THEIR name sounds like the punch-line to a questionable gag, and their wry titles include such gems as I Am Leg End and Debbie's Dirty Harry, but Dundee alt-rock trio Fat Goth are anything but a novelty act.
The muscular triumvirate unleash their second album, Stud, next week, and its eclectic, trailblazing take on underground rock and country-frazzled balladry looks set to mark them out as a serious rock proposition.
The album is equal parts queasy listening (Surf's Down), cacophonous pop (You'll Find Me In Da Club) and skewed-Americana (Pinball Moron, a duet with the Hazey Janes' Alice Marra), and this divergence burns at the heart of Fat Goth. "I love seeing bands doing really loud, abrasive noise," says frontman Fraser Stewart. "But at the same time I can fully appreciate a well-crafted pop song."
Spawned in 2007 by school friends Fraser Stewart (vocals/guitars), Mark Keiller (drums) and Allan Mitchell (bass), Fat Goth released their debut album in 2010. Mitchell emigrated to Australia shortly thereafter, and the band regrouped with almighty bassist Kevin Black, ere of ace local post-rockers Laeto. Since then, they've reaped plaudits from Radio Scotland's Vic Galloway, Radio 1's Ally McCrae and legendary punk raconteur John Robb. But, reflects Stewart, it all happened by accident.
"When we did the first album, I never had any intention of turning Fat Goth into a proper gigging band – I just thought it'd be fun to record stuff," Stewart recalls. "It was a bit of a no-brainer to get Kevin involved when Allan left – Mark and I were massive fans of Laeto – and the band's been gigging regularly since then." Stewart attributes Stud's incendiary force to such a full-on gigging schedule. "We were really busy playing out over the course of last year so I think by the time we started recording, we felt a lot more confident. Compared to the first album, Stud's a far better and more accurate representation of our shows."
If Black's involvement galvanised the band onstage and in the studio, then Stewart credits killer sticksman Keiller with Fat Goth's public and media ascent. A former member of Olive Grove Records' noise-poppers Pensioner (whose 2011 debut album, Yearlings, came replete with packaging to make an origami horse), Keiller's knack for self-publicity recently saw him helm a nationwide Twitter campaign to have Fat Goth grace the cover of Kerrang! magazine (the jury's still out as we go to press, but the band deserve such an accolade). "Yeah, Mark's pretty driven when it comes to promoting us," Stewart offers. If it was left up to Kevin and me, nothing would ever get done," he laughs. "We just write the stuff. Mark not only propels our rhythm with his drums, he also propels the band."
Keiller's prior involvement with Pensioner and Black's with Laeto is testament to Dundee's thriving rock scene. "I've lived in Dundee my whole life so I can't really compare it to anywhere else, but it does seem that rock is certainly a big part of the music that's created here," says Stewart. The scene in Dundee's pretty small, so if you're a talented musician, if you're a drummer or a bass player you're going to be in demand, so quite often you've got folk playing in a number of different rock bands at any one time, so there are lots of connections."
Fat Goth's rise could also be aligned with an apparent resurgence in alternative Scottish rock – the blues-punk swagger of Glasgow's Chris Devotion and the Expectations; Edinburgh's brutal-pop duo Black International; Aberdeen math-rock agitators Forest Fires, (not to mention the likes of Frightened Rabbit and Biffy Clyro), but Stewart traces Fat Goth's kinship and lineage wider afield in space and time.
"I guess our biggest influences are The Jesus Lizard, The Melvins, Mike Patton," Stewart offers. "A lot of their music isn't necessarily straightforward rock – it's almost unclassifiable – and it's clear that they have a broad musical palette. Through The Melvins I've come to appreciated Captain Beefheart, Napalm Death, and everything in between."
FAT Goth's line in madcap sonic adventures and droll, pop-cultural song titles recalls Mike Patton's titular japes with avant-metal pranksters Mr Bungle. Was that band a particular influence? "It's not strictly from Mr Bungle, we've just always liked to play around with the presentation of our stuff, have fun with the titles and all the rest of it. It's not like we're not out to highlight any global issues or anything," he laughs. "There's no political motivation behind our music whatsoever. But although there's a comedic element to what we do, we certainly don't classify ourselves as a joke band.
"Again, take a group like The Jesus Lizard," Stewart continues. "They're mechanically tight, and they've got that total precision – but then their vocalist David Yow will be howling like a drunken fiend on top of it, spewing all this horrific stuff, and I just think that's hilarious. I guess that's what we try to merge in our music: comedy and horror go hand in hand."
Stud is out on Jan 28 via Hefty Dafty. Fat Goth play Edinburgh Electric Circus on February 1; Dundee Non Zeros on February 9; Glasgow Tenement Trails festival on March 9.