Ash Mammal is a singular entity. Though the musicians which comprise it go by the names Cass, George, Jeeves and Stan, for the purposes of this interview at least, they speak with one voice; preferring not to be singled out as individuals. It’s perhaps no surprise then, that their debut LP The Ghost We Caught on Film, released this week, is as unified as the band members who created it. The record is a remarkably solid body of work that ebbs and flows with a delicately balanced rhythm. The songs are as unusual as they are captivating, and draped with Cass and Stan’s often haunting vocals, they sound like nothing else.
That it wasn’t written in a single chunk for the sole purpose of a release is perhaps surprising. “In reality, the album has been in progress since the band started. We have a strange writing process, lots of stitching together old song corpses to create these beautiful new creatures” they confess. “Last summer we did lots of tape recordings with our friend and producer Max Mead, and thats where everything started coming together, but we’re always doing ‘individual’ writing. Cass had a little holiday in a remote cottage in wales and built the skeletons of Laid Down After the Funeral and Come back over here. Jeeves lived with his guitar at whatever house he was staying at that week and composed Brassy Throat. George filled his infinite notebooks full of lyrics that would fit seamlessly into riffs that weren’t even written yet and Stan used garage band and an apple headphone mic to work on the Demos for Axehead at 4 am. Then we brought it all together – everyones little bits – forcing them together.”
“For us,we just do what flows.”
“We had two sessions recording onto tape, and being in that environment it didn’t feel forced – like anything had to happen – it just sort of did. For us,we just do what flows. Once we had all the songs written, we began incorporating elements to make them sound like an album. Recurring melodies and motifs, and all that jazz, until they seemed like they couldn’t be contextualized anywhere else but on The Ghost We Caught on Film.”
TGWCOF follows on from their debut EP Body Dysmorphia which came out a mere year ago, but many of the songs from the LP predate that release – in whole or in part. It’s clear the process of making that first record has informed the way they’ve worked on their full-length. “Body dysmorphia was an exercise in defining our style, and it really helped us to find the way we wanted to sound. It was the start of finding a way to express what we wanted to with the album, working together to create something we were all happy with. We learned a lot from that, and used it in writing the album, which we are all mutually content with.”
While the EP was a confident statement of intent from a band who were beginning to define themselves, The album is something else entirely. We Get Around is a brash sing-along anthem in waiting and Fresh Veined Skin is a darkly beautiful drone that intermittently bursts in to screams of technicolour. Axehead is similarly haunting – perfectly paced verses that lurch in to life for the chorus – while Laid Down after the Funeral, with carefully orchestrated strings, and it’s patient instrumental outro is beguiling different. There are a multitude of influences at play here, but this isn’t the sound of a band aping their peers. It’s clear that it’s an intensely personal record.
“I think we’ve channeled all the emotion and difficulties we’ve experienced into the album.”
“Apart from the obvious, (a few crippling break-ups and post-teen angst) so much has been going on for us in the past year, just personally. I think we’ve channeled all the emotion and difficulties we’ve experienced into the album.”
As well as the record which was birthed in to the world last week, TGWCOF will see a second, markedly different release in the future in the form of the original four track tape recordings. Stripping the songs back to their purest form, it’s even more apparent that this is just Ash Mammal being the only thing they can be – but informed by the environment they find themselves in.
“The musicality and stuff is just us really, this is first time I’ve felt we’ve not had any reference point other than ourselves. We weren’t “going for this sound” or anything like that, and whilst we had inspiration, it was purely just us trying to create something that represented the band as it’s own entity. For us, that was such a special thing to find, at no point in making the tapes or the record were we trying to sound like anything other than what was in our heads.The room we did the tapes in (which was the heart of the whole creation process really) was filled with all our friends artwork, a lot of instruments, circuits, TV aerials, tape machines and drums. We think that surrounding ourselves with all that art and the busy creative space was very conducive to the work, because we could really connect with all the expression around us and be in a space that welcomed creativity and thinking outside the box.
“You get a bit introspective, never leaving the room, eating, smoking, listening in this one space. It gets a bit emotional as you grow closer as people and lots of things spill out onto the lyric sheets and fingers discover nasty new chords as everyone is trying to express what the fuck is going on. I guess it was like this big therapy session.”
Pan out from that rehearsal studio and put Ash Mammal in the context of their home town for a second. As with many bands that have begun to break out from the city, they see Leicester as something of a mixed blessing. “it’s a tricky one. There are a lot of great people trying to do a lot of great things, but not enough people doing the same thing to make a scene. We’re lucky if we’re on a show with a band that works with us. Saying that, there is an amazing amount of support – dedicated music fans, open minded people who are excited about what we’re doing, and we wouldn’t be in the position we are without them.”
“It’s nice to be able to get outside of the ‘local bubble.’ For us, it’s humbling and reassuring, it feels like getting compliments from someone other than your mum. The people who come to see us are just fans, just people who are truly interested in what we’re doing, and it’s reassuring to know that people who don’t know us enjoy our music.”
“The work we’ve been doing is so important to us, so essential to our identities that we’re just going to fucking play for ourselves, to get out all this pent up worry and frustration that this album has brought to us.”
With an album release comes a call for celebration, and Ash Mammal aren’t shying away from that expectation. This weekend they’ll be taking to Leicester’s beautiful O2 Academy 2 venue – a spectacular, and huge, space. Such a step up comes with mixed emotions. “We’re terrified. It’s always a big anxiety as a performer about attendance, about reception – those fears never really go away. This show is such a big deal for us. It’s been a year (and more) in the making, and it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done, so it’s easy to overthink things. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to us anymore. We’re going to put everything into this show that we can and no matter who’s going to be there, the work we’ve been doing is so important to us, so essential to our identities that we’re just going to fucking play for ourselves, to get out all this pent up worry and frustration that this album has brought to us.”
This only happens once in the life of any band. Celebrating the release of your first full-length – a document of who and what you are at this point in your existence, and the high water mark of everything you’ve done up until this point – is something special. It will never be repeated. The band are acutely aware of this fact, and it feels like they’re determined to make the most of it. “We’re excited to do lots of new/old songs, for new and old patrons, we’ve never had the opportunity to do a set this long, and we’re taking advantage of every second, getting everyone involved. Flugelhorn players, synth technicians… all of us are just so excited. We’re even releasing the album a week early (the 1st of October) so everyone can listen and get comfortable with the music a little bit, to enjoy the launch even more.”
“We’re never stopping, even if people want us to, fucking tough luck. We love what we do, we want to work hard for this band because its fun, it’s the way we want to live. Expect everything, we will deliver.”
So with the record out in the wild, what comes next?
“Apart from the mass suicide we have planned at the album launch, we’ve got loads of fun stuff coming up. The obvious plans are all there. Tours, merch, music videos, but apart from that we’re also releasing ‘From Basement to Pyre,’ the tape version of the album we recorded with the wonderful Max Mead. Keep your eye out, it’s got a lot of cute bits that were cut out of the album, including two more songs and a monologue from the communist manifesto. We just sorted out some pretty cool stuff, it’s hush hush right now, but lets just say we have some ‘sick things’ coming up. One thing about us is we’re a never stopping machine. We’re never stopping, even if people want us to, fucking tough luck. We love what we do, we want to work hard for this band because its fun, it’s the way we want to live. Expect everything, we will deliver.
Ash Mammal celebrate the release of The Ghost We Caught on Film with a headline show at O2 Academy Leicester on Saturday 8th October with support from Courtney Askey, Gleam and Kermes. The record is available now from all good digital retailers.