Interview with Sean Murphy of Endwell

Photo: William Corujo

Although they’ve had their share of impediments in the past, Endwell have carried on with an endless amount of determination. Stylistically, the band has changed a lot since their debut album ‘Homeland Insecurity.’ Comprised of vocalist Sean Murphy, lead guitarist Daniel Pupplo, guitarist Matthew Rogers, drummer Mike Sciulara, and bassist Pieter VanDenBerg, the Queens-based act now sit comfortably with a slightly darker, more straightforward hardcore sound. With their third full-length ‘Punishment’ ready for release, Endwell are elated to reveal what they’ve spent the past year working on.

Rock Edition spoke with vocalist Sean Murphy about Endwell’s new sound, record, and touring plans. Check out what Sean had to say below.

What different elements did the band bring to the new record?

To begin, we had always written in between tours and just when we had time off. We never really allotted ourselves a good portion of a few months to do it. This time, we actually cut all of our touring plans for most of the year and we spent four to five months working on the songs. That was good. We definitely gave ourselves time and didn’t feel rushed. With the last album, we kind of wanted to put out a big “fuck you” to the music industry. All the songs were super fast and it didn’t really stray from that. It was straight-ahead. This time, we didn’t really give ourselves any boundaries or guidelines; we just wanted to write some music. We started adding more elements of death metal and black metal into it, I guess. We sped some of the stuff up in a different way overall. The songs are faster, but not in the same way as on ‘Consequences.’ The new album is also a lot darker and includes moody stuff and eerie parts. We’re basically the same band, but we actually had considered changing our name.

Oh, really?

Yeah, because at first we thought the stuff we were writing was the farthest from ‘Consequences.’ So we thought maybe that was a good idea, but then as the album became full, it was definitely sounding like an Endwell album. We decided to just show a progression with Endwell. That’s part of our whole thing. Everything we put out — from the first EP to the first full-length to the next EP — always changes, and we try to progress. It’s not even that we try; the stuff we listen to and the things we are influenced by are constantly changing, growing.

Speaking of influences, I know that you’re a big electronic fan.

Yeah. I’d say this album, more so than any, would have that kind of feel to it. It’s not blatant. There’s not even one keyboard on the record. The electronic stuff I listen to is mostly darker stuff — I wouldn’t say evil, but eerier sounding parts. A couple of those progressions would probably make somebody uncomfortable or a little sad.

I imagine you trying to pick up a girl and going, “Yeah, I listen to really uncomfortable music.” [laughs]

[laughs] It sounds weird, but I really enjoy music that puts me in a weird headspace. I feel like it’s harder to do that than just write a little jingle and make someone feel uplifted and happy. Also, I feel like it’s more of an impact if someone starts feeling a little down and starts questioning themselves or parts of their life because of a song or a progression.

Right on. Back to the new album, I believe you guys started writing it back in March 2010, right?

Yeah, actually, that was exactly it. We got back from Europe in the beginning of March and got into a studio that we’ve jammed in for years. We’d go there literally every day and come up with new stuff.

Did you find making the record a very trying process?

Well, of course, there’s always different anxieties going into it. Once you put stuff out, you know people are going to be listening to it and you know they’re going to make an assumption and form an opinion. But, it really wasn’t difficult at all. We started with myself and my guitarist Danny. We’d go into the studio, hang out, drink and smoke a little bit, get a little inspiration and then we’d just start jamming. He’d come up with riffs and I would play some very mediocre drums — enough to get the point across. We were doing that for a couple of weeks and then all the other guys started coming down and throwing in their ideas. Everyone would kind of play off of each other. And it actually really did come together smooth. I’ll be honest, there were times when everyone was getting stressed out and not getting along. I thought that we might not be able to even finish this album, let alone put it out. Now, looking back on the past year of getting it all together, it’s a big weight off our shoulders and I’m just really happy and really proud. Thinking about this album not coming out was not a happy thought. We all realize that it was just a lot of our own heads getting in the way.

It must be really nice to look back on that and not have to worry.

Absolutely. It makes it all the more worth it.

You mentioned the word “anxiety” which made me think about a song called “Anxiety Bath” from the new record. Did you come up with the title?

