Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
In the wake of Oasis’s explosive worldwide success, countless British bands emerged during the 1990s to revive, reinterpret, or, in many cases, flat out steal classic melodies from the Beatles, the Kinks, Small Faces, and other pop innovators. By and large, their results sounded stale and manufactured. But beyond the confines of the insular, London-centric music community, contrasting bands such as Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and the Super Furry Animals found a new way to express their cultural identity. From the rugged coastline of Wales in the picturesque Pembrokeshire region, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci created some of the most resourceful pop sounds known to the British Isles. Unlike many small-town bands intoxicated with the buzz and excitement of London, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci turned inward to their imaginations, as well as to the quiet regions of Wales and their Celtic heritage, as a source of inspiration. “You just need a place where you can get away from it all,” explained vocalist, keyboardist, and organist Euros Childs, as quoted by Tom Cox in Magnet. “We all like to connect melodies with images, and this is the perfect place to do it.”
Singing many of their songs in Welsh and decorating their album covers with colorful images of costumed druids and pixies, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci portrayed rural life in a positive light. For example, lyrics such as “Well, isn’t it a lovely day,” the opening words of “Patio Song” off 1997’s Barafundle, are characteristic observations from the cheerful, easygoing group. Their music, often experimental and psychedelic, also draws from German spacerock, traditional jazz, medieval chant, bright, Beach Boys-styled harmonies, and the acid-folk of such groups as the Incredible String Band. Although the songs of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci combine many styles, from the archaic and pastoral to present-day experimentation, all of the band’s music, according to Childs, operates on a single guiding principle: “that it is being made to please yourself and no one else,” as quoted by Cox.
Regardless of their tendencies to explore past and present in a manner of Welsh wackiness, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci—now based in the city of Cardiff—won’t deny one of their most important influences. “People call what we play weird,” Childs said to Mark Jenkins of the Washington Post, “but it’s all in the Beatles.” Nevertheless, whereas the Beatles—excluding their psychedelic excursions—produced more cohesive, accessible music throughout most of their career, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci filled their songs with sudden twists, curious juxtapositions, and exotic instrumentation, all the while celebrating the pleasures of nature and a simple way of life usually in a language other than English. Despite such an eclectic mix, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, following the lead of the Super Furry Animals, became one of the first groups to bring Welsh-language music onto mainstream radio. Commenting upon the band’s lyrics written in their native language, Childs later stated, as quoted in a biography on Son-icnet, “We used to sing mainly in Welsh just because we really didn’t expect to be heard outside Wales.”
The members of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci came together in 1990 at school in Carmarthen, South Wales, while in their teens. Composed of Childs, his sister Megan Childs on violin, Richard James on bass, John Lawrence on guitar, and before long Euros Rowlands on drums, the five-piece group began recording a series of demos in their bedrooms (later released as the mini-CD Patio), taking their name, which roughly translates as Dimwit Reproductive Monkey, from a random classroom joke. “I don’t think we would have named ourselves Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci if we’d started off with a serious career in mind,” Childs said to Jenkins. “We were in a bit of a hurry to make up the name. I think we had to send off a tape to someone. It doesn’t have any meaning; it’s just three words stuck together.”
After hearing Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’s homemade tapes, the independent Gwenedd-based Ankst label signed the band to a record deal. In 1992, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci released their first single, “Patio,” which intrigued the music press. Subsequent touring also gave curious critics the opportunity to review the group, whose somewhat medieval music and retro attire led to immediate comparisons with the Incredible String Band. In London in 1994, a slot opening for the Fall brought Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci to wider attention. They were melodic yet quirky and a little Velvet Underground-ish, performing their tunes in Welsh.
Members includeEuros Childs, vocals, keyboards, organ; Megan Childs, violin; Richard James bass; John Lawrence (left band in June, 1999), guitar; Euros Rowlands, drums.
