Saturday the 12th of November saw the release of Mummy Short Arms’ single ‘Change’ at Pivo Pivo. In the back of the bar’s kitchen, the band talked to GUM about life as Mummy Short Arms, a band’s life in Glasgow and what the future holds for them.
Words by Tom Clarke, Photos by Jassy Earl
Mummy Short Arms have been kicking around Glasgow for a while now. “I think we’ve been going since 2003” muses James Allan, the bands singer and harmonica player as the band begin to divulge their history. Aside from Allan, the band are Fraser Gillies on guitar, Garry Pinkerton on drums, Stuart Brown also on guitar, Dean McClure on keys, Cameron Findlay on bass and Craig Brown who purportedly does “many things within the band”. Having started out as a three piece, the band have come a long way from their origins of covering The Cranberries and The Pixies with Fraser on vocals. Picking up Dean “because he’s a keyboard master plus he had a microkorg (synthesizer) before the guy from The Killers”, and moving James onto vocals, Mummy Short Arms have come to create a sound that, as Cameron puts it, is simply “quite different from what a lot of bands (in Glasgow) are doing”. It is a sound that is defined most notably by Allen’s rough, howling and whooping voice that has drawn comparisons to Captain Beefheart in reviews and interviews and which is reminiscent of Isaac Brock’s vocals with Modest Mouse.
“I was trying to do a kind of David Byrne-esque, frank black vocal” says Allen “but I didn’t really have the voice for it and I like Captain Beefheart and I like sort of blues singers so that’s what came out and that’s what’s been compared in interviews”. On stage tonight Allen is manic, full of energy, he shakes and writhes and at one point is patting his head while rubbing his belly.
‘Change’ is Mummy Short Arm’s second single to be released on Glasgow based Record Label, Flowers in The Dustbin. It’s a bouncy guitar driven track, brought in with harmonica before giving way to Allen’s defining vocals. The sound builds throughout the song finishing with a huge outro that, instrumentally, is reminiscent of Arcade Fire. The song has received impressive radio play and praise from critics since it’s release, most notably gaining the title of single of the month for November in The List, beating the likes of Arctic Monkeys and The Kills. This is a wave of success that Mummy Short Arms are hoping to ride on & gain enough attention to eventually “get out of Glasgow”.
No misconceptions should be made however regarding this desire of the Band’s to propel their music to a wider audience. Glasgow is very much home to the band and is a city that is very close to their hearts. “Glasgow has always been where we first started. Growing up here it was quite lively and really friendly,” says Cameron.
In regards to the Glasgow music scene, Cameron went on to say that “there are so many people that want to be in bands and are in bands. It’s quite saturated. We’ve played quite a lot of gigs with lots of the same old, middle of the road kind of bands. I’m not dissing anyone but I think there’s a lot of kind of Oasis-y, Stone Roses-y bands that hold on to that kind of music and it’s quite saturated with a lot of bands like that but then there are also a lot of great bands doing something different as well. There’s a lot of rubbish but there’s a lot of good stuff as well so it kind of balances itself out as well. If you look hard enough for different people and go to different places you’ll find a lot of good stuff in Glasgow.”
At the release, the audience seem to be made up of those people who go out looking for the gems in Glasgow’s music scene and there seems to be some excited energy in Pivo Pivo tonight, resonating off the bands heightened media attention after the reactions to “Change”. During the gig, things are quite static in the audience, the band is certainly appreciated but this is no extreme party. Only the evident long-term fans of the band are dancing and then, as the band goes into their final song – the single itself – something magic happens. The gap between the audience and the stage is filled with moving bodies, people jump about and dance and the whole place is alive. It’s clear that with ‘Change’ Mummy Short Arms have found a sound and a niche which is different and exciting and which justifies their positivity in regards to what the future holds for the band.
“We want to get an album done for the start of next year and to release it before it goes into the summer and hopefully get some festivals on the go in Scotland, the whole of the UK and hopefully further afield if things go well” Says Allan. “We’ve got some good reviews and we’ve got some good radio play so I think we’re just trying to use that to our advantage and yeah I think the festival circuit, that’s what we’re trying to hit hard that’s what we’re focusing on with the Flowers in the Dustbin guys”
All very positive from Mummy Short Arms on the back of their single release. Allan winds up the interview with a fitting and humorous last utterance; “Yeah, rock on”.