Formed in 2018 in Athens, Greece, Mammock is a self-described "weird rock" quartet who just issued their six-song, 31-minute full-length debut on New Year's Day. And it is, well... weird. Not too weird, mind you, but... just weird enough! Expect a rhythm section-centric core of angular (even jazzy, at times) noise rock with tactful dashes of post-rock texture and even a few areas of stripped down emo/indie-esque atmosphere that—while not unfamiliar per se—is unlikely to have you leaping to compare them to any obvious influences or counterparts.
It's the type of distinctive creativity that I can't help but appreciate, so I was more than happy to ask the group a few questions and learn more. Stream the album and examine the results of said chat below...
Several of you have been in other bands prior, and it looks like a couple of members had even played together before in Ramdat, for example. Talk a little bit about your musical backgrounds and how you all came together to form Mammock?
All of us have been active with bands for many years. You did some research [laughs]! Indeed, John (guitar) and Vangelis (drums) play in Ramdat, apart from other groups and projects. Klearhos (bass) and Andreas (vocals) have been longtime friends and bandmates through the years. So, the instrument players met and discussed and arranged jam sessions to work on some ideas. These jams went pretty well, leading to the formation of new material, and then vocals came into the game. As far as musical backgrounds go, we are all over the place from punk/hardcore to free jazz and metal, but our common love for noise rock—and all things musically weird around rock music genres—brought us together in a common vision, which came to life as Mammock.
You've labeled Mammock's musical style as "weird rock," which is indeed an accurate descriptor for the group's unique brand of material. The angular skronk of noise rock is certainly evident, but there are even some jazzy types of influences seeping in at times—amongst other interesting bits and pieces. Was this just the natural meshing of each member's individual influences, or did you consciously set out to achieve something, well... "weird"?
Well, we didn't try to just play this or that style specifically, that's for sure. Our goal is to bring our varied influences to the forefront without trying too hard to sound "weird" or "unique." Our songs led us into this "weird" area, and not vice-versa. It was a priority to blend our different backgrounds in a collective effort, while respecting the individual voices and letting things flow naturally with no egos involved. In the end of it all, we just wanna write good rock songs and solid compositions that speak to us, and hopefully to people out there.
I think another of the key components that makes Itch operate in such a different type of space is that the production and mix seem to take a very specific approach to the guitar tones and making sure that the bass is a crucially central instrument. What would you say you were striving for from a sonic standpoint in terms of how the textures and placement of the instruments work together to add intrigue to your overall palette?
From the beginning, we paid much attention to every instrument and the sound we wanted to bring out as a whole. Our friend, Diogenes [Kyratzoglou, at Piper Studio], who did the recording and mixing, was very open to discussions about how we wanted to approach the material. A crucial decision was to let the energy and drive flow through the rhythm section, rather than the traditional "heavy" rock/metal approach with guitars.
Avoiding the trends of over-compression and over-production was also a key factor. Letting there be space for the bass to breathe and resonate, getting that twangy guitar sound which is reminiscent of art rock and post-punk, and providing the drums with room to sound like drums. All of these were important steps to the direction we wanted to head in.
I'd also be curious to learn more about your lyrical approach. On the surface, some of the song titles have an almost "lighthearted" demeanor, but the contents are actually quite serious by comparison. I guess what I mean is that sometimes "weird" bands have "weird" lyrics, but that's not the case here. I was pleasantly surprised to find that your lyrics actually carry true meaning…
There ain't a standard approach to how we write lyrics. Sometimes the concept may be inspired by a working title that may remain or change, or sometimes the title comes to us in the end. We just keep in mind that they should suit the mood of each song, in one way or another. Usually, lyrics in bands are a personal issue, but—like the music—we approach them collectively. That might change in the future, who knows?
There's usually meaning even in the weirdest lyricists. What varies is the degree of involvement that the writer wants to cause. For Itch, we had in mind to keep it real—not too arty or weird (even if the lyrics are abstract and symbolic at times)—and drew inspiration from problems around us: the refugee and immigrant crisis, the crisis of Greek society amidst some personal experiences on a wider social spectrum, etc. After all, there are quite a few things itching us out there!
The album is only available digitally right now, but I've read that it should be released on CD soon, with plans for vinyl later in the year. Can you expand on that a bit? When might listeners be able to purchase physical copies online, etc.?
By the time this is published, self-released CDs are already in our hands. An edition of 300 digipak copies will be available for purchase via our Bandcamp page soon. In the beginning, the plan was to release Itch on vinyl, but as a D.I.Y. band we are on a budget. Another thing is that we wanted to play live shows as soon as possible with a physical format, and vinyl production takes so long these days. But, there are plans to co-release the album with friends and one or two smaller labels in the near future.
I've not been exposed to a ton of music out of the Greek scene over the years, and what I have heard has been quite different than Mammock—predominantly bands of the more extreme grindcore or black metal varieties. When thinking about Greek bands that have been closer in league to the sounds you're exploring with Mammock, what are some outfits that curious listeners should explore—be they decades-old bands of yore, contemporary acts you've crossed paths with, etc.?
True, our country has always had a tradition of extreme music genres. Nowadays, more bands are flirting with noise rock, post-hardcore or screamo, and we could even say that somehow a newly uprising noise rock scene is forming. Bands that come first to mind who we feel close to musically or share the same ethics with are Calf, Chronoboros, or Rita Mosss. Other bands of the scene that we are a part of and we think are great at what they do are: Krause, Living Under Drones, Tenants, Plebah, and Fuku. Last but not least, we totally recommend The You and What Army Faction (currently on hiatus) and the recently defunct Blank Veins, who are one of our favorites and are absolutely worth checking out.
At this point, we would like to thank you very much for listening to our record very carefully and providing us with interesting questions, cheers!
Itch is available as a name your price download or digipak CD through Bandcamp. Look for vinyl later this year, if all goes well. Keep up with Mammock on Facebook.