Interview with Leon Welburn of Mammal Hum

Sometimes a band steps forward to truly captivate and excite the senses, to thrill the heart and fire up the imagination like very few others are able. One such band is UK psychedelic pop band Mammal Hum, a quartet of musicians who have created not only one of the best albums this year but treated the passions to mischievous sounds of textured and layered majestic beauty. The release is a mouthwatering expanse of diversity and mesmeric soundscapes to ignite open ardour towards it. Not just wanting but needing to learn more about the band, album, and the minds behind such a unique release we had the pleasure to fire off questions to band member Leon Welburn.

Hello Leon and welcome to the site.

Firstly please just introduce the band.

Hi everyone. We are Mammal Hum, a four-piece from Hull, made up of Nick Cammack, Simon Andrew, Sarah Mole and myself, Leon Welburn

We have to ask firstly about the band name…?

Ha! The band name was a laborious process. We very nearly all fell out over it. So, four part harmonies are an essential part of our sound. We saw it as a whole-band voice. A communal ‘hum’ with each member vital to the mix. Hum can also be extended to form the word Humber, the river by which our hometown rests. We’d like to think its different if anything else.

Can you tell us how Mammal Hum began and how Geoff Travis comes into the equation even though it is before the band is a reality I believe?

Nick formed a band a few years back in London, involved with Blanco Y Negro. Geoff Travis was linked to them at the time and basically Nick landed a deal after speaking to him. Then, the band went their separate ways. Nick returned to Hull in 2008 while the others continued to pursue different musical projects. A few months after this, I put my house up for sale, and Nick was one of the prospective buyers. He didn’t end up putting an offer in, but he did notice a Hammond Organ in the corner of the room, and we started chatting about music and bands. A week later I saw Nick in our local pub, and we agreed to have a jam one night with Sarah, who we had both known for a while. The band was pretty much formed that night.

What are the musical experiences for you all leading up to the band?

Nick and Simon have been in a variety of bands for years, Sarah is into DJing, and although this is my first serious band, I’ve been playing and recording solo music for about ten years.

Now a quartet, I read the band began life as a trio before Simon joined up, if so did that mean you used guest drummers, electronic or went without?

We started as a six-piece band with a drummer, two guitarists, bassist, two keyboards, and four singers. Quite hefty really. We lost one guitarist early on when he moved away. Then our drummer left to work abroad. For a while we tried to work as with drum machines and loops, and take it in an acoustic direction, but it just didn’t sit right. One of our ladies (Nick’s partner) departed to have their first child. At this point we realised we desperately needed drums. We knew Simon played guitar in another band, approached him one evening, and he agreed to rehearse with us. The minute he began drumming, we knew he was exactly the person we needed. A loose jazz style, with lots of heavy, rolling toms. That was, and still is, the Mammal line-up.

We used the tag psychedelic pop which most seem to use to describe your music for our review of your new album What’s Behind Us Is Not Important. It is a description which just grazes your sound to be honest, how would you explain your music and intent to newcomers?

Bright and breezy pop nuggets with layered group harmonies, chunky guitar and big drums scattered in and out of various tracks. It’s an album that tries its best not to be too serious. That’s not to say we are deliberately tongue in cheek or humoured. The songs just seem to happen this way.

What are the influences which have had the biggest impact and effect on your individual and band sound? One imagines there are many whispers which spice your ideas.

We always liked the idea of not being tied to a specific musical genre. We have so many different influences from the Beatles and Beach Boys, along with a host of 60s psychedelia, to Sparks, Super Furry Animals, 80s and contemporary electronica….there really are too many to mention, but hopefully this gives you an idea.

There are shall we say nostalgic tones to your music but with a freshness and imagination of modern times, how easy or instinctive is finding and reaching the balance in your sounds?

We used to write the tracks separately, and then it reached a point where we felt the best songs were being created organically in the rehearsal room. One of us would come up with an underlying theme for a track, and the rest of us would all contribute with lyrics and ideas. Pretty much the entire album is based on this system. We do keep influences in mind when writing songs, but always manage to pull ourselves away from being a sounding too much like our influences. I suppose we all value the importance of wanting original sounds, and creative freedom, so luckily yes it feels like a fairly easy process. Always helps!

