It’s a minor tragedy that Glasgow’s the Yummy Fur are better known for what the band’s ex-members have gone on to create than for their own catalog. Multi-instrumentalist Alex Kapranos, who then played under the name Alex Huntley, and drummer Paul Thomson went on to form Franz Ferdinand, while singer-guitarist John McKeown graduated to his current outfit 1990s.
Formed in 1992 and subject to numerous lineup changes, the Yummy Fur doled out brash, angular guitar riffs and emoted the visceral energy of a local music scene McKeown describes as fraught with “extreme sexual and psychological drama.” Still, the band was resigned to remain something of a musical footnote. It could have something to do with the fact that the band flouted convention by eschewing chords in favor of single notes, writing the occasional 45-second song and opting to sing with pronounced Scottish accents instead of masking them with a pseudo-American drawl.
“We broke every rule of songwriting, and I kind of like that,” McKeown boasts.
The band unceremoniously disbanded in 1999 after what McKeown explains as “years with no money coming in” and faded into relative obscurity. Despite constant requests, the Yummy Fur never made it to the United States.
“We weren’t going to play the States at all,” McKeown explains. He wanted to avoid the hassle of coordinating an overseas tour, but was eventually persuaded by Kevin Pederson of NYC label What’s Your Rupture? to cross the pond.
“Kevin twisted my arm very, very gently,” McKeown jokes.
This gentle coercion resulted in the first and, most likely, last opportunity American audiences will have to see the Yummy Fur live. It begs the question: Why did they never made it here during the seven years they were active?
“We never had the cash,” laments McKeown. “We didn’t have a label and had no money behind us, so coming to the States was like coming to the moon.” Now that the Yummy Fur is finally stateside, they must be staying a while, no? No. Five dates.
“The main reason the tour is so short is that me and Paul play in other bands and are touring constantly,” says McKeown. “The last thing we wanted was to get an email with three months worth of dates. We just wanted to keep it nice and fun.”
This reunion shouldn’t inspire hope for any new Yummy Fur albums. McKeown is pretty adamant that this is just a one-off reunion.
“Are you a fan of the new Stooges album? Is anyone?” scoffs McKeown before wondering aloud if there was ever a reunion record that wasn’t a raging disappointment.
These days, he’s finding that relearning the old Yummy Fur catalog is challenging enough.
“It feels really alien to return to lyrics that were written in my 20s.” McKeown explains. In his more experienced years, he’s having a difficult time relating to lyrics about wanting to snort lines of cocaine off the stomach of a policeman’s girlfriend before listening to the Residents.
The most he’ll promise are recordings of some of the shows on tour and a compilation of already-recorded tracks due out later this month. It’s not quite a greatest-hits compilation, since the band doesn’t actually have any.
“No hits, but a lot of misses,” McKeown muses before revealing his stringent criteria for choosing the compilation’s tracks.
“One night I was sitting in front of my computer stoned, and picked out the titles I thought were the funniest.”
Seems as good a method as any. ■
Thurs., Jan. 14, 8pm. $10. With Public Record + EBITT DJs. Kung Fu Necktie, 1248 N. Front St. 215.291.4945. kungfunecktie.com
PW's Music Issue 2014