The current practice of live-streaming concerts holds no fears for Fat-Suit, who open Perth Festival of the Arts’ Scotland Trending series on Monday May 24.
Almost since the band’s formation in 2012, and certainly from the time of their first album, Kambr, released the following year, Fat-Suit have made a virtue of documenting their music on videos.
Early ones were literally home-made, in a friend’s house in the small Highland town of Tain.
More recently they have progressed to theatres and the venue in Drygate Brewery in their hometown, Glasgow. This is a necessity since their numbers have swollen on recordings from the original 15 to 26 or more, to accommodate string sections and guest vocalists.
The idea of forming a 15-piece band might sound ambitious but it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, as Dorian Cloudsley, one of Fat-Suit’s two guitarists and the band’s chief organiser/administrator, recalls.
“We were all students, mostly on Strathclyde University’s applied music course, and once a month the course leader organised late afternoon concerts in Glasgow City Hall to showcase his students’ talents,” he says. “One of these concerts had a vacant 20-minute slot, so we filled it at short notice and now, nine years later here we are.”
For that first concert someone had the brainwave of playing music by the then-emerging Snarky Puppy, a big band comprised of music students from the University of North Texas.
How Fat-Suit got started
Snarky Puppy have since gone on to major international success but in 2012 they were playing relatively small venues and making the sheet music for their first album available to download.
So, Fat-Suit began as a Snarky Puppy tribute act. With composing being part of their university course, however, they were all capable of bringing original music to the band. Early gigs, including one supporting Snarky Puppy themselves in Glasgow, suggested Fat-Suit could work.
Before long, using the summer break between university terms, they were off on their first European tour.
There is a film to be made of such an adventure. In fact, a film was made, featuring the gig in Amsterdam that attracted seven people, including the bar staff, and the office floor in Germany that accommodated all sixteen of the Fat-Suit travelling party in sleeping bags.
More seriously, there was the Ukraine leg of the tour that saw one gig cancelled at the last minute due to a large number of local casualties being sustained in the fighting in Donetsk.
At another, the band were greeted like heroes for making the effort to travel, in two cars and a splitter van, across this huge country that was at war with Russia.
“The furthest east we went was still six hours’ drive from Kiev, the capital, but we never felt at risk,” remembers Dorian.
Back in the UK they got on with the business of playing major events such as London Jazz Festival, the massive Love Supreme jazz weekend and Celtic Connections, picking up awards (they won the double – Best Band and Best Album at the Scottish Jazz Awards 2017) and releasing albums.
Their latest, Waifs & Strays, released in late 2019, is their fourth, all self-financed, self-produced and self-promoted.
The Covid-19 pandemic has limited their activities significantly but there has been a series of releases including tracks with Glasgow electro outfit Tongues and the up-and-coming singer Kitti.
The band’s Dundee-born drummer, Mark Scobbie also took the opportunity to record an album of his own compositions, with several Fat-Suit members, producing the well-received Tomorrow’s Today last August.
For their Perth Festival concert the band will be joined on one song by local singer Beth Malcolm, with whom they released a single just before the Covid-19 pandemic closed everything down, and who appears in the Scotland Trending series the following night.
“We’re really pleased to be invited to appear on the festival,” says Dorian.
“It’s a great programme and as well as Beth, our old pal and great singer Angus Munro is appearing, as are the Snuts and pianist Fergus McCreadie, who has played gigs with us on occasion.
“All we have to do is remember how to play our instruments and make sure we recognise each other. It’s been so long since we played together, so we’re really looking forward to it.”