Where do your songs seed from and how do they evolve within the band?

Our songs come from childhood memories. The Bingo Wing is about sitting in social clubs playing bingo as a kid. Mechanical Horse is about a local bus I used to travel on, and the varied and interesting characters you would see and become accustomed to week in, week out. The life of a car, bee epidemics, close and distant acquaintances, folk tales and our seemingly tiny existence in the enormity of everything which surrounds us……just some of the things we like to write about.

Though the songs upon What’s Behind Us Is Not Important are organic and breathe melodies like we do air, one senses that in the studio a lot of care, time and attention is attached to every aspect of the tracks, is that the case?

Yes. In a way. We do actually try to keep our production quite raw. Not too embellished. However, we do return to songs regularly with new ideas on how various sections can be improved, how vocals may be better structured, re-structuring sections, adding and taking out instruments……basically trying to get a song sounding as interesting as we can, usually within the space of three or four minutes. This isn’t a set rule we stick too though. It does commonly happen though.

How long did the album take to record and was it one big session or an ongoing process in its birth?

It took about two and a half years in all. We originally started recording in late 2010 on an analogue desk belonging to Nick, and then the desk lost its way, and had to be serviced…..in fact it’s still in need of a service. We had major problems with it in the end. The rest of the album was recorded during the last twelve months, by our friends Richard Gilbert from label-mates Lymes, and Patrick Tobin at Room Room Studios in Hull.

Admittedly I am no musician but it is hard to imagine where you start to compose your sprawling mesmeric soundscapes, so please give some clues haha.

Going back to the rehearsal room idea. We really do start with a riff, or drum pattern or keyboard part, or a bass run. It usually has a Captain Beefheart twang to it. What usually happens next is a twenty minute jam. I’ll usually record it on a mobile phone, and we will build the track up over a series of rehearsals, before layering it all up in the studio. It’s a four-way split from nothing. That’s how we roll in Mammal Hum

You are all multi instrumentalists I believe, does that bring a depth of ideas and imagination to songs which maybe are not as strong in other bands?

Not so much multi-instrumentalists. Well apart from Simon, who really can either play every instrument, or is learning to! We do like applying ourselves to, and experimenting with other instruments though. This definitely makes a more interesting sound. It does expand your creativity and make you much more imaginative. You don’t feel constrained to the usual formula.

How does your expansive sound transfer to a live setting, do you have to make any adjustments to bring the same effect as on recordings?

We use samplers, effects pads, overdriven bass and guitar and the big big drums, to try and reflect what goes on in the records. That combined with four voices on stage makes it quite challenging on some tracks to get the overall balance. A good challenge of course. At the same time, we like to tinker with our live set enough for it not to be a repetition of what you hear on the album. You may as well just give the crowd then an album each and send them home. We find the idea of sounding exactly like the album tracks a little……well…….constrictive! That’s absolutely no disrespect to bands who aim to achieve this. We have actually started doing more acoustic gigs to see how the tracks convert when played unplugged. We can then push the harmonies further to the front. The acoustic gigs have been working well actually! We sit in the middle of the room instead of on stage. It’s a nice vibe.

In our review of What’s Behind Us Is Not Important we brought up names of artists like Kontrust, De Staat, The Knack, XTC, The Monkees, Flaming Groovies, Ok Go and even Marilyn Manson (read the review to see why ;)), showing the diversity of your release and richness of its sounds. Any there you would agree with or have you wondered if we were drinking at the time? Haha

I can see The Monkees in there, and some Flaming Groovies. We do like XTC too………Marilyn Manson???? That’s not a comparison I’d either thought I’d hear to be honest! Interesting! Haha!

Is there a prime intention or aim you bring to your music and has it evolved over time?

No specific aim, other than for us all to be creative, enjoy it and invent! The music certainly has shifted in style slightly as band members left, and others joined. The music on the album is certainly representative of our direction over the past three years though.

Also how has your music changed since those early days in 2008?

The music has changed quite a lot, and for the better in our opinion. The voices have always remained, but we are certainly much more versatile now.

What is next for and from Mammal Hum?

