The Bellybuttons formed in Glasgow in 2013 and is the project of four friends from the south of England. After meeting at university the four quickly began playing music together and creating a sound which has been described as ‘slacker-psych’, ‘bubblegum garage’ and ‘navel-gaze'. The collaborative nature of the song-writing and the wide variety of influences within the band create an off-kilter and unhinged sound which is nonetheless firmly grounded in pop melodies. With interest in the band increasing as they begin to pick up a following in Glasgow, and with more release plans throughout the year, 2015 looks to be a busy year for one of our favourite new bands.
They released their 'Mump' EP via cassette and digitally on the 6th April. We caught up with the guys (and the dog) to chat about their love of cassettes, self created genres and webbed toes, here's how we got on....
You’re called ‘The Bellybuttons’, how did you come to settle on this name?
It was a misguided attempt to subvert the band-naming process. We just wanted it to be something a bit silly and at the time had developed a weird penchant for fingering peoples’ bellybuttons. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we’re still avid fans of doing so.
You have released your EP ‘Mump’ on cassette, what is it about cassettes you guys love?
I’ve got quite a lot of cassettes but don’t actually have a cassette player which I know makes me an easy target for hipster accusations. Anyway… I do plan on getting one but I just think they’re cool things to have. Most releases are pretty limited so they’ll be really rare and interesting mementos to look back on/listen back to. The Mump release was only 25 cassettes for example so whoever ends up with one of them has, if nothing else, something rare! As far as I’m aware most of the indie labels in Glasgow and elsewhere release them because they’re really cheap to make.
Who designed the artwork for your EP cover?
The artwork was designed by our friend’s sister, Niamh Coogan, and is a drawing of his (Conor Coogan’s) face. Apparently one day his family had a competition to see who could draw the best picture of each other’s faces. A very wholesome family activity indeed. We all really liked it so we used it. Simple as that.
Where did you record your EP ‘Mump’ and what made you choose that studio?
We recorded the three main tracks live in a day in Lo-fi Studios in the centre of Glasgow. We just googled studios in Glasgow and were pretty foolhardy about the whole thing to be honest. It was a good experience there but I definitely think it’s important to look around and find the perfect place. The whole environment and who you work with can really make it or break it. We recorded our track for the Fuzzkill valentines compilation with Chris McCrory (of Catholic Action and Casual Sex fame) at his Shady Lane Studio and that was great. The bonus track, ’You Just Don’t See’, was recorded by us on my laptop using this free software called Reaper. Thankfully, my student loan has since thrust me forth from the dark ages of PC to the unbridled wonders of Mac and Garageband.
What is the best advice you ever received and who was it from?
Dab, don’t wipe
Would you rather live with a dog that sings lullabies or a gorilla that can do sign language? Explain your answer
A dog that sings lullabies because I like dogs and I can’t do sign language.
Your sound has been referred to as ‘Slacker-Psych’, ‘Bubblegum Garage’ and ‘Navel-Gaze' what does that all mean? please tell us?
Slacker-psych is the best we could do at describing our own music which is never a nice thing to be asked to do. We certainly don’t go around shouting ‘we’re a slacker-psych band!’ but I suppose they’re two labels/genres we’d potentially fit in. People might think we’re neither but it’s all just semantics really isn’t it! We were described as bubblegum garage by a promoter which I absolutely loved and to me it describes the idea of overtly poppy, melodic music dirtied up pretty well. Navel-gazing is a phrase which essentially means being lazy (staring at ones bellybutton). Our friend James came up with that one night as a pun on shoe-gazing so all the credit to him!
In your opinion, what is the BEST album/record ever released and why?
I normally talk about The Velvet Underground whenever I get asked about my favourite band/album just because, to me, there’s something about their first three albums that you don’t often find elsewhere. At times its so live, raw and chaotic yet everything is somehow perfect. There’s also incredible songwriting on the more chilled and tender songs. I wouldn’t really like to call anything the best but there’s always been something about those three albums that I’ve thought was really special. Other albums I can think of for similar reasons are Bee Thousand (Guided By Voices), Slanted and Enchanted (Pavement) and Psychocandy (The Jesus and Mary Chain) but it changes a fair bit. I only discovered Guided By Voices about a year ago, for example.
Tell me a fascinating fact about you or one of your band members?
Rob has completely webbed toes.
If you had a chance to put together your own ‘super group’, who would be in it? (only living members please)
You’re signed with Fuzzkill records, how did that come about and what advice would you offer a musician/band before signing their name on the dotted line?
I sent Ross our stuff online and ended up speaking to him at a few gigs he put on. While I can’t say for sure about other cities, Glasgow seems to have an especially thriving underground music scene so I think we’re pretty fortunate in that respect. There’s loads of small independent labels and a lot of people who are passionate about music so I guess my only advice would be to move somewhere like that.
Do you own a record that you wouldn’t like to admit you have?
I’ve downloaded a hell of a lot of music over the years, a lot of which I’ve never even listened to, so I’m sure I have some seriously dark secrets on my Itunes. Off the top of my head I know I have Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ (great album by the way), American Idiot by Green Day, and I’m pretty sure I have some of Professor Green’s earlier ‘works’.
What is the correct way to make a cup of tea? Do you have to stir in a certain direction?
I rarely stir at all to be honest. I don’t take sugar and a clean teaspoon is hard to come by so I pinch the part of the teabag that is just above the liquid, being careful not to scald my fingertips, give it a few dunks, and then shake it off. Tesco’s own brand teabags I simply will not abide.
‘I Guess’, to me is a highlight of the 3 track EP, what is the story behind this track?
Cheers! I generally like to leave it up to the listener but what the heck. When I first started university almost two years ago I was feeling really cynical about a lot of people I met professing how radical and subversive they were. It all just struck me as a bit phoney being in the privileged position we were/are in. But hey, who cares.
Is there something you would like to tell each of the band members that you haven’t told them before?
Probably not through this medium
What was the first gig you ever went to?
The Streets in Cambridge
Name three people (alive, dead or fictional) that you would like as party guests?
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
Our friend’s band Velvet Morning have been up to a lot in the last couple of years and they’re great. They’ve got an album coming out around June and are amazing live so people should definitely catch them if they can. I’ve been obsessed with Proper Ornaments and Ultimate Painting recently which is two of the projects of James Hoare so i’d thoroughly recommend them. Hooton Tennis Club, Theo Verney and Pink Teens are also all amazing acts that I’m aware of in the UK at the moment.
What are your plans for 2015?
We’ll be releasing our second EP towards the end of summer and plan on doing a UK tour. Our first proper show outside of Glasgow is on the 16th May at the Shacklewell Arms supporting Pinact so that’ll be fun!
With news of their second EP, we were going to let them off the quickfire question round, then we came to our senses and strapped them down, ready for the interrogation process....
Coffee or Tea?
Coke or Pepsi?
Drum machine or the real deal?
The real deal
Mac or PC?
Mac, PC’s are for losers
Fry up or Sunday roast
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)?
CD or Vinyl?
Billy Connolly or Brian Conley?
Who’s Brian Conley?
Car or Motorbike?
Acoustic or electric?
Shower or Bath?
Tattoos or Piercings?
Robert de Niro or Al Pacino?
God or Google?
We'd like to thank the guys for taking the time to answer our questions, we wish them every success with their 2nd EP and we will do our best to send someone along to catch them at the Shacklewell Arms in London on May 16th, until then, please spare a few minutes of your time and check out their social media things below.
If you like what you heard above and wish to purchase their SUPER Limited Edition cassette tape, then click HERE
Interview by Mark Wincott