Back in 2003, Mike Lindsay had a studio in a Soho basement below a clothes shop. Mike had been playing about with studio tech, making electronica and trying to make a living producing advert music, when he met Sam Genders, who was a bit of a singer-songwriter, used to doing pub gigs by himself. They had to go through the changing room to get down to the studio, then couldn't get back out while the shop was open in case they startled naked ladies on their way out. Stuck down there, they found that Mike's distinctive way with twinkling sounds and tight production enhanced the folky songs they were both writing no end, and a signature sound developed.
A year of "having a laugh in the studio" together followed, beginning with the psychedelic but endlessly catchy 'People Folk' - originally Mike's song, which they then reworked and produced together. After that they wrote in all kinds of permutations, sometimes starting with a full song by one or other of them, sometimes just with a phrase or tiny idea and working it up together. Tunng's first album 'Mother's Daughter And Other Songs' is very much the sound of this partnership as they bounced ideas off one another in their basement. An approach to Static Caravan met with a welcoming response, and Sam and Mike realised that Tunng was a project that could find a wider audience.
As work on what was to become that first album went on, their songs leaked out via friends. Inevitably ears pricked up as more people heard them, and quickly they started getting asked "would you like to do a gig". "Yeah... but we don't know how!" was the instant response - so they had to go hunting for like-minded spirits to take their unique sound to the stage. Sam made the choice not to play live, so Mike found Becky and Ashley to do his vocals at gigs, and Sam remained - for the first couple of years of the band's existence - a mystery man in the shadows (or at least in Derby, where he lived) - but still in every way an important part of Tunng, playing and singing on record and present in spirit at every gig.
Over time, Ashley Bates, Phil Winter, Becky Jacobs, and Martin Smith all became part of the band in one way or another - and have all contributed more to recordings as time passed: first on 'Comments Of The Inner Chorus', but far more so on the wonderful new 'Good Arrows' which is the unmistakeable sound of Tunng reaching maturity as a *band*, not just a vehicle for Mike and Sam's studio work. Ashley has been involved with music ever since he drummed with shoegazers Chapterhouse as a teenager in the early 90s. Phil has been around DJing and making music on the electronica scene for an age. Becky sings live with her brother, the far-left-field electronic maverick Max Tundra, with whom she knocked Mike's socks off at SONAR festival a while back, and with Admiral's Hard who "do Iron Maiden songs sea shanty style!". Martin is a multi-instrumentalist - playing everything from clarinet to seashells - who ran his own label Loose Cannon, on which Mike released some of his earliest pre-Tunng groove experiments as Dirtbox. The final member of the live band to join full-time - amazingly - was Sam, who after playing a couple of festival gigs in 2006 realised that Tunng was where his heart lies, and threw his lot in with them on stage as in the the studio.
All this might sound tangled, but it's an important illustration of the world which Tunng inhabit. They are every inch the *collective*, coming out of the fringes of scenes - fringes where people collaborate to survive. It's partly the post-rave soundsystem ethos where everyone contributes according to their skills and wishes. Partly it's the world of underground art music epitomised by SONAR festival where the idea of the band as singer-guitarist-bassist-drummer standing in a row simply seems an obsolete conceit. And partly it's the folk model where people play together as and when they want to and songs are reinterpreted as they want - the model which is currently inspiring such fertile workings as the Fence Collective, the Green Man festival, Homefires and The Earlies. But more than any of that, it's just six people who get on well pooling their collective cultural and personal resources to make pop music the way they always dreamed it could sound.
So now Tunng exist as a tough little unit - Mike taking care of business, and his and Sam's songwriting partnership at the heart of the sound, but with all the musicians adding their individual contributions to 'Good Arrows' on Full Time Hobby. With Mike remixing and producing (most recently for Static Caravan's amazing new signing Serafina Steer), Sam recording with The Memory Band's Steve Cracknell, and all the other members exploring their own projects, Tunng are not standing still - but their own sound gets stronger and clearer, album-by-album, gig-by-gig. It's been an unorthodox story to date, and it's barely begun yet.