We are planning a follow-up album on Mollusc Records. We are currently writing tracks for this one, and hope to start recording next year. Expect a different direction, a lot more laid-back, gentle affair. A bit of a departure really, but an idea we really want to work with. We have plenty of ideas in the pipeline……

A big thank you for sharing time to talk with us, any parting words you would like to leave behind?

Thanks for chatting to us, and to friends for their support, and Mollusc Records for their continued hard work. Please listen to the album…..and yeah start a band. It has ups and downs, but its good fun. What’s Behind You Is Not Important……

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mammal-Hum/11380710291

Read the review of What’s Behind Us Is Not Important @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/mammal-hum-whats-behind-us-is-not-important/

RingMaster Review 27/09/2012

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James J Turner – How Could We Be Wrong?

There has been some quite special folk orientated albums this year, whether a more traditional approached release or a rock/folk fusion, but How Could We Be Wrong? from James J Turner is something special again, an album which quite simply puts most others into the shade. Whereas other albums as good as they truly are, sound written to be a collection of good songs, How Could We Be Wrong? is so organic sounding it is like it has been lived and breathed into existence.

Singer-songwriter Turner is a Liverpool boy and someone who was playing guitar and singing from a very young age and playing gigs at the Liverpool Cavern (the Junior Cavern sessions) from the age of nine. From school he worked on the docks but music still led him through evenings and weekends, growing constantly until he gave up the day job to give it full concentration. He played in several bands, notably Lies all Lies and The Electric Morning, the latter having releases on indie label Probe Records and touring with bands such as Rain Parade, True West, the Long Riders and Mitch Easter’s (REM’s producer) Let’s Active, as well as gaining enthused media interest from people like John Peel and Andy Kershaw. Next he opened his own studio, the renowned Liverpool Hard City Studios where he recorded his acclaimed debut solo album The Believer.

How Could We Be Wrong?, recorded and mixed by Ronnie Stone, finds Turner returning to his roots. The songs thrive in the use of vibrant instruments like mandolin, violin, cello, and accordion alongside acoustic guitars, the combination a warm and stirring union to inspire. The tracks are diverse and continually shifting their stance, whether a more traditional folk breath, to a rock toned romp, or a punk edged brew, each one treats the ear to a natural and fluid presence to light up dark corners whilst evoking thoughts within new emotional shadows. The premise of the tracks stem from the heart of spirituality, people, and honest lives, as well as offering an affinity with nature, all enforcing  the organic feel of the album.

The album opens on a stormer of a song in the title track. From its opening scythe of the violin and the compelling whistle kiss the song romps across the ear with energy and attitude. The Irish/Celtic feel is a large voice within the song and alongside the inciteful energy brings thoughts of bands like Flogging Molly to the fore. The violin of Mark Knight is a sonic delight alongside the punchy rhythms of drummer Paul Walsham and the reserved yet boisterous tones of the bass of Etienne Girard but it is the voice of Turner which seals the deal, his plaintive and strong tones thrusting the lyrics and passion forth wonderfully.

The slower more emotive Forever No More sways in next with the strong whistle calls wrapping round the chorus harmonies impressively. Though rarely some songs like here did not light the same fires as others, the more raucous compositions hitting the right spot more consistently, it is down to personal preference only with the tracks still sowing a passion and undeniable impressive craft one cannot ignore or dismiss.

The likes of Walk The Bridge, Beyond The Pain, and Let Love Into Your Heart send one into a kind of reflective rapture, the songs especially like the first of the three, offering melancholic breath to immerse within. This song weaves around the thoughts with gently coaxing guitar chords and a beautiful yet mournful cello sound from Vicky Mutch, its caress an instigator of deep imagination. The second of this trio of songs soars off of a big beating pulse, the beats anthemic whilst the violin is sawing tenderly across the ear for the fullest pleasure, and the last is simply a totally infectious ball of folk n roll.

Out of only impressive tracks further songs like Silver and Gold, Never Been Born, and Once Upon A Time just light more fires of joy, the latter especially impactful. Initially the song did not quite grab the passions but during its thoughtful play it then brought out a glorious barbed melodic hook which returned intermittently. Bringing an element reminding of Echo & The Bunnymen to lie perfectly alongside the more traditional folk sounds and the accordion grace of Henry Priestman, it tipped the balance fully in the favour of the song to emerge as one of the best.

