The Murder Capital Take New York City … Finally
The last time the Irish post-punk group the Murder Capital played New York City, it was March 12, 2020. A few days later, they had to fly home while they still could, as the world went into Covid lockdowns — so the city felt more like the Bleak Apple to them than a big one. “I remember just craziness,” guitarist Damien Tuit says now. “Disappointment.”
“We knew when we were coming over that the whole tour wasn’t gonna last,” frontman James McGovern remembers. “We had a pretty shocking meeting in a Brooklyn café, saying we’re gonna go home.”
Most of the band members had never visited New York before, even as tourists, so saying goodbye so hastily in 2020 left them feeling unsatisfied. When the quintet returned three years later, almost to the day, for a gig in support of their recent album Gigi’s Recovery at a different Brooklyn venue, they decided to make a day of it and get to know the city. “We were all very giddy over the three days we were there,” Tuit says a few days later. “It was the greatest day on earth.”
“It was great craic,” adds McGovern. “It’s definitely the most exciting city I’ve ever spent time in.”
This time, the band played at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and was able to enjoy both the city and the gig. At the time of their first tour, they’d released only one album, 2019’s When I Have Fears, and a handful of singles that showed the promise of a band that built songs with echoey guitars and dark, dramatic lyrics; they sounded a bit like the best parts of Joy Division, U2, and Interpol at once. This time, they also had Gigi’s Recovery, which features a wider sound palette, a little more restraint in the guitars, and more upbeat rhythms.
With a more diverse set list at the ready that represents a fuller portrait of themselves — and no apocalyptic threats of world meltdowns this time – they felt more prepared to visit New York this time. Rolling Stone followed the band to document their adventures along the way.
Rough Housing at Rough Trade
While spending time in Midtown Manhattan, the Murder Capital stopped by the indie record store Rough Trade and mugged for the camera in the shop’s photo booth. Then they thumbed through the LPs. Even though they didn’t buy anything (touring with vinyl can be difficult), they spotted a few of their favorite records. “I was gonna buy Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Methodrone record,” McGovern says. “And I saw The Velvet Underground & Nico. My suitcases are outrageously full, though. I’ll pick up something when we get to the West Coast, I’m sure.”
A few blocks from Rough Trade, the band passed St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Drummer Diarmuid Brennan (pictured) carefully looked both ways before crossing the street. “Our bassist, Gabriel, wanted to go in,” McGovern says. “He’s a spiritual and religious man, so I think he wanted to say a couple of prayers. But for me, the architecture was incredible. That was fucking beautiful.”
A Walk on the Mild Side
As the Murder Capital — from left: Diarmuid Brennan, Cathal Roper, Gabriel Paschal Blake, James McGovern, and Damien Tuit — made their way from St. Pat’s to Central Park, they walked through the overpriced shops and nondescript office buildings of Midtown. “It did feel like a passing-through area,” McGovern says. “Other than Central Park and seeing where John Lennon died, there wasn’t really any stimulus. Everywhere else we were hanging out, like Greenwich Village or some parts of Brooklyn, I felt like I could remain here for a couple days.”
But the city wasn’t totally lost on them. “I think for people who have never been there, you still have grown up with New York your whole life, just seeing it in movies or TV or YouTube, so you feel like you’ve seen all these places before,” Tuit says. “But to be there, like in person, is kind of surreal.”
A Slice of Life
“I think I had seven slices of pizza this time from seven different places,” Tuit says. His favorite: Rosa’s, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I don’t know if it’s the crispiness it gets from being recooked, but I love it.”
So what is pizza in Ireland like? “It’s different,” Tuit says. “It’s more like Neapolitan-inspired stuff. The crust can be a bit chewy five or 10 minutes after it’s been cooked. It gets chewier the longer it’s left.”
When the Murder Capital visited Central Park, they asked to see the Dakota, the apartment complex John Lennon was living in at the time of his death in 1980. “It was the day the music died,” Tuit says, adding that it was one of a few music-related spots he wanted to see alongside the Chelsea Hotel, the Village Vanguard, and Greenwich Village in general for its overall Dylanness. As for the Dakota, Tuit says, “It was kind of strange because there’s no plaque or anything. They have the [Strawberry Fields] area set up in the park itself. It’s kind of a nicer idea, so I didn’t feel too much when I was outside the building.”
