After nearly six years, three albums and touring for as much as five months of the year, including internationally, local band Murder Murder has announced it's going on a hiatus.
The band's fiddle player, Geoff McCausland, said the group isn't breaking up, but it is taking an indefinite break from its intense schedule. But he adds if the right opportunity presented itself, it would be hard for the band to turn it down.
McCausland said the group started planning its wind-down a year ago for a combination of personal and financial reasons. It's difficult for Murder Murder, which plays a unique blend of bluegrass and outlaw country entirely devoted to the subject of murder, to sustain its six members on proceeds from music sales and touring.
Besides McCausland, those six members include Jonathan Danyliw, Sam Cassio, Barry Miles, Kris Dickson and Steph Duchesne. Deadpan Studios co-owner Matthew Wiewel also often accompanies them on the road as a sound technician.
“Splitting anything we make six or seven ways, you don't end up with much at the end of it,” McCausland said.
Bands used to be able to make thousands on CD sales on the road, but that's no longer the case, and digital streaming services result in an income that would be paltry for one person, let alone six.
And then there's the bands' personal lives. McCausland said it's pretty “unsustainable” to spend nearly half of the year on the road, working day jobs such as bartending that you can easily leave.
Fellow band member Danyliw figures Murder Murder has probably done more touring than any other local band in the last couple of years.
In November 2015, in an incident highlighting dangers of life on the road, the band's 12-passenger van and trailer were destroyed in a one-vehicle crash in Saskachewan during a tour of western Canada.
The van's seven passengers escaped mostly unscathed, and an Indiegogo campaign and fundraising concert helped the band cover its costs and purchase a new vehicle and trailer.
After the band decided to wind down its operations, McCausland started looking at how he could get more involved in the community, ultimately deciding to run for Greater Sudbury city council. He ended up winning the Ward 4 seat.
McCausland, who is opposed to the new arena being built on The Kingsway, said he's also interested in issues such as fixing the city's roads and infrastructure deficit, and, of course, promoting the arts.
He's not the only member of Murder Murder that's doing new and interesting things. Two members have become engaged, Cassio is working as a butcher and Dickson is working in his father's new cabinetry business.
Danyliw said he's not doing anything radically different with the band's hiatus, sticking with playing and producing music — he's the co-producer on local musician Jen Holub's latest record.
“Bands are all sort of ultimately temporary engagements, not to say that things don't come back around,” Danyliw said. “People have other ambitions in life and obligations and just things to do.”
On Dec. 29, the band held a “hiatus” show at The Townehouse Tavern — a kind of farewell-for-now performance that McCausland describes as “bittersweet.”
“It was at capacity,” he said. “We had a wonderful crowd singing along and cheering. It was really, really special and really great. But you also can't help but think 'I'm going to miss this.'
“A big, huge unbelievable thank you to the community here in Sudbury, because we've had a really incredible amount of support for a lot of years.
“There's people here who have bailed us out of some tight situations, and we couldn't have done it without them.”
If you want to check out Murder Murder's music, visit their website.
You can also check out this video by Brandon Gray about Murder Murder's life on the road, set to the track “Pale Rider Blues” from the band's 2017 album Wicked Lines & Veins.