James J Turner has released in How Could We Be Wrong?, one of the best folk rock records of the year, probably the very best. A must listen release.

http://www.jjturner.com/

RingMaster 27/09/2012

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DSW – Dust Storm Warning

 

     It is impossible not to be strongly enthused by the debut album from Italian stoner rockers DSW (Dust Storm Warning). It is not without inconsistencies but they diminish against the power and creative storm that is the release Dust Storm Warning. Consisting of eleven burning tracks of stoner rock brought with a sixties psychedelic imagination and desert rock rawness, the album evolves from something impressive to something essential for all genre fans to add to their personal playlists.

From Lecce, the band began in April 2010, with its early period seeing a few line-up changes before they released their debut EP Dawn Storm Watchers. With a subsequent change of vocalist after that bringing the band to a line-up of guitarist Marco Papadia, bassist Stefano Butelli, drummer Fabio Zullino, and frontman “Wolf” Lombardi, the settled quartet entered the studio to record Dust Storm Warning in the September of 2011, the release emerging as a fiery brew of Kyuss, Colour Haze, Red Fang, Sabbath and more within its stirring soundscapes of sonic intrusion.

Released though Acid Cosmonaut Records, the album takes no time in capturing the imagination with opening song Outrun. A straight forward slab of salty desert rock and the first song written by the band, the track consumes the ear with a rubbing persistent energy and scorched guitar melodics. Arguably not a song to stretch the realms of aural invention it nevertheless gives the senses a feast of compulsive stoner sounds to set the release off strongly.

The dusty lumbering crawl of Space Cubeship takes over next, its enveloping cloud of tight sonics and oppressive riffs a hypnotic abrasion to explore closely. Again maybe not the most groundbreaking song musically but still a thoroughly absorbing and inciteful track with an emerging groove to devour eagerly towards its climax.

After the heady 666.1.333 with its flaming caustic groove and twisted psychedelic sonic spears of sound alongside the excellent raucous gravelled tones of Lombardi, the album continues to offer marked invention but loses some of its surface impact at the same time. Whereas this song spans a diverse and incendiary soundscape to leave one breathless the first two instrumentals on the album, Dune and Sherpa, plus the track which splits them, Lonely Coyote, fail to give the same intense burn of pleasure. Dune is a brewing ambience, its shadows and focused melodic veins beautifully presented but lacking the trigger to ignite more than respect. The middle one of the three is another harsh yet pleasing rub which feels like the continuation of its predecessor, and though it arguably offers more emotion, mainly through the vocals, it still leaves one satisfied yet underwhelmed. The trio of songs are seemingly related as Sherpa again continues the journey in a similar fashion, again impossible to dismiss but lacking the flint to spark strong reactions, something the album immediately addresses with the best tracks on the release, and coincidently another consecutive trio.

     Monkey Woman is just an unbridled brawl of grazing energy and riffs spined by another irresistible groove, its hook acidic and sharp to scar the senses pleasingly. It has a feistiness and enraged heart missing from the previous triplet of songs to bring one back to the boil and ready for the giant which is Trippin’ the Drill. As intrusive and persistent as the title subject, the track attaches itself with a variation of pace and energy without allowing that niggling rub to diminish in effect or intensity. From guitars to rhythms there is a zealous presence which is tempered yet incited by the again excellent vocals and probing bass of Butelli.

Though both songs challenge the biggest highlight on the releases is Rise, a song which slowly burns its way into the senses and thoughts and  lingers long after its departure. The guitar manipulations at the beginning mesmerise whilst equally challenging the synapses with acute dynamics to leave them smarting. The tone darkens as a melancholic guitar breath emerges alongside the bass and vocals bringing a coarse Pearl Jam like smoulder across the lava melodic expulsions. It is glorious, its unpredictable expanse  thrilling.

Closing with the enthralling devastation of third instrumental Wasteland and the climactic Requiem, the album is a powerful and deeply satisfying tempest of stoner rock. Maybe DSM have yet to find their really distinct persona in the genre but Dust Storm Warning shows they are well on the way and leaving impressive sounds along the way.

https://www.facebook.com/dswband

RingMaster 27/09/2012

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