THE Mantic Muddlers needed a big sound for their new album, Tall Tales and the Gospel Truth, so they recorded all 12 tracks in a kitchen…over one weekend.
“It was a challenge but we did it,” says frontman Jacob Davies. “We recorded it live and absolutely have not manipulated anything. We did about four takes of every song and picked our favourites.”
Of course it wasn’t just any kitchen, but an industrial one in a former day centre for people with disabilities – next to a rail line with trains going past and vibrating the building every 15 minutes.
“Yeah, at one point a train rumbles past at the end of a track,” laughs the singer and guitarist. “But actually it was brilliant. The kitchen is full of shiny surfaces and the acoustics are great.
“We went there once to rehearse and we thought ‘this is a big sound’. There’s no carpet and everything is solid, there’s a wooden floor, metal furniture and cookers and sinks, lots of natural reverb. It helps to lift the playing.”
The result is Tall Tales & The Gospel Truth, the roots trio’s second release, following a six-track CD in 2017, but Jacob insists the new album is their true debut.
“This one that feels more like us,” he explains. “The intention was always there, from the first few tracks, that it would be an album. We’ve let them develop and grow and worked really hard on them.”
The Hampshire outfit have been a settled three-piece for about three years, the singer’s musical partners being double bass player George Mercer and violin player Laurence Evans.
George has provided rock solid basslines since he and Jacob were in a heavy metal band in school, but Laurence’s one-man string section is a more recent addition after he approached the others after a pub gig.
“He came up and said: “I can play violin”, so I invited him round my house…and two notes in I was nearly crying, it’s such a unique instrument. I was like “yes!” and he was in the band from that moment,” says the frontman.
Laurence’s strings skill has been honed from a young age playing in the school orchestra and a mixed background ranging from Frank Zappa to Stephane Grappelli. “I started with classical, but got into jazz and always loved improvising,” he explains.
Jacob admits: “Musically we’ve come from different places. Me and George come from a rock and heavy metal background, whereas Laurence knows what he’s doing!
“But where does metal come from? Rock ‘n’ roll. And where does that come from? Eventually you get back to the blues, gospel, soul and slave music. They all have the same energy and, for me, it’s all about the energy.”
Whatever way you describe it, The Muddlers’ roots, rattle and roll sound has won them plenty of fans and upcoming gigs include the Twisted Village Festival, the Big Top tent at Victorious in Portsmouth, and a recent support slot with the legendary Johnny Mars.
The official launch gig for Tall Tales & The Gospel Truth will be at the Star Inn, Guildford, on Thursday (27 June), which was booked before they’d even recorded the album.
“Well, it’s quite good to put your back against the wall sometimes,” says Laurence.