Lets disturb the peace and give revolution a chance with Murderers are Optimists
If you were like me and had a phase as a teenager where the funkiness of the band name was an integral part of finding new music, Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats being a prime example, you will know that there are elements of that phase that never leave you. In my case it’s made me totally obsessed with the origins of a band’s chosen moniker as I really think it can tell you so much about the essence of a group, and also perhaps tip you off on what to expect from their sound. In the case of today’s interviewees their name is as tough as the lyrics to their latest single Criminals (2022) and as for giving you an inkling of what they sound like, I’d say the heft of it is about right. I am talking of course about the Hastings based britpunk outfit founded by vocalist/guitarist Paul Sunshine and bassist Jo Gonzo who perform under the title Murderers are Optimists. See? I told you told you it was one hell of a name, and the origin behind it is equally as perfect if not a little unexpected. It’s a line from their favourite tv show, Forensic Files, of all things. Or at least they think it is, either way it’s the perfect summation for the gritty, perfectly punk political commentary that permeates the lyrics of the 5 singles the duo have released since 2021. Although, while I’ve said duo, it’s important to note that Sunshine and Gonzo have been recently joined on drums by their good friend Miles Gill, who delivers a crashing accompaniment to Gonzo’s stinging bass lines and Sunshine’s cutting vocals.
Forming as the world was still hiding behind closed doors, Sunshine and Gonzo wasted no time in releasing their first single Paint no Illusion (2021) as things slowly started to creep into action again. This single is a classic mix of cymbal heavy drums and a regular, gritty guitar riff, which is then accompanied by vocals that sound like they’re being shouted into the mic from great distance, a solid start. The cover for this particular single also features an image of local Hastings legend “The Fids” who is pulling a fantastic grimace, a theme which runs through the images on subsequent releases. Not the grimacing that is, but the connection to their hometown and those who live there. When asked, Gonzo describes the cover photos for their singles as “simple and impactful”, which is a description I also find fitting for the songs they create. Take their second single Twisted Words (2021) for example, where the chorus is magnificently catchy, “lets burn all the kings and queens…set fire to history goodbye to the monarchy”. It’s just the right number of words to create the perfect chant for those who are partial to a social revolution, and impactful enough to point out the shortcomings of the way the political structures on this little island have been rigged. This was followed by a curveball, audibly speaking at least, titled Time (It’s Mine) (2021) which is a delightfully britpop-y tune that transports you to summer afternoons spent sinking pints at your local while making the most of the scanty sunshine. It reminded me of Oasis’s B-Side “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday” not necessarily in how their track sounds, but more so in the essence of the lyrics and how quintessentially British the experiences are.
Speaking of Oasis, Liam, on the off chance you’re reading this, Jo and Paul would very much like to meet you. They missed you at the afterparty, you see, when their pals in Kid Kapichi supported you at The Royal Albert Hall gig, and would like to chat about coats over several pints. Anyway, I’m off topic, I’ll let Jo and Paul chat to you more about what their hometown means to them in the interview below, but I will say there is a great sense of community behind the grittiness of their releases.
Aside from the theme of locality and community the aim to be both simple and impactful has also followed them all the way up to their latest release, who’s title I have already mentioned, Criminals. Released on the 12th of August this year, the opening verse to this track pulls no punches. Go listen to it, it’s hefty, and if it doesn’t make you want to start a riot or at the very least a moshpit in your kitchen I don’t know what will. As for their sound, the vocals on this particular tune are also a lot clearer than previous releases, like physically less distorted, making for a much more hard hitting delivery in every line. The guitar riff in “Criminals” is also slightly more poignant, giving way to a dirty little bass break in the first verse before an utter crescendo of a chorus. And lest we forget the absolute banger of a final verse spat by fellow Hastings musician Jack Wilson, front man of aforementioned “beat punk” band Kid Kapichi. Wilson also happens to share their name with a character from Forensic Files, so clearly the collaboration was meant to be. Their verse also features a total belter of a line which has been stuck in my head for a week now, it goes “some get violent, some get angered, mixing Fanta, Russian standard”, truly fabulous. Although that’s not the only cameo from Wilson, as they also feature alongside Murderer’s are Optimists in the official video for Criminals directed by Mark Richards, who has worked with a slew of punk artists, and did a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of a pub gig. The video is available to watch on their Youtube, and has a sense of locality right to its core as builds up to a genuine gig in The Duke of Wellington which took place a few weeks before the single’s release. If you would like to experience the energy, noise, excitement, and chaos that emanates from this short clip, Murderers Are Optimists have a whole load of live gigs lined up all along the south coast, most significantly at the Del La Warr Pavilion on September 23rd, so check out their socials listed below for more details!
