Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jan 19th 2010 10:30AM by Dan Reilly
"I'd been wanting to do a solo camping trip for some time but we never had time because of the tour," Turla tells Spinner. "Our schedule was so tight that I didn't have an opportunity to go off and write by myself, have time to think by myself." With a two-week break in the band's schedule last June, Turla knew it was his only chance. "I basically had to just up and go. I drove out to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, parked the car and went into the woods with a backpack and a tent. I came out two weeks later with a bunch of songs."
Those songs will make up 'Good Morning, Magpie,' the band's fifth album. According to Turla, the title references the superstition that the magpie, a member of the crow family, "has a bit of the devil in him -- and if you don't greet the devil before he sees you he can steal a part of your soul." While he heard that bit of wisdom in Wales, much of the album was inspired by Turla's fortnight in the mountains.
Turla composed the songs without ever taking his guitar out of his car, and even spent one night sitting at a picnic table with his notebook and a small propane lamp in what would be a seven-hour marathon writing session. In addition to his writing, Turla also kept a log of the wildlife he encountered during his sojourn. "I'm a nature fan. I like to bird-watch a little bit. I'm not particularly good at remembering all their names but I like to watch, to see what the critters are doing," he says. "I saw some coyote, a lot of foxes, some pileated woodpeckers, which were really cool. I had a run-in with a teenage black bear, which was luckily far enough away that it just saw me and ran off into the woods. I'm glad I never saw the mother."
Before Turla left, he posted a picture on the band's website of Anthony Hopkins battling a bear from 'The Edge' with the caption "let's hope it doesn't come to this." Between the teen bear and another incident, it almost did. "I went for a hike one day and when I got to the end, I was kind of lost. It just started pouring, absolutely flooding the trails. I was 10 miles from my camp and the trails were just turning into mud rivers," he says. "Tree branches were falling from 100 feet because the winds were so strong and any one of them could've knocked me out and put my face in the water. I made it home many, many hours later and I found out that after I left, the path had been closed for the day a bear had attacked someone walking on it and they were going in to kill it."
Luckily, Turla never had any other ursine encounters, even after he fashioned a "bear-killing spear" out of a stick with a knife attached at the end. He made it back to civilization, and after a few tours, the band reconvened in their hometown of Bloomington, Ind. to record 'Magpie.' The resulting album is a departure for the quartet -- cellist Sarah Balliet, bassist Matt Armstrong and drummer Dagan Thogerson round out the group -- in that it's not a concept album and contains major-key songs.
"This album has a couple songs that are more positive, so it's pretty cool because they still sound like Murder by Death songs and the lyrics are still somewhat dark but kind of a little more fun," Turla says. "We try not to get stale about ideas. I don't want to be known for only doing concept albums, so instead I just try to write good songs. There's definitely a nature theme in there that came up from out there."
Just as Turla had hoped, the inspiration came from his isolation. "Spending two weeks out there with nothing to do other than stay dry and cook some food over a fire, the only thing I had to do all day was write," Turla says. "It was really productive but it's also really strange to not speak to anybody else for a time that long, especially if you're a social person. The songwriting becomes your pure focus and your conversation with yourself. As I said to the band, I'm going to take at least a week every summer for the rest of my life doing that."
'Good Morning, Magpie' will be released on April 6 by Vagrant Records.