A duo-come-couple based out of Bristol, Mumble Tide have been something of a rarity in recent years, a DIY band who’ve broken out despite the great limitations of existing during a pandemic. Their 2020 debut EP, Love Thing, was one of the year’s best, and they wasted no time in following up on it, with the December release of their eight-track mini-album, Everything Ugly.
Formed after vocalist/guitarist Gina Leonard placed an advert on Gumtree, Mumble Tide built their creativity around a liberating sense of true creative freedom, an atmosphere they describe as, “a judgement free zone where nothing was out of bounds”. It gives the band an almost pick-and-mix approach to alternative music, a band not wedded to a single sound or genre, and always willing to experiment. Take a track like Good 4 Me, where the half-spoken lead vocal is accompanied by a country-licked guitar and swirling synth-bed, like a fusion of Rilo Kiley and Big Thief. It’s a complete contrast to the record’s more strutting moments like the 80’s-tinged closer On My Deathbed There’s a Full Page (You Don’t Get To Read it), and equally far removed the stripped-back folk of Bullseye.
On Love Thing, Mumble Tide seemed to set out with the positivity that forming the band brought, Everything Ugly is more backward glancing, seeking to explore the frustration that led them to want to rip it up and start again in the first place, as well as wider thoughts on the difficulty of striding into adulthood in the modern world. The undercurrent of anger is never more evident than on the record’s first single, the swaggering, swirling noise of Sucker, a two-fingered salute to past baggage, a full stop to the problems that sabotaged previous musical projects as the band stride confidently into a brighter future. The frustrations come fittingly to a rolling boil on the swampy Breakfast, with Gina’s surprisingly sweetly delivered refrain, “everyone’s an arsehole out for themselves”. This is no unedited grump though, there are playful moments too, from Noodle, a song about Gina’s, “abnormally long neck”, and on the fluttering Martha Ffion-like country-pop of Too Far Back, a track so luxuriously delightful it feels like dusk and dawn rolled into one beautiful montage.
At the end of last year, Gina took some time to answer my questions discussing home recording, their influences from Bright Eyes to Taylor Swift, and how, “music helps us feel less strange”.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Mumble Tide?
Mumble Tide are a band made up of two scrumps and one furby who run a music factory specializing in packets of raucous bedroom pop tunes – we have sweet and sour flavours available in a range of colours.
FTR: You’ve just released your new mini-album, Everything Ugly, what can you tell me about the recording process?
We recorded and produced everything in our little home studio. We try to capture things whilst we’re lost in the middle of them, to attempt to pin down the feelings while they’re still hot and keep it fresh and scrappy like an angry rabbit.
FTR: What did you do differently compared to previous recordings?
We splashed out on a slightly better microphone so hopefully, the vocals sound a bit better? Our interface is shit though so I’m not sure it really worked.
Overall, we kept the same approach we applied to our Love Thing EP – basically, the main aim is to keep it fun and free from pressure. We just bop around in our dressing gowns and stay up too late getting lost in making music.
FTR: This is a record that showcases a lot of different sides of your music, did you deliberately choose to showcase that versatility?
We decided rather than choosing a couple of the ‘strongest’ tracks, we’d put them all out together in the hope that it does showcase our versatility (or incoherence?). We love lots of different music and the freedom to roam into different areas without security guards telling us to GET BACK IN YOUR MUMBLE BOX is a really important thing for us.
FTR: Who were the influences on Everything Ugly? What were you listening to when you made the record?
Aside from our usual favs (The National, P Bridgers, Japanese Breakfast, Big Thief, etc) there was definitely a big presence of 90’s and 00’s alt stuff for us last year. Gina discovered a love of Sonic Youth and Kim Gordon’s work- she was reading her autobiography whilst we were recording and I think that was quite inspiring. I got really into the production on stuff like The Microphones which didn’t really seep into the work but it did encourage me to think a bit differently. Broken Social Scene became a big reference point as well. There was also a big Midwestern emo phase and loads of Bright Eyes (MCR was also about quite a bit). For me personally as well I had a lot of 80’s Thrash, Hardcore and American Grindcore on rotation which lead to us thinking more about what Mumble Tide can be if we remove a few of the walls. And yea, every other month at the moment someone drops an incredible pop record which is impossible to ignore, Taylor Swift definitely hooked us both.
FTR: You’re in the unusual situation of being both a band and a couple, can it be difficult balancing the two?
Yea for sure- we definitely have phases where we’re so focused on the music we forget to be couple outside of working together but overall we just feel so grateful to have found a way to be able to share the highs and lows of being in a band. Also the fact we’re so comfortable with each other has really informed the sound. We’re so excited about the project and just want to give it our best so hopefully we can keep making music together until we’re old and wrinkly.
FTR: Do you have plans to tour the record? What can people expect from the Mumble Tide live show?
We just finished a little headline tour actually. We were lucky enough to have quite a few friends join us this time to make up a 6 piece (7 if you include Furbz) but our line up varies. Mumble Tide live is all about having fun and just letting loose… we drag out some of the noisier sections and get a bit shouty and wap out some badly played trumpet.
FTR: Why do you make music? Do you have any creative outlets beyond music?
I think in general, both of us have felt a bit awkward in life and music helps us feel less strange. We both love listening to music and fully believe it has the power to connect people together like a nice Christmas puzzle. I (Gina) suffer from being a bit over-sensitive so songwriting is a good outlet for the surplus emotion to spill out without making too much of a mess.
In terms of other outlets, at the moment music takes up pretty much all our time around working our shitty part-time jobs but Gina likes making terrible sculptures out of rubbish too.
FTR: What are your aspirations for this record? Do you see music as a viable career?
We definitely don’t make music to make money. The odd time it’s provided a tiny bit of kick back but it’s always gone straight back into the project. In the current state of the industry, it’s difficult to see how many artists would ever be able to support themselves solely on releasing music but we all find a way to make it work with the help of odd jobs! In terms of this record, our aspirations are to get it in as many people’s ears as possible whilst dragging the project kicking and screaming up to the next step on the ladder and hopefully we’ll be in a position to keep doing what we love!
FTR: What’s next for Mumble Tide?
We’re working on new stuff all the time, so I guess at some point we’ll make a proper album but in the meantime we just wanna keep doing what we’re doing because it makes us feel good and we hope it makes you feel good too.