So there we have it folks, the briefest of outlines to a growing discography by a band with a name that really and truly sticks in your brain. I will leave you now to wander through the answer’s below, which if I do say so myself, are simple in the best way, rather humorous, and truly a joy to read.
Hello, hello! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak (well, type I guess) with us. Let’s start this super simple, would you both mind introducing yourselves for our audience and what each of your roles are in Murderers are Optimists?
Paul: Hello, so I am Paul Sunshine and I play guitar and sing for the band, and Jo Gonzo plays bass. Although its only us two in the photos and music videos our good friend Miles Gill plays drums for us and completes the band.
So, in my little bit of research I did on you guys I couldn’t find the origin of your band name, a name that has been described by the Hastings Independent as “disconcerting”, which is a fantastic review. So first things first, how did the title “Murderers are Optimists” come about? And what, if anything, does it mean to you guys?
Paul: The band name ‘Murderers Are Optimists’ comes from our favourite TV show, Forensic Files. It’s a documentary television program that reveals how forensic science is used to solve violent crimes, mysterious accidents, and outbreaks of illness. It’s a line from one of the episodes, or at least I think it is.
Jo: We always wanted a band name taken from that show. It is a big part of who we are.
Alright, so in this interview with the Hastings Independent back in 2021, just after the release of your single “Time (It’s Mine)” (2021), you mentioned that both Paul and Joe have been in other bands for a fair while. So I was wondering if you could chat a little about how you guys ended up coming together to start Murderers are Optimists back in 2020?
Jo: We’ve both been in and out of different bands over the years and actually met through playing music a long time ago and always said we’d play music together one day. We hadn’t actually seen each other for years until we both started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu together at the same gym, Gracie Barra in Hastings.
Paul: After quitting music, I started playing guitar and writing again during lockdown and by chance Jo messaged asking if I still played. I said yeah and that I wrote some ideas, which became our first three singles, ‘Paint No Illusion’, ‘Twisted Words’ and ‘Time (It’s Mine)’ as well as our latest single ‘Criminals’. We love the same music and have pretty much the same influences so I knew Jo would be up for it. Luckily our good friend Eddie Lewis got behind the kit to help us write the songs until we found Miles.
Regarding “Time (It’s Mine) ” (2021) this single in particular gave me big Oasis vibes. To me it was kind of a mix of a couple of tracks off ‘Be Here now’ because of that crescendo of a riff towards it’s end, and the subject matter was so reminiscent of “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday”. In the interview you mentioned the track was originally called “Paul Sunshine’s Big Day Out”, honestly, what a title, I love it. But I was wondering if you could chat a little about bands or artists that you find particularly influential?
Jo: Yeah, we literally love the same music. I’m a big vinyl collector and both of us love Motley Crue and in particular Nikki Sixx is a huge influence for us. His style, songwriting and attitude. Then Oasis are also a huge influence, and we love Liam Gallagher’s vibe. I’d like to think we’re naturally finding our own sound and that our influences come across in different ways rather than just sounding like them. If that makes sense?
Paul: Right now Norwegian singer Sigrid is a huge influence. She has an amazing voice and stage presence. To be honest I just like what I like.
Jo: We do always play Madonna to hype ourselves up before going on stage.
