Using a steady symphony of MIDI instruments, Leah Hinton of Murmur Tooth explores both the good and bad memories we all hold, beginning with the ugly.
Memory sneaking out the back door
I’ll gently smash bottles into your skull
Let it be, let hours drip from the walls
Let them pool on the floor, let them see what I saw
I got it all wrong
These are the memories you wish you could forget. The ones that keep you up at night. They’re bottles smashed into your skull as Murmur Tooth puts it, always reminding you of what went so horribly wrong. You feel like everyone knows your mistake and wish the imaginary mark of guilt would fade as soon as possible.
She goes on to describe the constant reviewing of these bad memories that we can’t help but do.
Tell me it’s ok to measure things by what could have been
Time is crashing, cracking,
it’ll break us all to pieces I can feel it
You know time is passing away, eating away at your mortality, but you still can’t help but wonder how things could have gone differently. Maybe if you didn’t hold back what was on your mind, or if you had. These are things you’ll never know, no matter how many times you rewind and replay it.
From here Murmur Tooth takes us into our more positive memories.
Memory sleeping by the back door
I’ll gently hold what I have left of you all
Collect and keep the hours that drip from the walls
Who dares to waste one
when you’re always stuck in this particular one
These are the memories you hope never fade, that you hope you can take with you until the very end. You hold these ones gingerly like fragile antiques. Ironically, you get too caught up in the moment, so stuck in reminiscence that you fail to be in the present moment and make new, maybe even better, memories.
These two eerily similar verses along with a cyclical melody that varies slightly reminds me of how memories can change and become contorted over time. Memories can become nothing more than a wisp of air. Or they may even change; a good memory becomes a so-so one, or a bad one is reframed as a learning experience. “Memory” is an important but unsettling message of our finite time here, reminding us that we will fade, along with the other parts of us, such as our memories.
You have described your music as “not for elevators, not for dancing.” What do you think is the ideal setting or mood to put on Murmur Tooth?
The best time is probably when you’re alone, but not when you’re alone in elevators! I would imagine it’s the sort of music you listen to when you’re sitting at home with the lights off staring out the window. Or maybe when you’re walking around the city at night just thinking or thinking nothing. It’s definitely not party music.
A lot of your music has a cinematic quality to it that would make it perfect for horror or indie movie soundtracks. Does any of the inspiration for your music come from certain films that you enjoy?
It doesn’t come from specific films, but it definitely comes from a similar composition aesthetic. When I write a song, I’m trying to capture a certain mood, and when a composer writes for film they are trying to enhance a certain mood. So, it’s similar but different. I have huge respect for film composers – I’m in awe of how adept they are at manipulating human emotion. I used to teach a class on it, so maybe some of the techniques seep into my own song-writing.
What type of music or which artists did you grow up listening to that you feel has most influenced your own sound?
I grew up playing classical music and tended towards the darker stuff. When I was a teenager I heard Nirvana’s “Bleach” and it completely changed my life; I couldn’t get over how something so simple, grimy, and raw could make me feel such a mosaic of emotions. Deftones was another big one. I played guitar in a metal band for years and this still has quite an influence I think. The music I’m making now is obviously at the complete opposite end of the spectrum as far as genre is concerned, but I think some of the mood still seeps through.
From where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics and what message do you hope fans take away from your words?
Contrary to the foreboding and disquiet of some of the lyrical themes, I actually am a very happy person! I guess I get all the bad stuff out through music, so it’s probably an unburdening of sorts. Like a lot of people in their 30s, the things that were everything to me in my 20s now seem somewhat hollow. Most of my lyrics tend to form around the questions and sense of disorientation that come with this. I don’t know what people should take away from my words; it’s all just about connection and feeling something isn’t it? I like music that makes me feel something, even if that something is a bit challenging. My new single “Memory” probably fits into this category; It’s an attempt to capture the feelings that come with the realization that memory is dying. It’s watching your life drop away piece by piece as you slowly lose the events and the people that have marked your time and been your existence.
On your Bandcamp page, you mention that your album ‘Dropping Like Flies,’ is for “Mike, the reason for the happy song.” Can you shed some light on who Mike is to you and which song specifically you were referring to as “the happy song?”
Mike is my partner and the song in question is “The Accomplice”. It’s a love song. When I wrote it, I was thinking not only about Mike, but also about two women I know; one who had just lost her partner, and one who was in the process of losing her partner to cancer. “The Accomplice” is the only love song I’ve ever written. Love is a difficult thing to try and put into words and sounds. It’s just too big. Mike also makes music by the way. His project is called All These Animals.
Your upcoming single, ‘Memory’ is scheduled to drop on September 21st, 2018. What was your approach in creating and recording for your new album and how has your creative process evolved since ‘Dropping Like Flies?’
“Dropping Like Flies” was my first attempt at doing the whole recording and mixing process myself, and I was literally teaching myself as I went along. So, I guess my new album is the next step. The big difference is that this time around I am composing as I go. When I started recording “Memory” I had just the opening and closing verse as a guitar/voice part. I took that straight to the computer and started composing around it using midi instruments to get a feel for how I wanted things to build and flow. Then I went back and recorded real instruments. I seem to be writing as much on computer as guitar or piano these days. I played in bands for a long time, and my songwriting then was always limited to just voice, guitar, bass, and drums. Having a full orchestra at your disposal is incredibly exciting – it broadens the creative process and dismantles genre. So that’s what I’m exploring with this album – recording technology as an extension of the creative songwriting process.
What type of an experience can someone expect to get at one of your live performances?
A disappointing one – I’m completely uninterested in playing live! I was on the road with bands for years and I find it boring now. Now I just want to create.
Image credit: Leah Hominini