Adam Turla of Murder By Death On Logging More Than 1 Million Miles on the Road to Success

March 31, 2015

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

2009 Ford 15 passenger econoline with 8×14′ trailer. 160k miles. It’s called the Porkchop Express 5, but because it’s silver we also call it Vanderson Cooper. We usually buy our vans at 50k miles then drive em into the ground at 250k. We are on our 5th van so have logged over 1 million miles in the USA and Canada alone. Ouch.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

No fast food unless its the only option. Diners for breakfast with the whole band and crew. For dinner i like Thai, Korean, Japanese while on tour. Or anything spicy.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

I probably break a dozen strings a year. And i never change my strings unless i have to because I hate doing it, and I don’t think the difference in the sound is that dramatic anyway for what it’s worth.

Where do you rehearse?

Wherever we can! It used to be an old meat packing plant that was NASTY. Then it was my old basement which was pretty great. One year it was the attic of a barn. Now it’s a shared space in Kentucky.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

Whew. No idea. I’m sure it was terrible and teenagery.

Describe your first gig.

First gig was a coffeehouse when i was 15. First MBD gig was in the basement of our college dorm in Bloomington, Indiana. We blew out the power.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

I do a lot of odds and ends to make a bit of extra scratch. I also business manage the band and do our mailorder with my friend J. Before the band I had done construction, telemarketing, and stock at a pharmacy.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

The last five years have been great. Our fans really stepped up and supported us in a way that made continuing to do this much easier. I have no idea what to expect in the future, i just hope we can continue to create and make music that interests us and others!

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

It’s a loooooooooooooong road. Most bands hit their stride after 8-10 years of busting their butts, unless they’re a pop band that captures the moment right at the right time. We are the former, and that’s fine, but I’m glad folks told us to hang in there and follow the signs and try and be realistic about what to expect with the possibilities for our group.

On the surface, Murder By Death is a Bloomington, IN quintet with a wry, ominous name. But behind the geography and moniker is a band of meticulous and literary songwriters matched by a specific brand of brooding, anthem-riding balladry and orchestral indie rock.

Murder By Death’s path began in the early 2000s as most Midwestern college-town groups do, by playing to small crowds at ratty venues and frenzied house parties. While many of their formative-year scene-mates failed to make it much further than campustown’s borders, Murder By Death translated their anonymous beginnings into a 10+ year career founded on a bedrock of five full-length albums, tireless D.I.Y. touring and performing ethics, and, most importantly, a dedicated, cult-like fanbase.

What resonates most with supporters is the band’s energetic, unique, and altogether consistent sound and conceptualized vision. The personnel and ingredients of the group consist of Sarah Balliet’s throaty cello melodies, singer/guitarist Adam Turla’s booming baritone vocals and brawny guitar strumming, drummer Dagan Thogerson and bassist Matt Armstrong’s locked-down, post-punk rhythm section interplay, and Scott Brackett’s (formerly of Okkervil River and Shearwater) multi-instrumentalist bag of tricks (including piano, trumpet, accordion, mandolin, vocals, percussion). The overriding sound is an amalgamation of textures ranging from dark and desolate to upbeat and brightly melodic, all of it landing somewhere under the orchestrated indie rock umbrella.

Murder By Death’s latest album Big Dark Love was released earlier this year.  You can find them online and on the road.