Formed band in their teens at school in Carmarthen, South Wales, 1990; began recording a series of demos in their bedrooms; signed to Ankst Records, released first single “Patio,” 1992; released debut album Tatay, 1994; “Miss Trudy” named New Musical Express “Single of the Week,” released Bwyd Time, 1995; signed to Fontana Records, released Barafundle, 1991; released Gorky 5, 1998; self-financed the recording of Spanish Dance Troupe, signed to Mantra/Beggars Banquet label, 1999.
Addresses: Record company —Beggars Banquet, 580 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012, phone: (212) 343-7010, fax: (212) 343-7030, e-mail: http://[email protected] Website —Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci Official Website: http://www.gorkys.com.
Gaining an audience in London, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci followed with their debut album, Tatay, that same year. It contained mainly Welsh-sung tunes as well as some in English, including a cover version of Robert Wyatt’s “O Caroline” and an homage to the group’s source of experimental whimsy entitled “Kevin Ayers.” Tatay introduced the band’s love for creating piano-based music and piling musical effects such as violin, guitar, and keyboards on top. The album was once again recorded in their bedrooms, and at one point on the album you can hear one of the band members’ mothers asking them to turn the amps down. The debut won favorable reviews by critics across the United Kingdom for its interesting arrangements, though some Welsh nationalists were angered by the group’s alternating between their native language and English. One club in Cardiff, in fact, went so far as to place Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci on a blacklist.
Such reactions failed to slow down Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’s growing appeal. Tatay was followed by a rush of singles, including the catchy “Miss Trudy,” named New Musical Express (NME) “Single of the Week.” In 1995, the group released a second album, the more accessible Bwyd Time, displaying a range of influences from the Beach Boys and Captain Beefheart to the Fall and early Soft Machine. By now touring as a headlining act in their own right, selling out concert venues amid critical praise and a sizable following, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci secured a major-label contract with Fontana Records and distribution in the United States through Mercury Records in 1996. At the time, four of the five band members were just 21 years of age. That year, Mercury released Introducing Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, a compilation of songs from previous British albums including the hits “Diamond Dew” and “Patio Song.”
In 1997, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci released Barafundle, named after the beach adjacent to Childs’ home, and won unanimous critical praise for its hauntingly beautiful blend of psychedelic pop and quirky, original lyrics. The annual NME critic’s poll ranked the album at number 31 at the end of the year. According to Cox, Barafundle “sees the band’s previous work evolving into a fully fleshed-out creative zenith.” Childs further noted, “This is the first album without any cheapo guitars.” In the fall of 1998, the band returned with Gorky 5, a harder-edged album and another critical success.
Shortly afterward, Fontana, under a new chief executive, dropped Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci from its roster, and founding member John Lawrence parted the group on good terms in June of 1999. Undeterred, the remaining members recorded a new, self-financed album entitled Spanish Dance Troupe, which was later released in October of 1999 by their new label, Mantra, part of Beggars Banquet. Alternative Press hailed Spanish Dance Troupe as “a beautiful album, all string-driven thingies and tinkling pianos, evocative of… a dark day on the mountaintops, watching boggarts grimace in the gathering gloaming.… This band will never settle down.”
“When we started, I always used to think that whatever song I was working on would be the last I would ever write,” Childs recalled to Cox, regarding the ever-productive Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. “But we’ve made it easy on ourselves. We’ve covered so many different styles that it’s not a problem to completely change our direction again.”
Tatay, Ankst, 1994.
Bwyd Time (includes “Miss Trudy”), Ankst, 1995.
Introducing Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Mercury, 1996.
Barafundle, Fontana/Mercury, 1997.
Gorky 5, Fontana, 1998.
Spanish Dance Troupe, Mantra, 1999.
Poodle Rockin’ (EP), Mantra, 2000.
Alternative Press, February 2000, p. 117.
Magnet, September/October 1997, p. 16.
Melody Maker, April 25, 1998; August 15, 1998; September 5, 1998; August 14, 1999; September 25, 1999; October 2, 1999.
Rolling Stone, October 17, 1996; October 30, 1997.
Washington Post, February 11, 1998; December 10, 1999.