumpet, accordion, mandolin, vocals, percussion). The overriding sound is an amalgamation of textures ranging from dark and desolate to upbeat and brightly melodic, all of it landing somewhere under the orchestrated indie rock umbrella.
The other mainstay signature element of Murder By Death's identity has been built by the overriding concepts behind each individual album. Every successive effort conjures up fresh imaginative and tactile worlds - whether it's the battle between the Devil and a small Western town (Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them?, 2003), an arid land of death and redemption (In Bocca al Lupo, 2006), or just songs inspired by a retreat into the Tennessee mountains (Good Morning, Magpie, 2010).
The band has also taken their evocative sound to other evocative spaces, being the first group in recent history to play shows at the Historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO (the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining), which has culminated into an annual residency of sold-out performances after five years. While that event takes fans to over 7500 feet above sea level, a new experience planned for summer of 2018 will take fans 333 feet below the surface of Earth, in the middle-of-nowhere Tennessee, where MBD will play two shows in a cave in the Cumberland Caverns.
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