The Mummies were an American garage punk band formed in San Bruno, California, in 1988. Exhibiting a defiantly raw and lo-fi sound, dubbed "budget rock", the Mummies' rebellious attitude and distinctive performance costumes exerted a major influence on garage punk and garage rock revival acts later in the decade, as well as in the 1990s. Their recorded output was intentionally completed with poor, cheap equipment, including their first and only studio album Never Been Caught, which was released after the group's initial break-up. Since then, the Mummies have engaged in several positively-received reunion concerts and tours.
Formed in late 1988 by Maz Kattuah (bass guitar) and Larry Winther (lead guitar), the band's lineup also included Trent Ruane (organ, saxophone) and Russell Quan (drums). The group became a key musical force in San Francisco's emerging garage punk scene alongside the Phantom Surfers and the Untamed Youth, although the band set out to be more crude than their contemporaries. The group jokingly adopted the moniker the Mummies and immediately became known for their style of dress, clothing themselves in tattered rags like actual mummies. This homemade choice of attire was influential on the local garage punk scene, with newer groups also dressing in similarly gimmicky clothing.
Influenced by R&B and 1960s garage rock bands such as the Sonics and the Fabulous Wailers, the Mummies, according to promoter and musician Jorge "Real Boss Hoss" Ojeda, "created the 'budget rock' sound. They recorded their own records on cheap, damaged gear and self-released them". Indeed, starting with their debut performance at the Chi Chi Club in February 1989, the band was committed to a "do it yourself" approach, optimized by their cheap, vintage gear and Farfisa organ, a characteristic instrument of 1960s garage. In 1990 the group released their debut single, "That Girl", on the Mummies' own short-lived Pre-B.S. Records. "We recorded nearly everything we did on a rack-mount cassette 4-track", explained Ruane "Despite those four tracks we recorded things live, and mostly premixed on two tracks. By premixed I mean I would manually ride the mixer during the recording, and adjust levels on-the-fly, like boosting the guitar track during the solo".
Keeping with their total disdain for modern technology, the Mummies refused to publish their music on compact disc, and often brandished their vinyl covers with the slogan, "Fuck CDs". Several singles followed in the early 1990s on different record labels, most notably Estrus Records, which also distributed a compilation album of the Mummies' singles, The Mummies Play Their Own Records!, in 1992. In 1991 the Mummies recorded an album's worth of material for Crypt Records; however, the band felt the results of the recording sessions did not appropriately capture their lo-fi sound, and discarded the material. Nonetheless, the songs were later featured on the bootleg album Fuck the Mummies, and the band re-recorded the material. After extensive West Coast gigging, a tour of the Northwest with Thee Headcoats, and some engagements on the East Coast, the Mummies disbanded in January 1992, shortly before their first and only studio album, Never Been Caught, was released.
The band briefly reunited the following year to accompany Supercharger, an alternative rock band the Mummies were fond of, on a European tour. In 1994, persuaded by the positive response, the band returned on a headlining tour and released the live album Party at Steve's House before disbanding again. Following the Mummies' break-up, the band members were active with other projects: Ruane, Kattuah, and Quan have all played with the Phantom Surfers, while Ruane has also worked with the Untamed Youth. Kattuah performed in the Maybellines while Quan was involved with several groups including the Maybellines, the Bobbyteens, the Count Backwurds, and the Dukes of Hamburg. Additionally, Winther recorded with the Orange Peels.
The Mummies have since arranged one-off concert reunions on an intermittent basis, starting in 2003. That same year, the band released Death By Unga Bunga, a compilation album which was the first Mummies release to be distributed on compact disc.
Since the band's 1990s heyday, the popularity of the Mummies has grown steadily with the successive generation of garage and indie rock musical acts, and the group also holds a devoted cult following. Music critic Mark Deming proclaimed the Mummies the "kings of budget rock", adding that "it's difficult to imagine the rawest edge of the garage revival bands existing without the guiding influence of the gauze-wrapped foursome".
Writer Annie Llewellyn noted that the Mummies "became notorious for wild live shows that frequently had them abusing the shit out of the audience". Ruane reflected on the group's time in San Francisco's garage punk scene: "For some unbeknownst reason, we went over in a big way up there", and "Soon there was a very short-lived, extremely frenetic climate in San Francisco, as we had inadvertently caused a scene (in the literal sense)".
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