Photo: William Corujo

Yeah, I came up with that. It’s pretty self-explanatory. It kind of evolved from the period when we started writing the album and all of us had picked up jobs, which we hadn’t had in years. Sometimes it gets a little bit too much. After our last European tour, we came home and I had no job. I knew we were going to be home for months, so I had to go out and find a job as quickly as possible. Those stretches of regular daily life, coupled with trying to create something that’s very important to us, stirred everything up in me. Your mind starts over-thinking.

Another cool song title is “High Friends in Low Places.”

Yeah, I’ve always kind of written towards people — whether it was a girl, or a friend, or a person — and this time I wanted to step out of that. I wanted to take a step back and just write about a different subject matter. It all ended up going down the same path, though. When I started writing that song, it was about a girl who I had a relationship with, which crumbled because of drugs and a whole bunch of other bullshit. Then, it kind of started taking shape towards another person, so I just stepped out of it and it became a story that took a few different angles. The name can be taken literally, as in a high friend, or someone who just thinks they’re in a good place in life but really isn’t happy with themselves.

It’s interesting how songs can start one way, but then morph into something completely different.

Yeah, I don’t think I consciously did that. With this record, all of the songs started from a personal point of view. I have trouble writing complete fiction. But, yeah, as a song takes shape maybe I don’t have anything more to say, so it’ll take shape towards another thing and I’ll run with it. I definitely wanted to expand the subject matter because I felt like in the past I had only been going down one road. I guess a lot of them do slither around and go from one thing and form into the next.

It’s interesting. Something might be affecting you and it’ll manifest itself in the same feelings or same ways. So, from the beginning, you might be writing about two different things and you don’t even realize it until you’re halfway through. I think it’s cool. When I listen to music, a good amount of what I listen to are the lyrics and whether I can relate to them or not.

I didn’t pay much attention to lyrics when I was younger. I had a lot of catching up to do.

[laughs] Well, a lot of the electronic stuff I listen to is instrumental. There’s also music that has completely nonsensical lyrics and themes that I don’t agree with that I have no choice but to like.

You guys have an upcoming North American tour with Shai Hulud. You’ve toured with them at least once before.

We’ve actually done two tours with them in the past. We did a little mid-West and Southern run with them in 2009 and then they brought us over to Europe last year. We’re completely stoked. We haven’t done Canada in like three years, so that alone is great. The guys are amazing. We all grew up listening to Shai Hulud and enamored by them and inspired by them. And actually, my and Danny’s first band ever back in ’99 and ’00 had opened up for Shai Hulud at this little venue called Voodoo Lounge. It’s cool that 11 years later we’re going on tour with them. They are also a big inspiration on us for perseverance. They have had some ups and downs. They put out three records in almost thirteen years and they’ve dealt with everything. They were a humongous band — people would get tattoos of their lyrics all over — then they had a drop in popularity, but they kept going and picked themselves back up. They’re a band that I don’t think many bands can touch: musically and the spirit behind them and drive that they have to keep going.

Cool. Should be a great tour.

Yeah, definitely. It’s a lot of fun and always a good learning experience. I get valuable insight from [Shai Hulud guitarist and founding member] Matt Fox on the road.

Will you be bringing out some new songs from ‘Punishment’ on tour?

Yes, we are playing at least four [new] songs. We might throw a fifth in depending on the set. We’ve been playing a few of them live for a couple of months now and they’ve been going over amazingly — better than the songs from the last album that people already know. It’s a good sign so far. We’re just really stoked about playing them; we wrote all the songs to be played live.

How’s your relationship with Mediaskare Records? This will be your second studio album with them.

Yeah, absolutely. We started going with Mediaskare a little over three years ago. I had known [Mediaskare founder] Baron [Bodnar] through the As Blood Runs Black guys, and when we were recording out in California five years ago I had met him at the studio. He was working on some mixes for his band at the time. We had a good relationship right off the bat. When we put out ‘Consequences’ and our EP, Mediaskare was actually going through Century Media — it was awesome, I was a huge fan of Century Media growing up — but now Mediaskare is on its own again and we’ve got Sony Red distribution, a new publicist working with us, and different press angles we’re trying to work. We have more of a grasp, and Baron and Mediaskare have more of a grasp on what we’re trying to do. We’re devising a game plan that I think is going to bring greater things than we’ve gotten in the past. I think everybody is more on the same page now. I’m definitely looking forward to the future.

Pick up Endwell’s new album Punishment.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Myspace page.