The Murder Capital on the whole were impressed with New York City’s subway system. When Tuit’s MetroCard, which you swipe to get through the turnstile, failed to work, a stranger came up to him and gave him a free swipe. They also got to witness a “showtime” routine, where street performers do acrobatics in the train cars. “They’re wider than the Tube,” he says, using the British word for the subway, “so they don’t feel as stuffy, which is nice. And it felt faster. When you travel on them, it didn’t feel like such an ordeal.”
“I enjoyed the rats, I have to say,” McGovern joked. “After watching Ratatouille, I just think of them as little chefs and I enjoy them.”
‘Check, Check, Check’
The Murder Capital settled in easily at Music Hall of Williamsburg for their March 28 gig. Their soundman was especially pleased with the the venue’s analog desk and outboard gear. Each new venue has been exciting for the band because it feels like their first tour of the U.S., since “the other one got cut so soon,” as Tuit says.
Luck of the Irish
A few weeks after St. Patrick’s Day, the Murder Capital found some vestiges of Irish pride in a Williamsburg store called Junk. But McGovern says the most interesting things he found weren’t allowed to be photographed due to a less-than-friendly shop owner. “There was a glass case full of lots of different things, like used film rolls,” he says. “One said, ‘Palm Springs vacation, 1986’ but the case said, ‘None of this is for sale.’ So I said to the lady, ‘What’s the plan with that stuff? Why isn’t it for sale?’ And she said, ‘None of your fucking business.’ I felt it was a perfect New York moment. It was none of my fucking business, you know?”
A Literal Green Room
The Murder Capital’s bassist, Gabriel Paschal Blake, gets pumped up in Music Hall of Williamsburg’s green room. So how does the Murder Capital get ready for a gig? “Lots of deep sighs, gin shots, a couple of pushups and then a big huddle where we say, ‘Let’s just enjoy this one tonight, boys,'” Tuit jokes.
McGovern more seriously says he has to get in the right frame of mind for a concert. In some ways, he says, they felt deflated that day. “It took us until 8 p.m. to be like, ‘Fuck, this is the city where we want to play Madison Square Garden, so we’re gonna have to turn up tonight,'” he says. “Every show really does matter as much as the last.”
Three years after a weird concert just before New York’s pandemic lockdowns, the Murder Capital felt good to be back onstage again in Brooklyn. “It felt so gratifying to be back and actually doing the show properly,” Tuit says. “It never really felt like a given over the last three years. We were lucky the first time and very lucky the second time just to be able to do it. So we were basking in that and the gratitude of it.”
Embracing the Music
“When you’re writing the second record, it feels like you’re letting go of the first record,” McGovern says of the process of creating Gigi’s Recovery versus the band’s debut, When I Have Fears. “Whereas I actually feel much closer to the first record now. I feel like these songs really complement each other in a live show. Those records are stronger together.”
The Murder Capital found interesting ways to challenge themselves when writing Gigi’s Recovery. “We moved away from the devices we used on our first album,” Tuit says. “We didn’t use any distortion on the guitars for the first year of writing and were going with different instruments like samplers and synths. Like James says, now that we’ve put the second album out, it’s like you reclaim the first one. We’re enjoying playing all the songs.”
Mosh It Up
The energy of the audience at the Brooklyn gig meant a lot to the Murder Capital. “Every venue and the atmosphere of every night has been really different,” McGovern says.
“I feel like people over here move differently than they do at home,” Tuit says. “People would be doing crazy things in front of us sometimes.”
“Some of the mosh pits are strange to say the least,” McGovern says. “Mosh pits are kind of friendly here at times. And then they’ve got this falsified aggression. It’s like some kind of faux-masculine expression that seems bizarre. But New York was some of the most movement we had in a little mosh pit of these kids that were going for the whole thing. I thought it was solid.”
Diddy Accuses Spirits Company Diageo of Racial Discrimination in Lawsuit
- 'Illusion of Inclusion'