Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bubbling Underground: Murdocks

Indies and The Underground managed to catch up with Murdocks frontman Franklin Morris, currently busy promoting the band's latest release Distortionist, to talk about musical influences, live shows, songwriting, religion and taking over the world.

How did you come up with the name Murdocks and how did the band get its start?

One of my biggest regrets surrounding the name of this band is that there is no good explanation for it.  When we were brainstorming names, this seemed to be the one that everyone hated the least, so it stuck.  Isn't democracy grand?!

What were your musical influences growing up?

I imagine that would be different for each of us.  The first band I ever loved was REM.  I went out and bought all of their tapes (to show my age) and played them until they warped.  When the 90's rolled around, I got hooked on Nirvana and, by way of them, punk. [Bands like] old 80's American Stuff like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Misfits, and so on.

Did anything outside of music (films, poetry, art etc.) have a big impact on the band?
Not so much on the band itself, but I became really into the films of Ingmar Bergman while I was writing Distortionist.

I read his book, The Magic Lantern, and his concept of what art is, and where music and film fits into the spectrum of the arts, really stuck with me. I also found his pseudo-existentialism really appealing, and a lot of that trickled into the songs on this album.

What was the band’s very first show like?

I got so drunk I had to sit down on the side of the stage.  It was at a country bar here in Austin, and they kicked us out after 4 songs because we wouldn't turn down.  We actually played there again recently (it is more of a rock club now).

What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened during a performance, either onstage or in the audience?
A super-fan once gave birth in the bathroom at a Murdocks show.  Actually I just made that up.  Most of our good tour stories revolve around seedy motels and run-ins with various small-town texas Cops.  I am saving all of those for my memoirs, however.

In what ways is Distortionist different than your debut SurrenderEnder?

I think the songwriting is a lot more mature. That doesn't mean wussy, this is both the heaviest and poppiest album we have released.  Surrenderender is much more of a garagey punk album--the sound wasn't necessarily as focused, whereas on Distortionist it is.  Lyrical content is pretty different as well.  Surrendrender was a really personal story-album in many ways.  Distortionist has some of that, but for the most part it deals in shades of moods and emotions, rather than well defined narratives.

A few songs off Distortionist, such as “Die Together,” and “Lords,” contain religious imagery, as well as the video for “Black Jesus Knocking.” What impact has religion had on the band both as individual members and as a whole?

Zero.  I am pretty sure we are all hell-bound non-believers, though religion isn't anything we discuss.  I grew up with non-religious parents, who threw me into a Catholic high school.  Needless to say, it was quite a shock, and I don't think my view of religion ever quite recovered.

The religious imagery, or anti-religious, is a combination of already deep-seated distaste for religion combined with the pile of books I had been reading by [Richard] Dawkins, [Christopher] Hitchens, [Sam] Harris and so on, combined with the atmosphere at the time the album was written. Most of these songs were written during the Bush administration.

The band’s sound is harsh and gritty, but is also very melodic and has mainstream appeal. Why have you chosen to shun major label offers?

We have been on "dates" with pretty much all the majors and they all fell apart for various reasons.  Several times, they shunned us.  The one you are thinking of wanted to put us with a ghost writer to write our songs for us; get to the chorus faster and all that nonsense.

This was before Surrenderender came out, and we were young and figured we would have offers like that a lot in the future.  While those offers have dried up, it hasn't really effected our ability to make music.  I think we would be in much worse shape today if we had taken the offer.

What plans does the band have coming up in the immediate future?
Take over the WORLD!  Play shows, write more.  I really want to start recording more impromptu one-camera-in-the-room type YouTube videos, as those are always fun and seem to go over well with fans.

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