The exciting instrumental group shake hands with Cian Montague.
“Mike had smuggled in an electric guitar, an effects pedal, and Radiohead CDs.”
Arms That Fit Like Legs have only ever written one song with words in it, and it was in Irish. Meeting in college in Maynooth, members Mark Lynch, Gordon McCaughley, and Mike Mahon have been making music since 2008, but Mike and Gordon first met in Coláiste Lurgan some years before. “Mike had smuggled in an electric guitar, an effects pedal and Radiohead CDs,” recalls Gordon. “This was all contraband,” explains Mike. The first collaboration of many came about on that course. When I ask what the song was about, the response is instant: “tornádó ag teacht,” they laugh. “It still comes out at parties,” adds Mark. This I can believe.
Leaving aside their weather warnings as Gaeilge, Arms That Fit Like Legs craft tunes that are often fun, but elicit emotional responses too. Instrumental acts are perhaps not afforded the advantages associated with having a singer, but the Dublin-based outfit manage just fine. “Limitations can be really constructive,” offers Gordon, “Because you know what you can’t do, and that forces you to… I don’t mean to say think within the box, but…” They all laugh.
“The three of us would sit down, and we’d pass the guitar around. We’d record loop after loop after loop.”
From “very post-rock-y beginnings,” the group have developed to encompass a more electronic sound. In their early days, their songwriting process was endearingly simple: “the three of us would sit down, and we’d pass the guitar around. We’d record loop after loop after loop.” This creative technique is apparent in early highlights like ‘Bear. Shark. Explosion.’ These days the band record live instruments over electronic beats made on Ableton, and songs often begin in jam sessions. “It’s pretty improv-y,” says Mike. “It’s very different to writing a typical song with vocals, where you do verse chorus verse, but we don’t necessarily throw out that structure either,” says Mark.
The band released two EPs, before taking an extended break while Gordon and Mike were in London. Since their return, they have been hard at work on their debut album, Legwork. “It’s a really nice milestone,” says Gordon. “We’ve been doing this thing for ten years and an album feels like the next logical step.” Legwork will be more electronic than their previous efforts, with both “lively and chilled-out tunes.” “A lot of the new tracks are inspired by the 80s,” says Mark. The group have made a conscious decision to aim for songs that achieve a deep emotional connection, not necessarily immediately, but “on a long listen.” A fun video on their Facebook page, where they play in a variety of locations such as in a garden, in the car, and by a lake in the woods, provides a promising taster of some of the new material.
The band take inspiration from a number of unusual sources. Their most recent release ‘You Will Go on My First Whistle’ alludes to the 1990s series Gladiators (“super corny, but brilliant”), while another track from Legwork was born from the EastEnders theme. As musical influences on the album, they cite Tycho, Todd Terje, Max Cooper, and Beach House (“they do so much with so little”), along with artists who are “constantly in the background,” such as the Redneck Manifesto, whom they revere.
“It’s part of us, but it’s not the only thing that we have.”
Despite everything, there seems little chance of music taking over their lives. All three have other careers: Gordon is a screenwriter, Mike a motion graphics designer, animator and video editor, while Mark is a scientist, working in immunology research. Affable and happy to chat, they give the impression of three great friends who enjoy making music together and feel little pressure to take it further. As Mike puts it, “It’s part of us, but it’s not the only thing that we have.”
‘You Will Go On My First Whistle’ is out now. Legwork will be released this autumn.