Q&A: Matt Armstrong of Murder by Death Talks Vinyl and The Power of Dark Imagery

Categories: Interviews
murderbydeath.jpg
This is Murder by Death. And that's Armstrong on the far left.
Murder By Death bassist Matt Armstrong is a Dallas native. So, really, he was just the natural choice to talk to us when we reached out and scheduled an interview with the band.

Speaking on the first day of Murder by Death's tour in support of its excellent new record, Good Morning Magpie--a tour that finds his band playing the area twice on Saturday alone--Armstrong spoke with us about how he found his way into an Indiana-based band and what he likes about vinyl.

If I understand correctly, you're from the Dallas area, right?
Yeah, I'm from Dallas originally.

How did you get to Bloomington, Indiana, from here?
Oh, that's where I went to college, actually. There at [Indiana] University.

So, once in Bloomington, you just fell in with the wrong crowd, I suppose?
Yeah, a bunch of us lived in the same dorm and went to the same parties and it all just eventually came to pass.

I'm a fan of vinyl LP's and 7 inch singles, so I appreciate it when a band makes it a point to release much of their work on vinyl.
Oh, you must love us, then!

What is it about vinyl records that you and the band enjoy so much?
Aesthetically, it's cool and it gives us a lot of options for different packaging. Also, we have a bunch of artsy friends, so it gives us a way to bring in other people to collaborate with on that kind of stuff. Also, people have quit buying CDs and have become really serious about vinyl, so it's another way for us to keep our heads above water. But, it's fun too.

Whether it's your band name, themes in your music or even the use of the magpie in the new album's title, your band seems to really enjoy dark and foreboding imagery.
That's funny, because we really aren't dark or foreboding people. I guess it's like when actors say that it's more fun to play the bad guy, you know? It's just more interesting and you can take that imagery in more directions than if you were always happy and only writing a bunch of love songs. We don't have a problem with that stuff. It just isn't our strong suit, particularly.

On the new album, there are multiple styles of music, yet the album still feels cohesive. What do you attribute that to?
We've heard that a lot, and I think it has more to do with how long we've been together. We're all very different people, so we bring our own ideas to the table and go from there.

Adam Turla, the lead singer, has recently talked about how he wrote the new album while he was out in the woods by himself. When he came back to the studio with the new songs, what was the creative process like from that point?
It does usually start out with his lyrics then, we flesh them out as a band, usually. We bounce ideas off of each other.

So, there is a democratic process in place within the band?
There's definitely a group dynamic, but we try not to get stuck where things are too automatic. We don't want to make the same record over and over, so we don't ask ourselves "How can we approach this from a different angle?"

On April 17th, Murder By Death and Ha Ha Tonka play at Good Records National Record Store Day celebration, as well as later that night, in Denton at Hailey's.
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