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“Moonshine, and train songs, gunfights and gospel tunes”

By Gloria Song on June 24, 2015

Gloria Song has been performing for over a decade, most recently as a member in Scary Bear Soundtrack, who are performing alongside Murder Murder on June 25, 2015.

Hailing from Sudbury, Ontario, Murder Murder guarantees “all murder ballads, all the time.” They aren’t exaggerating: that’s exactly what their music is. Self-described as a “bloodgrass band” – that is, a combination of bluegrass, outlaw country, and exclusively murder ballads – Murder Murder serves up stories of homicide against a surprisingly upbeat toe-tapping soundtrack in a variety of contexts and locations, from a treacherous romance outside a dance hall in Cold Lake, Alberta to a gay love triangle on a naval ship off the coast of Saint John, New Brunswick.

I asked Jon Danyliw, who plays fiddle for Murder Murder, what made the band decide to specialize in writing murder ballads in the first place?

“There are few human acts as emotionally evocative as murder, especially when done in cold bold,” Danyliw commented in an email. “It’s hard to watch a film or read a book about violent crime and not feel strong emotions, be they revulsion, fear, or, sometimes, a little bit of sick pleasure. We believe that it all harkens back to Aristotle’s concept of Catharsis, the idea of a great purging of emotion through tragedy, of the human soul’s purification through the release of excessive emotions. Literary tragedies – or tragic songs, in this case – have the power, ultimately, to make human beings feel better.”

But how does the band get ideas for so many murder ballads? It seems there’s inspiration everywhere.  Danyliw described the creative process: “You might think that confining ourselves to a specific, albeit open-ended story trope could be creatively stifling, but we’ve found the opposite to be true. When you know that you have to write a song in which a murder of some sort occurs, it actually gets your mind working in a different, often productive way. Trying to sit down and write a song with no boundaries can be overwhelming – you sometimes find yourself lacking direction. Frankly, the news and media in general provide more than enough inspiration.”

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Murder Murder started a few years ago when Danyliw and Sam Cassio where playing various gigs in Sudbury. They began playing together and thought it would be funny and an interesting challenge to do an entire night of murder ballads.  “At that time, they were both very into classic bluegrass as well as the Nick Cave album Murder Ballads, so it made sense,” Danyliw explained. “After a few gigs like that, they were asked to play at a Valentines Day party as an ironic addition to the night’s entertainment. For that show, they assembled a few friends to back them up. The rest is history.”

Recently, Murder Murder has begun to enjoy the success and attention that such a unique band deserves, playing at festivals and showcases in Ontario and the East Coast. They were the Northern Ontario finalists in CBC Music’s Searchlight contest for Canada’s Best New Artist this year. They also seem to tour extensively, and founded the Facebook group Canadian Winter Touring Musicians where Canadian musicians share stories about tackling the Canadian roads for the sake of their profession.

The band is currently on tour promoting their new full length album From the Stillhouse, which features ten more original songs and a cover, all about murder. As evidenced by their Searchlight success, the band members of Murder Murder are remarkably personable and friendly folks for musicians that specialize in songs about death.  They also promise an exciting show at the Rainbow on Thursday with tunes to have your feet dancing all night. “Moonshine, and train songs, gunfights and gospel tunes,” said Geoff McCausland, fiddler for the band. “All six  of us will be present which means you will hear guitar, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, banjo, dobro, suitcase percussion set, and three different lead singers.”

Murder Murder will be performing along with Tribe Royal and Scary Bear Soundtrack at the Rainbow Bistro (75 Murray Street) on Thursday June 25. 9PM, $10.