More of an indie-folk collective than just a band, the Mumlers are one of San Jose’s brightest and most stylistically-elusive groups. Combining a broad range of influences and styles, from jazz, blues and New Orleans funk to Southern soul, pop, country, folk and Gothic Americana, they are musical abstractionists spinning tales of love, heartache and life on the fringe.
If you believe the Internet, the band took their name from William H. Mumler, a 19th century photographer and spiritualist who was charged with fraud for selling photographs that he claimed contained images of spirits and ghosts. But in a 2007 interview with Metro Silicon Valley, the group’s founder and songwriter, Will Sprout, said that this is not the case; he chose the name Mumlers “because it didn’t mean anything”—he simply liked the story, and has “kind of played to it.”
Non-meaningful nomenclature aside, the Mumlers are making well-crafted, unusual and engaging music, and growing their base of fans and admirers. The band itself is a talented cast of multi-instrumentalists—the members switch instruments with regularity and ease—boasting a hodgepodge of such non-typical rock instruments as the french horn, euphonium, clarinet, glockenspiel, banjo, tuba and pedal steel guitar to name a few.
Though a bit hard to pin down stylistically, the Mumlers have heaping amounts of talent and a certain charm that can’t be faked. From a hot-jazz number to a rough and tortured old-time ballad filtered through indie-rock sensibilities, their appreciation and understanding of old-time and American roots music is obvious, and their willingness to go where the music takes them keeps the Mumlers sounding fresh, interesting and inspired.
The Mumlers play the Blank Club on Saturday, March 26.