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FURRY HUG is a monster. Well, a Yaksha, a type of nature-spirit. “I stole the name from an old Buddhist tale,” says Jack Mee. “As soon as I saw it written down, I thought, ‘That’s the name for me’.” It became the perfect moniker for what he describes “playfully confused” music, something which conveys a warm sensation of strangeness mirrored in his first release, the On The Line EP.
Black holes, ladybird dots, imaginary friends and social notions help make up the imagery of the EP’s songs. Cacophonous swirls of solid rhythms and charmed melodies peppered with additions of tuned percussion, kazoo and saxophones.
Stocking a sonic curiosity shop is part of his process. “It’s a little chaotic to be honest, he admits. “I’m not very methodical with writing. I’m always working on something, although I’m often planting more seeds than seeing anything come to fruition.”
This restlessness surfaces throughout the EP: the whiling beat of People Skills ticking away the time he has to befriend the “one in seven billion”, the snare snapping half a beat early on Ladybird as he ponders “how I missed the boat” and the stuttering handclaps that crackle before the closing vocal bursts of Panic Mode. Unconstrained in his approach, Jack creates surprising and textural mood boards; small details emerge with repeated listens like finally seeing hidden mascarons in architecture.
Lockdown lent the necessary space to collate his first release, the artist admits. “It was about time I released something. I’ve been lucky enough to keep my job as a support worker, since the pubs have been shut, I’ve saved money that’s helped go towards the EP and some recording equipment.” Working and releasing alone allows him the autonomy to create these instrumental playscapes in as much time as feels necessary. “Some of my songs are written really quickly. Others take months, or years to fully grow,” he says, using the time to instil them with whatever theme or idea he likes.
Take Elwood’s Friend, a musical homage to Harvey, a 1950s James Stewart movie itself adapted from the 1944 Mary Chase play of the same name. “I love the film,” he says, “[the idea] grew into a vague song about how ‘sane’ people address mental illness, which is what I think the film pokes fun at.” The film’s titular character is a pooka from Celtic folklore and the companion of the song’s titular character. This second allusion to things fantastical and the reworking of an old narrative reveals a wider fascination. “I think songwriting is a way of mythologising yourself, or someone or something else,” he explains. “Myths travel through songs, especially in folk music. There’s something mysterious about how myths help shape our lives and I think music is good way of exploring that.”
Having been “raised on Bowie”, the notion of self-mythologising doesn’t seem so strange. “He’s always been a fatherly figure to me, musically.” And after spending “a lot of time watching the Blues Brothers as a kid”, his break came at the Preston Guild Hall, performing at a tribute gig. “I was about eight or nine, in the full suit and shades, and they pulled me on stage to sing with them,” he recalls
Such encouragements led to playing drums since the age of 11, a vocation which has shaped much he’s done musically since. Manifesting in the percussive consonants of “got to get me some” opening the EP, the plinking xylophone that brightens every beat it bobs over and collaborations with others, (drumming for Bye Louis and Dilettante, based in Manchester) Jack is an artist whose approach to rhythm feels apt for the beat besotted customs of current music. Not surprising when he relates “music is lifeblood for me, a sense of purpose. If I haven’t written anything in a while, or learnt something new, it affects my self-esteem. I’d be lost without it.”
Despite enjoying tackling his first release almost singlehandedly, “recording the majority of [songs] in my bedroom”, there’s readiness to relax and breathe. “I’ve probably spent too much time living with my own music and become too familiar with it. It’s kept me sane, but I’m ready to go to gigs again and experience other people’s work,” he confesses.
He’ll still be collecting new ideas, though. “I’ve toyed with the idea of releasing demos, like a mixtape. You see it in hip hop; artists release a mixtape to promote a future ‘official’ release, but as far as I know you don’t often see it in indie or alt rock or whatever genre Furry Hug fits into.”
Stories of myth are difficult to pin down, their histories often fragmented and obscured. I don’t know when the next big chapter of the Furry Hug tales will appear, but when it does, I’m certain it will be worth passing on.
On The Line is out now via Haunted Jacuzzi.