Interview by Elizabeth Wootten.
Mammoth Penguins are an indie-rock three piece from Cambridge. Their debut album, Hide And Seek, is out on Fortuna POP! on July 10th and you can hear the lead single from it on the Indietracks compilation. Oh, and they’re also really nice people. And they love a good penguin joke…
How would you introduce yourselves to the Indietracks goer who hasn’t heard you yet?
Mark: To a returning Indietracks goer I’d mention Emma’s previous band, Standard Fare. If that got a blank look, I’d say we are an energetic three-piece with a solid rhythm section, soaring vocals and great guitar chops. If they didn’t believe me, I’d just say we were nice people.
Emma: Short, cute, kinda goofy, good at swimming. But also very big and hairy.
You’ve been putting your debut album together, how’s that been? Was it an enjoyable process? (And did you really fund it by selling t-shirts on Bandcamp… 🙂
Mark: Writing the songs and recording them was really enjoyable. We recorded at Sickroom Studios and Owen is a great person to work with. All of the other stuff you have to do to release an album is just hard work. And yes, we definitely paid for a few recording sessions with t-shirt sales.
Tom: It was an enjoyable process although the late night studio sessions got to pretty arctic temperatures.
All of you have been in other bands – but Mammoth Penguins don’t sound very much like any of them. Does that take conscious effort, or did it just happen naturally? Does the “singer formerly of Standard Fare” label follow you around?
E: Mark’s pop sensibilities plus Tom’s energy plus my attempts at guitar and singing formulate our sound. Yes we do get compared to Standard Fare a lot and that’s unavoidable – I didn’t stray far starting up another noisy band with two men. So that tag will be with us for a little while until people get to know Mammoth Penguins better. Hopefully Standard Fare fans will give us a listen and we’ll find completely new listeners when our album is released.
What brought the three of you together as a band?
M: Puncture Repair Kit and Standard Fare had played a couple of gigs together and when Emma moved to Cambridgeshire I knew I pretty much had to start a band with her if I could. I knew Tom’s previous band too and a friend suggested he might be available. He came to a gig to meet us and right after we played some people stopped me and Emma right in front of him and gave us a load of praise. It worked out really well for us.
T: When I first saw Mammoth Penguins with their old drummer I thought ‘great bass playing, structured songs, memorable tunes, I can add to this’.
What’s great about Cambridge? If we’re visiting, where should we go and what should we see?
E: Kettle’s Yard is free and a nice interesting place to spend an hour.
M: Relevant Records on Mill Road is a great place to eat a scotch egg then go and make some record sleeves greasy.
T: All the museums including the Scott Polar institute.
What’s good and what’s bad about being a three-piece? Ever fancied
adding a brass section?
M: Being a three-piece means you can’t get too drunk because there’s nowhere to hide your mistakes.
T: I get the fourth beer in a four pack and we can all fit in one car.
E: I have always wanted a brass section! I just haven’t managed to make it happen yet.
What’s the line-up for your dream Indietracks Saturday night? Who else
on the bill this year are you keen to see?
E: I’d want Camera Obscura back – they were so good in 2013! Plus Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital. This year I’m keen to see The Tuts tear it up, as well as Martha and Colour Me Wednesday.
M: I’d add Waxahatchee to Emma’s lineup, although that might be too much Crutchfield? Looking forward to seeing Tuff Love again and Chorusgirl.
T: I will be loyally watching Emma Kupa and Violet Woods.
Are rehearsals crazy alcohol-fuelled sessions, or are they more tea and biscuits?
E: Somewhere in between – Tom brings the beers.
Are you tired of the penguin jokes yet?
E: Never! We love the pun-guins.
M: They give us happy feet.
T: What will the penguins be eating at indietracks? Brrrritos
Congratulations, you’ve just been made supreme rulers of Britain.
What’s your first edict?
E: Make Caroline Lucas prime minister.
T & M: Seconded
You’re on stage, but the drinks have run out. Someone in the front row
offers to get them in. What’s the band’s order?
E: Water and half a lager please. Or a whisky if they look generous.
M: I’ll drink what everyone else is drinking, then regret it in the morning.