Also, I noticed on one of you Instagram posts about the release of your 2022 single “Don’t Know Don’t Care” that you tagged a very solid list of people behind the release of the track. But you also mentioned celebrating this release with fellow Hastings band Kid Kapichi, as well as Liam Gallagher, and I’ve got to know, have you met the man himself? Because if you have, I’m unbelievably jealous!
Paul: We always show the love for the people we work with and who support us. ‘Don’t Know Don’t Care’ by chance came out the day before Liam Gallagher asked Kid Kapichi to support him at The Royal Albert Hall. Those guys are close friends of ours so there was no way we were gonna miss them sharing a stage together.
Jo: Nah sadly we didn’t get to meet him at the after party, which was a shame.
Paul: We’d love to get on the beers with him, and talk coats.
Speaking of “Don’t Know, Don’t Care” I was watching the music video up on your Instagram and I was absolutely so taken by your outfits. Having grown up on Punk music and then been pulled into a Mod phase by a Brighton local, I can’t help but notice the references to both subcultures, with a bit of 90s Britpop thrown in. So, my question is, where do you take inspiration from in the way you guys dress? Have you always been this sharp or is it something that developed over time? Furthermore, where do you find these totally cool pieces of clothing?
Paul: We both love clothes and fashion as well as music, so dressing well is important to us. I have so many clothes and pairs of shoes it’s actually ridiculous. Bit of a 90s/00’s vintage clothes collector and have an obsession with coats thanks to Liam Gallagher. But I like so many different styles of clothes and all that. I just love looking the part. Most of my stuff I find online if I’m honest. I spend way too much time looking at clothes online.
Another thing that really stuck out for me was the single cover which has the numbers 1066 tattooed over a very sick skull, and I’m imagining this is a reference to the Battle of Hastings? In your other single covers too you’ve got a pretty solid motif of quintessentially British things, like pint glasses on “Time (It’s Mine), a Union Jack and a can on “Twisted Words”, a portrait of local Hastings legend ‘The Fids’ on the cover of “Paint No Illusion”, and while the latest single “Criminals” steps away from this theme slightly it still perfectly captures the energy of the track. Where do you find the inspiration for these covers? Who puts them together? And what, if any, influence has your hometown had on the creation of your music?
Jo: When we started this band we said that we always wanted any single or album artwork we release to be simple and impactful photos rather than illustrations or whatever some other bands do. Our mate Chris Georghiou who goes online by the name @monkeychops_photography takes all our single photos. He’s a sick photographer and musician himself so he knows how to capture the feel of a band and what they are trying to achieve. Our hometown is a huge influence on us, it really is an amazing place to live, with an unreal amount of talented people. There’s some real legends and characters in the town and that’s why everyone wants to live here now. That’s why I got 1066 tattooed on me.
So that brings us to your latest release, the single “Criminals”, and by latest I mean fresh off the press like today! Released on the 12th of August 2022, it’s this huge track with lyrics that are aggressively relevant. The track also features Jack Wilson (@jackthomaswilson) from fellow Hastings based band Kid Kapichi, I was wondering if you could speak about how you guys got together to create this latest single? What inspired the collaboration?
Paul: It actually took me ages to get the lyrics together for ‘Criminals’. Every idea just didn’t feel right, but eventually I was like yeah I fucking hate politicians and the people who run this world so let’s talk about it. Everyone can relate to it, I think. The country (and the world) is a real mess right now and that’s mostly due to egotistical people with shit archaic ideologies. Jack Wilson is a great lyricist and one of our best mates and the band are pretty political and talk about a lot of social issues. I didn’t have any lyrics for the breakdown so Jo was like I think Jack could really bring this song alive so we asked him to the studio and he delivered a killer verse there and then. All before he left for tour. Also, the name Jack Wilson appears in two different episodes of Forensic Files and as the narrator Peter Thomas is dead, Jack was our next best name to work with.
