Interview with Steven McConnell of The Murder and The Harlot

Hey, Steven. Did you guys just get off tour?

Yeah, we just got off tour a week ago actually. We were out with our buddies from Pensacola, Florida called This Day Will Tell.

Sweet. Both bands are around the same style.

Yeah. I mean, they have a little bit more of a — I don’t want to say this name — an Underoath thing going on. It’s a lot of screaming and singing. They’re definitely an awesome band and awesome dudes. Hopefully they go far.

How long was the tour?

That tour was about two and a half weeks. It was a short Southeast thing.

Nice. I’m sure you were promoting your new album, ‘These Hands Wrote The Bastard In Me,’ while on the road.

Absolutely. That was basically the point of the tour.

Did you pull out some new songs for the crowds?

We had an entirely new set. We played a lot of songs off the new record and some jam interludes we do for fun. They keep people moving.

Sweet. This is a nice step for you guys, being that it’s your debut full-length.

Yeah. Brand new band, brand new sound. This is the first thing.

Did you have older material to use on the road as well?

I’m actually one of the newer members. I’ve only been with the band for about a year. Prior to me, they released two EPs with a completely different sound. It’s more experimental now. I don’t even know what to compare it to [chuckles]. There are so many subgenres: metal, death, grind, speed, pokemoncore.

[Laughs] Well, you guys are obviously more of a post-melodic metalcore and crossover thrash/hardcore experimental rock act. Maybe that made no sense.

[Laughs] Exactly. And they want to know what bands you sound like.

[Laughs] Yes, they all want to know because that’s the only way they can tell if they’re going to like your band without ever having to listen to them.

Isn’t the goal not to sound like any other bands? You don’t want to say that though. “Oh, well, we really like Glassjaw. So, I guess, we kinda sound like them.” At the end of the day, you don’t sound anything like them though.

Totally. Going back a bit, when you joined the band, did you have to learn all the older material?

Originally that was the plan. We were kind of gung-ho for that. But, there were so many things going on, and so many member changes. We lost our bass player that we had at the time and got a new bass player who is just great. He’s the driving force of all of us. We just decided that it wasn’t who we were anymore. So we just wrote what we felt. What came out is what you have on the record.

Good. You shouldn’t ever not write what you feel. Makes perfect sense to me.

People do try to emulate other things. It sounds forced.

Right. It’ll never sound as convincing.

Exactly. We’re just playing what we want because that’s what we enjoy. Obviously we are also doing it for everyone and trying to make a difference. At the end of the day, [we play] what we enjoy.

Of course, you always hope the fans will enjoy it too. How is the response so far?

I was really really shocked. You do these smaller tours to get your feet wet. All the shows were just great. I was really amazed.

On the tour right before this last one we played Harlan, Kentucky, and it was like they had never seen or heard music or bands before. They just loved it.

Was this a new town for the band? Had you guys ever played there before?

It was a completely new town for The Murder and The Harlot.

Sweet. I’m looking at a nice list of tracks here. One of them stands out: “Designed by the Devil, Powered by the Dead.” That title describes the band pretty well, right?

[Laughs] No, no. We were throwing around track names and I’m a big horror movie fan. That [line] was from a movie called Thirteen Ghosts. I just thought it was so ridiculous. We wanted to name the album after it for a little while, but we decided not to. We’re not devil worshipers and all that good stuff [laughs].

American bands are hardly ever attributed to Satanism. It’s more the heavier Norwegian and Swedish bands.

Yeah, it’s more of a black metal thing.

Did you guys write all the material on the new album together?

Lyrically, no. We have our input, but our singer handles most of that. Musically, it was all done together. The overall vibe and gist is really about finding yourself, becoming your own person, and not worrying about trends and all that other stuff. It’s a positive thing. It sounds dark, but it’s not.

How did “The Graveyard Shift” come about?

Writing “The Graveyard Shift” was an interesting endeavor. That was the first one we really all sat down with together. Our guitar player had a couple riffs and we recorded them in Logic on our bass player’s computer. You’re literally hearing the same part for hours and hours and just building it up. I would come in and lay down a line that would be my take on it. Then someone else would go, “Well, if you do that, then I’ll do this.” It kind of set the tone for writing the rest of the record. Every song almost fell into place in a very strange way.

Nice.

It was almost magical. I don’t want to say that and sound clich√© but it really just worked.

Walt Disney presents The Murder and The Harlot.

Exactly. Maybe now we can get an endorsement by Disney. Hang out with Hannah Montana.

Disney is a nice place. I feel like you’d be welcome…

[Laughs].

So you guys didn’t write “The Graveyard Shift” in a graveyard? That’s disappointing.

[Chuckles] No. “The Graveyard Shift” is literally straight from the lyrics — us just being up at all hours of the night writing the record. I think we had two months to write it. We got on such a tight schedule that the only way to finish the record was being up until five or six in the morning every day.

That’s a nice time to be up. No one is around and everything is quiet.

Yeah, exactly. I seem to be up then anyway for whatever reason. It worked.

Was there a lot of pre-production or did you hit the the studio right away?

Everything was done back and forth from our bass player’s house and our drummer’s house. We’d sit down with guitars and program the drums just to make our lives easier for the demoing process. Nobody wants to mic an entire drum kit for demoing — times are different. We did that for two or three months and then recorded with our friend Jesse Cannon. We would do a little writing in the studio, but that was more or less changing parts or fixing and polishing things.

And Jesse has a little more equipment than your bass player does at home.

[Laughs] Absolutely.

No producer on this album?

For the most part it was self-produced. We would take ideas from Jesse and his engineer Mike Oettinger. A lot of it was vocals too. You’re never quite sure where harmonies should go. You need a lot of extra heads in the room. Having too many people does get a little hectic sometimes.

Definitely. An interesting fact about TMATH is that you can all play multiple instruments.

Yeah, we all screw around on just about everything. I’m obviously a guitar player, but I started out playing the bass. Throughout the years I’ve also learned how to play drums. I’m not Neil Peart or anything, but when I write music I imagine where the drums might go.

I’m sure that helped in the studio and during the writing stages.

I think that’s what really made the record fly by in those couple months. We all had such a vast idea of what we wanted. If it was a good sound, then it was perfect.

Up next for you guys is a tour with Oh, Manhattan. [Update: Unfortunately, TMATH had to drop off “The Murder In Manhattan Tour.”]

Yeah, it’s like two and a half weeks long. It goes until the end of February.

Sweet. Before we get to the end of our discussion here, tell us what the album title ‘These Hands Wrote The Bastard In Me’ means, in your own words.

It’s almost impossible to explain because we all have our own interpretations of it. ‘These Hands Wrote The Bastard In Me’ was kind of like, “Here’s who we are, here’s the music we’re giving to you.” It was almost like these hands did that. It’s so simple that you look deeper into it. These hands wrote it and I guess we’re calling ourselves bastards for whatever reason. It worked out well.

What are the plans for the future? Will you guys be just relaxing and heading out on the road?

The plan is to continue writing as much as we can and drop another EP almost immediately. We already have seven or eight songs demoed out.

Sounds good. Have fun on the road.

No doubt. Thanks, man.

Pick up The Murder and The Harlot’s new album, These Hands Wrote The Bastard In Me.