Emily Davis is angry, and rightfully so. “I want us to demand better of the people we’ve chosen to lead, especially with regard to national crises─be it environmental or social,” they share. “We have millions of people in this country without adequate access to healthcare, and they’re dying as a result. We should be angry, and we should be loud with that anger.”
Front-person of alt-punk four-piece The Murder Police, Davis pours their rage into a new song called “Why Weren’t They Stunned?,” a caterwauling plea for deep introspection and change. Why weren’t they stunned / When the river turned to blood? they poke and prod. Everything sanguine / No need for suspicion / Why weren’t they moved / Under the obsidian moon?
“Like many other creatives, we were inspired by the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and I wanted to write a song venting some of my frustrations without being too on-the-nose,” Davis tells American Songwriter. “What I didn’t want to do is to write a song about COVID─but a more generalized song about how we tend to handle national crises (or how we don’t handle them, for that matter).”
In broader strokes, Davis cues up discussions around climate change, systemic racism, and income inequality, specifically, between thumping layers of drums and their sky-tearing lead vocal. “I wish that we would act swiftly and radically, but it never seems to be the case. We’ve been warned about the disastrous effects of a global pandemic for what seems like decades now,” they continue, “and the results were indeed disastrous because we hadn’t planned accordingly. I just feel like so many of our priorities in society are out of whack, and they really need to be scrutinized. We need to do better. We need to be shocked into action.”
No sign of dread at impending pestilence, boiled skin / So it begins, they further puncture to the heart of the matter. Ignore the evidence / ‘Cause evidently it will never satisfy.
Out of El Paso, Texas, Davis, who draws upon such influences as Shirley Ann Manson, Jenny Lewis, and Neko Case, became somewhat of a YouTube star off a string of covers, including plenty of Bad Religion songs. The group eventually landed an opening tour slot with Bad Religion in 2019, as well as with Leftover Crack, The Toasters, Authority Zero, and Cold War Kids. Notably, Davis also played guitar for Cigarettes After Sex on the group’s 2012 EP, I.
Reflecting upon their own songwriting, particularly when they’re in creative overdrive, Davis says, “I write at my best when I feel incredibly impassioned about something. I have a harder time writing effectively on an otherwise normal day when all my emotions are in check. When I’m ecstatic or enraged, despondent or determined─that’s when I’m at my lyrical peak. I tend to write lyrics first and follow them with a melody. If I don’t know what message I’m trying to convey, I have trouble getting anything off the ground.”
Songwriting serves as not only a creative conduit, but a way to succinctly express thoughts in a way normal, everyday conversation may not allow. “I tend to fumble over my words a lot when in conversation with others,” Davis adds. “I speak quickly and nervously, and sometimes I worry my message is encumbered by my delivery. Songwriting enables me to speak with more thought and clarity. It affords me the time needed to say what I want in a more nuanced, impactful way. Few things feel more rewarding than getting my message across and I’ve been able to do that most effectively through my songs, I think.”
“Why Weren’t They Stunned?” is the latest single to Emily Davis and The Murder Police’s forthcoming Never a Moment Alone, out June 25.