Nearly nine years have passed since Seattle sextet The Murder City Devils released an album of original music. Sure, there was 2003’s R.I.P., a booze-soaked live recording of the band’s "last show," on Halloween 2001. But their final studio album, 2000’s In Name And Blood, makes a fine last will and testament, with its rollicking, organ-heavy whiskey-rock. Since the band split, its members have kept busy in various projects—from Modest Mouse to Pretty Girls Make Graves to singer Spencer Moody’s awkwardly monikered Triumph Of Lethargy Skinned Alive To Death—but the semi-reunited Devils are back on the road. To celebrate the vinyl re-release of all four albums and the Thelema EP—out yesterday—as well as a sleek box set, Feather Bed Whiskey Blanket, the band has embarked on a short West Coast tour. Decider talked to Moody just before the Devils' two-night at the Henry Fonda Theatre, which ends tonight, to discuss staying positive and the maybe-sorta possibility of a new MCD album.
Decider: You’re wrapping up this short West Coast tour. How have the shows felt so far to play, especially being timed so closely on either side of the Friday The 13th/Valentine's Day weekend?
Spencer Moody: They’ve all been different. Each one has had its own personality, but I’m trying to keep it upbeat. I let myself slip into a little bit of a negative and hostile zone for a bit, and now I’m trying to be a little more positive and appreciative.
D: How would you describe these various show personalities?
SM: Let’s see. The personalities have ranged from the slightly dark to the more good time rock 'n’ roll, I guess.
D: Almost all these shows have been sold out for a while. How has the reception been?
SM: It’s seemed really good so far. You know, you go out in front of people and I don’t know how many we’re playing in front of—maybe around 800 or so—and sometimes I have a tendency to focus on the negative [in the crowd], which is just a very, very, very small percentage of the people that are at the shows. But it’s been really great, actually. San Francisco’s shows [at the Great American Music Hall] were just so many smiling faces. You know, I waver a lot in how I feel about everything. There are the moments it seems like, if we can take a week every once in a while and do this and make people happy, and it’s a way for lots of people to get together and have fun, then it seems pretty silly to not get together and do it.
D: Was this tour put together to celebrate the Sub Pop re-releases on vinyl and the box set?
SM: No, it was the opposite, actually. Everyone had acknowledged they were willing to play shows a few years ago, and we were sort of just waiting. It was just a logistical thing. Coady [Willis, drummer] is in two bands [Big Business and Melvins] that are both very, very active—recording and touring all the time. And the rest of us have other stuff going on, too, so it was just a matter of doing it when we could. Then, the re-releases and the box set idea seemed to coincide with when we could all do this.
D: It looks like a lot of thought and care went into designing and putting together the box sets. On the band website there’s a link to a Flickr stream where they’re individually being assembled by hand and you’re also including one of a kind MCD keepsakes, like old tour posters, photos, and such. How have you been involved?
SM: It was really Nate's [Manny, guitarist/bassist] project. He’s always done all of the design for the band. He designed the boxes, and we added the extra stuff ourselves that we’d had in our closets and shoeboxes over the years. I was supposed to help but I was actually quite sick for the last few days before we left on tour, though I did some watercolors that went into some of them. It’s pretty neat and, yeah, a lot of care did go into them.
D: You all haven’t released new material since In Name And Blood, but have reunited several times for live shows like these. Are there plans to record new material at some point?
SM: I can honestly and completely say that since we got together to practice and since we’ve been on tour, hanging out all together, no one has even mentioned the subject of what we’ll do next or when we’ll do this again. So, the status now is that I think it’s more of a pragmatic thing—we’re just taking things one step at a time. But, you know, I feel like everyone respects each other as musicians and contributors. It’s confusing because I don’t know if we’re a band or not a band, but I don’t want to fuck things up by asking around.
D: So making new material isn’t totally off the table?
SM: It’s not off the table. We just haven’t talked about it. I don’t know if I want to even do that, but maybe I do. I just don’t know, because everything would really change. We sort of have our little thing worked out right now where everything is running smooth the way we’re doing things. If we did record, it would really, really alter the dynamic, and I don’t know if anything new we did would even be really different, or if it would fit with the live set. It’s not out of the question that, at some point, we would record some new songs but maybe just never perform them. It’s a bit of an artistic dilemma, because I wouldn’t really feel right going out in front of a big room of people that all paid to see you and then being like, “Fuck you. We’re playing the new stuff,” because no one really appreciates that. You go to see Mission Of Burma and you want to hear “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver,” and I think that’s fair. I think that both are fair; to be an artist and say, “I’m gonna do whatever the fuck I want,” and also fair for the audience to respond with, “Uh, what?”
D: Considering it has been so long since you released new material, does the enduring popularity of the band surprise you?
SM: I can honestly say that in this band we achieved everything that I could’ve ever hoped for or wanted. We did all that, which is the luckiest, craziest, and weirdest thing. Essentially, it was sort of like my dream come true in a way, so once that’s happened, you sort of stop being surprised. So what I will say is that I appreciate [the fan response]. I don’t understand it or think about it very much, because it’s kind of a surreal thing. But it’s neat—it’s a totally neat thing. And when we were together originally, we had a record label with publicists that were pushing us, and there was a product being sold. Now, there’s no publicist, no advertisements, and no one’s pushing us. If people are buying our records, it’s because big brothers and sisters or friends at school told them they should check us out or gave them a record. It feels like a more heartfelt way for things to move around.