Canadian bluegrass band Murder Murder has a very specific requirement for the songs – they all have to be based around murder.
“We only sing songs where someone gets murdered, or at least attempted,” said Geoff McCausland, the group’s fiddle player.
The inspiration behind this is to give the band a genre to play within and explore.
“As a songwriter it’s kind of conducive to productivity to set yourself parameters. We kind of just started experimenting with the genre. It’s an old traditional folk genre, for the record, murder ballads – very ancient actually,” said Jon Danyliw, who sings and plays guitar and mandolin. “At first, we were just following the troupes of the genre that most of the songs fall into and we found it really productive and then we kind of started trying to subvert the traditions of it, modernize it and make it a little more complicated and so we are still kind of in the middle of that endeavour right now.”
The group, which has been performing together for nearly three years, wanted to take the specific genre and use Canadian stories to be the basis of their songs.
“Part of the esthetic strategy of the band was always to filter the traditions and stories and mythology of bluegrass music and folk music, most of which is rooted to the southern states, and we wanted to take all of the that and filter it through the northern experience,” said McCausland. “Sometimes we talk about moonshine or we talk about kill country or whatever it is, but all of the stories take place specifically in Northern Ontario, with a couple of exceptions – always in Canada. It’s very important to us as songwriters to write about where we are from, even if the style of music is more American, the stories and ideas and the experiences are distinctly northern.”
McCausland and Danyliw said that Stompin’ Tom Connors was the motivation for this philosophy, as he never understood why so many Canadian musicians and artists created things inspired by American stories.
“He never understood why Canadian artists were writing about interstates and Nashville. He said, ‘you’re called Canadian, why aren’t your writing about Halifax?’,” said McCausland.
Fernie is the furthest stop in the band’s western part of the tour, which starts in their hometown of Sudbury, ON, and ventures through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. With six band members and a sound technician on the tour, the vehicle can get a bit tight at times, but Danyliw and McCausland said that’s part of the fun of it.
The tour is in support of their album From the Stillhouse, which was released in the early summer.
“We put out a record in June, and we haven’t taken it west yet. This will be the first time we bring the record out west of Sudbury,” said McCausland.
Murder Murder will be at the Royal on Nov. 21. Tickets are $5 and will sold at the door.