Signed to the rather forward thinking label Gondwana Records, Mammal Hands are a trio of artists- Nick Smart piano, Jesse Barrett drums and tabla and Jordan Smart saxophones who sit in a rather agitated state between a plethora of stomping genres-think jazz and techno to name but a few.
We first came across Mammal Hands through Jamie Cullum’s brilliant Radio 2 show when he glorified the track Kandaiki, from their debut album Animalia (2014). The glorification of said track was the least that could be lavished on this supreme composition that manages to envelop with exquisite layers of musicality.
Two years post their debut album and here we are with their second album Floa oozing Mammal Hand’s signature sounds, slick production and amazing musicality.
With the Norwich trio, due to embark on a Europe wide tour we caught up with them to talk about their burgeoning success post that first album.
So, I expect we need some background. How did Mammal Hands become a reality and why?
We were all busking in Norwich at the same time and I approached Nick and Jordan after listening to them play, a few days after that we started playing and writing together. (Jesse)
It was a chance meeting and all started from there really. Nick, my brothers and I have been playing together in different bands and combinations since we were a lot younger. (Jordan)
What are your individual musical stories, were you all destined to be musicians?
I started playing around with sound from early on. I had a tape recorder and a box of random instruments my mum collected for me. I used to record stuff off the radio and play along to it and try to record myself and my friends making songs. I started going to my local folk jam when I was about nine and then got a drum kit when I was ten and played through school. After college, I met my Guru- Sirishkumar Manji and began studying tabla with him. (Jesse)
I have always had an interest in lots of different instruments, especially woodwind from around the world, and played as much as possible and listening to and collecting records. (Jordan)
I have been playing piano and guitar for years in different bands in Norwich and studied a degree in music technology a little while back but this band has been the most important musical project of the last few years for me. (Nick)
Describe your sound if you can-is it too simplistic to call you a jazz outfit?
I guess it’s hard to try and put a name on it because for us what we are writing is a combination of all our influences. It fits into jazz but we draw on loads of genres, a few examples are; folk, classical, techno, South African jazz, North Indian music and others. (Jordan)
We first heard your music after catching a past recording from Jamie Cullum’s show-you must have been stoked to get that attention from your debut album?
The response to Animalia was amazing, and it really gave us confidence going into the second album. Getting airplay from the likes of Jamie Cullum was a real boost and it meant a lot. (Jesse)
Your first album was in 2014. Looking back at that album what feelings and thoughts does it evoke?
We wrote a lot of that album in the first year we were a band and I’m pleased how it sounds now. It feels like a lot of the ideas we explored on that album are still important to us but with our newer material we are taking ideas to further musical extremes and taking more risks with the compositions. (Nick)
And of course, your current album how did you approach this album and how was it different-if it was?
Going into the recording for Floa (2016) we could be a lot more focused as we had more of an understanding of the processes involved in making an album. We spent more time and effort in preparation and tried a lot of new recording and production ideas in the studio which we were happy with the outcome from. (Jordan)
Explain the technical aspects of creating this current album-was it more challenging trying to achieve the standards you set yourself?
There were a few technical challenges in the studio, mainly to do with mixing the record and making sure we got the most out of each instrument. As there’s no bass player in the band so we think carefully about the arrangements and the production to make sure there’s a balance between the low and high frequencies. (Nick)
Any tracks off the album you feel epitomise what you were trying to achieve on the album?
I think that we were trying to achieve different things with each track on the album so it’s not as if one captures the whole album. A track like Kudu for example captures much more of the group improvisatory feel, whereas a track like Shift for us captures some of the electronic influences and other compositional ideas. (Jordan)
What are your aspirations as a band and indeed at present have you so far achieved what you set out to do?
We are always focused on trying to get the music right and give as much as we can in the shows and our records and that is an on-going goal and we will keep pushing ourselves in that direction. During the last year things, have started to get more full on in terms of touring and that’s where we want to be going. (Jesse)
2017 tours surely are part of the plan of action?
Yes, we have loads of stuff happening in 2017, we are doing lots of shows in Europe check website for details, we will be covering a lot of new ground which is exciting, we have had so many messages from people saying “when are you playing in my city” so it will be really cool to be able to perform for those people. (Jesse)