Interview with Murder By Death: By Hook Or By Crook

You’ve brought up The Odyssey as a point of reference.

Well, as a point of inspiration, I should say.

I was just curious if you kept that idea strictly in mind.

What I liked was the idea of someone on a long journey that’s being prevented by the gods. That’s the major similarity. That’s just such an incredible story. In our version, the idea is that fate is playing against you and by the end the main character realizes that it’s not the Fates, it’s up to you. So it’s kind of a modern spin on a classic theme.

The main character is amoral, though.

It’s an anti-hero, yes. I wanted to do an anti-hero because it’s a different approach. It’s harder to write, because you just don’t know how you feel about this person—do you like them? I think it was kind of fun to step in and try and be someone who is on the edge of being a bad guy.

But in literal terms, for example, you brought up ‘A Second Opinion,’ was that a Telemachus reference, does he have a son, is there a Penelope in here?

The main thing I should say is that it doesn’t have to be as super-intense in regards to the whole story. I think the songs stand out and you can kind of get something from them without having to know the whole story. This album is definitely for people who like to dig deep. That song is about a god who’s been watching him, and there’s a line, ‘I’ve been watching you to see you break.’ He’s hoping that this main character will just give up and die.

There is a Penelope kind of character but she’s just as bad as him. She appears in ‘’52 Ford,’ which is kind of the crux of the album. He makes it home, his wife is pregnant with another man’s child, and he is going to kill her, he’s standing over the bed with a knife, and it sort of comes to a point where he’s gotten to where he’s been trying to go and he realizes that he doesn’t even want to be there.

That’s also foreshadowed in the first track.

Yeah, it’s like Penelope in Homer’s Odyssey, both her and Odysseus always try to do the right thing and I went more with like an Achilles main character, a guy who is extremely capable but pretty amoral.

How did the Ennio Morricone-inspired theme sort of come about?

I wanted a theme for the album, and we had talked about having it appear several times, but we thought it would be cooler if it was just an intermission, a pause. We wanted to do an instrumental track, and I’m just a big fan [of Morricone]. So I ended up writing the main riff, and the guys sort of humored me and worked on that one. And I just thought it would be really nice to have a classic, big Western theme going. It just gave it a nice breather for an album that’s hopefully pretty upbeat, especially for our albums.

Would you say it’s the main character’s theme or would you just say it’s the theme of the story? In terms of a cinema perspective.

I never really thought about it, about how it would play. I guess it would just maybe be the whole story. It’s an interesting thought, if I were to think of the story as panning out as a film, when would the music actually play? A lot of movies, when a certain person steps on screen, that’s the theme that would play.

But the more that I thought about it, I wrote the main riff for it and I wanted it to just be a riff that reoccurred in a song, and we released a digital EP, there’s a version that’s a few minutes longer. We actually have a third version that’s way more upbeat and less cinematic. We just wrote it a few times and had fun with it.

It seems that generally your music, particularly the second album, Who Will Survive, and this one, are both stories that play out fairly cinematically.

This one definitely shares a lot with Who Will Survive, it’s a similar mood. We wanted to take a break from the narrative with In Bocca, and try something with 12 different songs that stood out from each other musically while sharing similar themes, but this one was very fun to write and once we got rolling, the songs just came flying out.

So are you looking forward to headlining and playing these out then?

Yeah, very excited. Today I just locked in, we’re doing another four and a half weeks headlining out on the West Coast, and that’s just what we love to do. You can’t headline three, four times a year. You’ve got to support because it gets you in front of new people, but this headlining tour is something I’m really pumped about, especially because we were able to get in some of our favorite rooms. Doing The Bowery Ballroom on a Friday night is just amazing. We’ve never headlined at The Bowery, so it’s kind of a big deal for us. We’ve got some shows that I think are going to be pretty great.

Red Of Tooth And Claw is available now through Vagrant Records. Murder By Death will be playing The Bowery Ballroom on April 4. For more, visit