Wilson also makes an appearance alongside you guys in the music video for “Criminals” which was directed by Mark Richards, who has worked with a solid back catalogue of artists! The video itself is brilliant as it literally show the build up and eventual performance of “Criminals” live in The Duke of Wellington pub last month, which gave the opportunity for your audience to be a part of your video! So I was wondering what did you guys want to achieve with this visual accompaniment to your new single and how did the concept come about?
Jo: We love a proper British spit and sawdust boozer, we also love football and getting on the beers. We only fall out twice a year. The loose inspiration was taken from Football Factory, showing Paul walking to the pub on a match day kind of feel and meeting the lads along the way. Mark Richards is great and has filmed so many music videos for punk bands so we knew he’d be perfect to work with. We wanted that gritty, raw handheld vibe and he captured it perfectly.
At the bottom of this video you can find a layout of the lyrics, and the opening line to this track is a hard hitter man, “Corruption and abuse, why don’t you tell the truth”. All of your singles have this clean line of incredibly solid lyrics running through them, all very anti-monarchy, very anti-establishment, most punk. It may sound like a silly question as the lyrics are pretty clear, but would you mind chatting a little about what inspired these lyrics in particular? And as for your other singles, was it a similar process or did they all come to you differently?
Paul: Ah thanks. Yeah the Monarchy, the government and the system in general really pisses me off so I do write about it quite a bit. Once I’ve written the guitar part a melody and lyrics usually follow pretty quickly. Apart from the politically driven lyrics the rest are just based on life experiences like sleeping in bushes, talking about fears, wanting to see the world and all the wonderful things we get up to.
As for the single itself, “Criminals” has certainly got a deeper, harsher, ring to it than your previous releases, with some seriously sick vocals of course. There is still that sense of Punk roots in the track, however there is also tinge of something altogether more rock n roll-ish. What was the inspiration behind this track, where did this one come from? Also, looking back, how do you feel you’ve changed and developed your sound since the release of your first single “Paint No Illusion” back in 2020?
Jo: We are constantly trying to improve and write better songs whilst developing what we like to consider our sound. I honestly think each single we release is stronger than the last.
Paul: For me personally I’m looking to make sure my vocals are improving and the melodies are there. We’ve just finished recording our next single and I think it’s our strongest song yet, I reckon people who like us will love it.
You are playing a gig at Garageland in London on August 20th, back in Brighton a little later on the 25th, and to top it off you’re playing Del La Warr in Bexhill supporting Kid Kapichi on the 23rd of September! That’s your biggest gig yet right? How are you guys feeling about it?
Jo: Yeah the shows in London and Brighton went really well and were a lot of fun. Supporting Kid Kapichi at The De La Warr will only be our 8th show and yeah our biggest by far. It’s 1,200 capacity and its nearly sold out so it’s gonna be absolutely mental. Not sure how many people will turn up for us, but we’ll just get on and do what we do. It’s my birthday as well as Kapichi’s album launch so it’s going to be wild. I can’t wait for it!
Also from what I’ve read in the Louder than War review of your performance at Fat Tuesdays this year, you guys are one hell of a live performance. So, would you mind telling those who haven’t seen you guys yet what can they expect from a Murderers Are Optimists gig?
Jo: It’s like getting in the ring with the Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Paul: We arrive. Raise Hell and leave.
Right then, that’s pretty much it lads, all that’s left to ask is what can we expect from Murderers are Optimists in the future? Have you guys got any singles in the works, merch on the way, or other live shows that you’re particularly stoked about? Here is the opportunity to shamelessly plug it!
Paul: We’re not going to say too much yet, but our next single and another big show are going to be announced after The De La Warr. If you care to follow our Instagram you’ll see what’s next. Peace and love.
Listen to Murderers Are Optimists on Spotify:
For more info check out the Murderers Are Optimists website here, have a watch of all the snazzy videos on their YouTube, or why not nab a quick ticket for Del La Warr gig on the 23rd of September here! And finally, to keep up to date with new releases pop over to their Spotify, or check out their socials by clicking here! And, if you enjoyed this, feature check out more reviews and interviews from IAMUR… You might just find your new favourite artist!