Onstage, the Murder City Devils frontman Spencer Moody is a ball of booze-burning fire, staggering around and screaming about heartache and rotgut and punk rock, while his band tear garage rock 'n' roll a new one with equal fury. Offstage, Moody is soft- spoken, articulate, almost mousy—and he's more than a little ambivalent about the recurring reunion of his R.I.P.'d and revered band.
"I get down on the Murder City Devils sometimes," says Moody from behind his desk at the Anne Bonny, his Capitol Hill antique shop and art gallery. "I just fucking dread the fact—it is a nightmare to me—that I'm going to have to listen to these songs over and over again to try to relearn them. But then, when I actually start listening to the songs that we've discussed playing, I like them. I don't feel particularly nostalgic, but I think it's a pretty good band, and some of the songs are pretty good."
I will go so far as to say that several of their songs are in fact fucking classics. For the uninitiated: The Murder City Devils formed in Seattle in 1996. Over the next five years, they released several excellent 7-inch singles, three albums (at least the first two of which are wall-to-wall with sing-along anthems), and an EP. In 2001, they broke up, issuing a live album two years later recorded at their "last ever" show. They reunited in 2006 to play the Capitol Hill Block Party and a semisecret show the next night at the Showbox. Then they got back together again in 2007 to play the Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin. And then again in 2008, for a (canceled) appearance at MusicfestNW.
All of which begs the question: Just what the fuck is going on here, Murder City Devils—are you guys broken up or what?
"I sort of wish that we hadn't said we were breaking up," says Moody. "I wish we had just said, 'We may never do this again, we don't get along, and we're not gonna play shows and make records anymore.' Since we made this big deal about breaking up, and did a last tour and a last show and all that shit, now we have to say, 'Oh, we're reuniting,' which is kind of aesthetically unfortunate. I mean, I was stoked that I got to see Slint, but I'm not a big supporter of reunion concerts, generally speaking. I feel like it's not a forward momentum; but at the same time, I think it can complement the other things that are happening in our lives in a way that is nice."
So maybe it's more like they're seeing other people, and they have plenty of other things happening. Moody and guitarist Dann Gallucci both play in local droners Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death; bassist Derek Fudesco plays with the Cave Singers; Coady Willis plays in Melvins/Big Business and lives in L.A.; guitarist Nate Manny lives and works in Seattle and is raising two kids; keyboardist Leslie Hardy lives in Detroit, where she makes music and sells real estate; Gabe Kerbrat technically lives in Seattle, but spends most of his time out on tour as a roadie for the likes of the White Stripes, M.I.A., and Cold War Kids. The real issues with doing a reunion tour, says Moody, have been purely logistical.
"After we did the Block Party shows, we knew that we were capable of it," says Moody. "Everyone was open to the idea. It just finally worked out that we could figure out a week where everyone could do it."
The band will have three whole days together in Seattle to practice before playing their first shows, a two-night stand at the Showbox—it will be the most rehearsal time they've had for any reunion show. There are some songs, though, even some stone-cold classics, that the band likely won't be relearning.
"We probably won't do 'Broken Glass,'" says Moody. "I would probably refuse to do that. It's just kind of embarrassing. Like, the songs on the first record, for the most part, are just, at their very worst, kind of goofy. Some of us refused to do 'Boom Swagger Boom' at the last two shows."
Again, though, Moody is mutable.
"But you know, if Andrea Zollo is around and wants to do it, then maybe we'll just do it, because it'll be fun. There's stuff that you sort of cringe at after the fact to some degree, but then you decide that it's fine, it doesn't matter. You know, maybe I think I care, but I don't care. I don't know what's better—is it better to care or to not care?"
Another aspect of the band about which Moody has mixed feelings is their late-career success and posthumous cult status.
"The fact that the MCD were, in relative terms, pretty successful toward the end—we were pretty popular, we could play pretty big places and people would come—that sort of makes me assume that it wasn't that good," he says. "It's weird, because we started off and we were real confrontational and hostile, and then people started liking us, and then you can't really do [confrontation] anymore, because I appreciate people coming to see our band."
One thing Moody is almost totally certain of is the unlikelihood of the band writing and recording any new material in the future.
"That seems like it probably wouldn't happen. There's no one in the MCD who I would not be totally stoked to make and record music with, and I respect everyone's musical tastes and abilities, but I don't foresee that. I would be surprised."
Ah well, at least you can catch this reunion—and maybe next year's or the year after that's or...