Galway pop-punk power trio Mugger Dave have just released their debut album What’s She doing Here? and will play The Stables, Mullingar on Friday June 4.
Mugger Dave - Simon Noble (lead vocals/guitar ), Seán Herriott (bass/vocals ), and Niall Curran (drums ) - was formed three years ago when Englishman Simon and Galwegian Niall were working in The Huntsman’s Inn, and discovered a shared passion for music. Enlisting the help of bass playing Seán, the three friends formed a band and took their name from a character created by Simon’s imaginative sister Harriet.
“When my younger sister Harriet was small she had two imaginary friends,” Simon tells me as I sit with the band for our Thursday morning interview. “They were called Mugger Dave and Girly No 1 and they used to copulate in the shadows of the house. Harriet would come up and tell us ‘There were 60 or 70 babies born again today.’ When coming up with a name we liked Mugger Dave as it sounded like a 1960s, garage rock, psychedelic band.”
Girly No 1 would give her name to the band’s debut EP, but in terms of musical inspiration British alternative rock from the 1990s would prove the band’s biggest influence. This is no surprise given Simon is a born and bred native of Oxford, the city which has given us Radiohead, Supergrass, and Swervedriver.
“There were a lot of good English bands and with Radiohead and Supergrass coming from Oxford, it was a very exciting time,” says Simon.
Simon is also a fan of the Beatles, giving Mugger Dave’s songs their definite pop feel, while Niall is “into much heavier stuff”, ensuring that loud guitars will always be part of the equation.
Given Simon’s background and the band’s musical influences, there is a definite English sensibility at work in Mugger Dave’s music, which allows them a distinct profile in the very healthy Galway rock scene that already has acts as individual as Lost Chord, The Kanyu Tree, A Band Called Wanda, and Disconnect 4.
“When I arrived in Galway nine years ago there was only really Charis,” recalls Simon. “Now there are many good Galway bands around, many of whom have albums and EPs available. It’s great.”
However Ireland, and more specifically Galway, has been an influence on Mugger Dave, particularly Simon.
“Moving to Ireland and living here has changed me as a person,” says Simon. “I was naïve about this country and I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it. I thought it would be the same as our neighbouring countries Scotland and Wales but it’s very different. The houses are built differently, the people are different. I live near Spiddal where the first language is Irish and that adds an interesting flavour to the area, and the more I am here, the more I learn about things...and the history of what my country did here...”
What’s She Doing Here?
Mugger Dave’s debut album What’s She Doing Here? has been a long time in coming, the band taking their time to get the finances in place and then ensure the sound, style, and quality of the recording were exactly what they wanted.
The album is dominated by energetic pop-rock numbers with an alternative rock slant, but there is also catchy light funk (‘Good Times’ ), folk-pop ballads (the beguiling ‘Young Lovers’ ), and heavy rock with a definite prog slant (‘Ribérac, with its tales of carnal misdemeanours ).
Most dramatic though is the album’s opening track ‘Intro’. It begins with an arpeggioed acoustic guitar motif, backed by swirling keyboard sounds, over which the band intone, in near choral fashion: “I don’t want to die/but I don’t want to live forever...”, before exploding into a thunderously heavy riff, which ratchets up the drama to a high level.
“It started off as just an acoustic number,” says Niall, “but then we had the idea, ‘What if it suddenly goes all heavy?’ So we tried it and it worked! We were going to put it halfway through the album as a kind of joke, the ‘intro’ coming in at track number seven, but that’s been done before, so we put it at the start and it works well as an opener.”
Although quite different from the rest of the album, ‘Intro’ still sets the tone for What’s She Doing Here? for while Mugger Dave’s music is upbeat, their lyrics are dark and often deeply pessimistic.
“We live in pessimistic times,” says Simon. “The world’s at war, religion is killing itself, the fat cats are getting fatter although the economy lies in ruins, and they are continuing to get away with it. It’s bleak out there and our lyrics reflect that and all of us have a dark side and we dwell on things we shouldn’t...”
For those who cherish album cover art, if you are downloading What’s She Doing Here? make sure you get a high resolution JPG of the cover. It features a dramatic design by Ronan Reid, a final year architecture student, who also plays keyboard with the band live.
The album cover depicts an enormous tower rising high into the sky, which is made up of tower blocks and skyscrapers, from which protrude menacing cannons and rocket launchers, while the sky itself is reminiscent of the Japanese war ensign.
“We gave Ronan the opportunity to come up with a design and gave him a lot of freedom to do what he wanted,” says Seán. “He spent a lot of time on it and the Mugger Dave lettering on the cover is an original font you won’t see anywhere else. It’s important to have a good image.”
The band’s single ‘Got A Lot On My Mind’, released late last year, received good radio play and earned positive notices from the critics. “They sing, they write...they’re pretty good. One of Ireland’s most promising acts,” declared The Irish Times,while Hotpress said: “Mugger Dave have immediately distinctive, powerfully tight, and forceful music. Custom made for radio, expect to hear a lot more from Mugger Dave.”
The band will now be taking to the road, determined to spread the word about their music and What’s She Doing Here? Touring Ireland and Britain over the next while will take place in faithful ‘Jeff’, a 1977 camper van named after ELO’s Jeff Lynn.
“It means we don’t have to worry about B&Bs,” laughs Seán, “although one morning we woke up to find the van being rocked back and forth by some drunk guys. We were inside wondering if we should get out, but we thought ‘Nah, won’t bother...’”
However the band have no such laissez faire attitude to their music. “We’ll give it 110 per cent at every show,” says Niall. “We’ll always approach it with enthusiasm as we believe in what we’re doing.”
Mugger Dave play The Stables, Mullingar on Friday June 4.