Published: 03/12/2015 16:00 - Updated: 03/12/2015 18:01

Fat Suit offer more than slim pickings

The many faces of Fat Suit
The many faces of Fat Suit

EVEN if you have never seen Fat Suit — perhaps at the Belladrum Festival or Hootanny’s in Inverness — there is a fair chance you might have heard some of its members.

Leading folk groups, Johnny Cash tribute acts, wedding bands and even the Eden Court panto are all places you might be able to find one of Fat Suit’s 15 members when they are not playing with the funky instrumental collective.

"We’ve pretty much got 13 or 14 of the busiest musicians in Scotland in the band, which is its strength, but also one of the most difficult things for the band to cope with," saxophonist Scott Murphy explained.

"It’s a very rare Saturday night when at least half the band aren’t out playing somewhere.

"I tallied it up and last year, if you counted all of the individual gigs we do, it was something ridiculous like 1600 gigs over the year — which is crazy! But it shows just how much of a nightmare it is, logistically.

"But we don’t even think about it like that any more. This is just how it is. We could get people who are more free, but they probably wouldn’t be quite as good."

For a band who have been called "the future of Scottish jazz" by BBC Radio Scotland presenter Stephen Duffy, many of those musicians will not necessarily be found playing jazz or think of themselves as jazz musicians.

"It is very representative of Scotland as a musical entity," Murphy suggested.

"For example, I come from a jazz background, then you have guys like Laura Wilkie, who’s from Tain, and she was a very traditional based fiddle player. Mark Scobbie, the drummer, plays with Manran. Angus Tikka, the bass player, plays with Wolfstone. We’ve got guys who came up playing in rock bands like Craig McMahon, the keyboard player, who was in his first band when he was 14.

"Having that array of influences really does inform the music, it gives it more legs."

They may have diverse backgrounds and influences, but Fat Suit’s members share a background as students on the Strathclyde University applied music course.

The course staged monthly shows at the City Halls in Glasgow, but when there was a vacancy at short notice one month, guitarist Dorian Cloudsley gathered the first incarnation of the band together to play a few tunes by American instrumental fusion band Snarky Puppy.

The show proved such a hit with its audience that it made sense to keep going, although the tunes they play are now written in-house by a core of three or four writers, but with plenty of input from their bandmates,

"You can write a song and have an idea for it, but when you take it into the rehearsal room with 12 other creative people, things start to happen," Murphy said.

"Instead of you imagining the bass part, you have the bass player, who can understand what you want and can make it happen. In that way it’s very democratic. Individuals come up with the ideas, but they are worked on as a band."

It is a mixture that makes even a jazz musician like Murphy hesitate to use the "J-word" to sum up the band’s sound.

"It’s difficult to pin the music down overall into a genre," he said

"Coming from a jazz background, a lot of us, there is a sort of stigma that exists about jazz in some quarters that it’s old people and is maybe slightly elitist.

"We make it the opposite. It’s opening and it’s welcoming and it’s good fun.

"That’s the ultimate goal of the band — adapting jazz and fusion and traditional into one big ball of energetic fun that’s entertaining for as many people as possible."

Fat Suit are at The Ironworks, Inverness, on Thursday 3rd December. Support comes from the Oscar Cordoba Band and north three-piece Spring Break.

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