Mysterious Mummies

A group of enigmatic, somewhat horny ancient ones is descending on the Rialto

It's hard to dislike a band whose name doubles as an announcement of its impending arrival. It also helps that Here Come the Mummies know their way around visceral funk and R&B grooves in the classic 1970s style.

The true and ancient funk force is so strong in these Mummies, it's almost secondary that the anonymous, bandage-garbed members of the Nashville-based band appear to have recently been unearthed from an Egyptian tomb. Vampires, pirates and zombies have been enjoying their respective pop-culture moments; lately, mummies have pretty much been unrepresented, with the exception of mediocre Brendan Fraser movies.

Here Come the Mummies will visit Tucson and play a gig on Sunday night, Oct. 7, at the Rialto Theatre.

The band and its management vehemently insist its members aren't simply wearing mummy costumes, and that they are actual mummies, in the (preserved) flesh. However, it has long been rumored that Here Come the Mummies actually is composed of incognito Grammy Award-winning music-business professionals who are under contract with other labels and groups, so they must keep their identities secret.

The band and its handlers, nevertheless, maintain a strict mythology, never lapsing from character.

When I contacted the Mummies' management for an interview, I was told a phone conversation was not possible—"Mummies don't talk when not playing music"—but that one of the members would gladly answer questions by email.

And within 48 hours of sending off the questions, I received responses, supplied by the band member known as Java. (Some of his bandmates include Eddie Mummy, K.W. Tut, Mummy Cass, Ramses Mummy, Bucking Blanco, Midnight Mummy and The Flu.)

When asked to confirm or deny that the Mummies are, in fact, moonlighting music-industry veterans in disguise, Java faithfully stuck to the party line: "Our influence runs deep in all directions, but we never kiss and tell."

He traced the beginnings of the band back to an era well before the invention of modern instruments.

"We began 3,500 years ago, give or take. We were a nomadic tribe of minstrels, luring ladies to lewdness by lute. By coincidence, we just happened to cause lasciviousness in the wrong lass. She was a pharaoh's daughter, and it was his curse that made us the mummies we are today."

Be that as it may, the Mummies started recording and releasing music 10 years ago. Five albums of crucial funk and sexed-up soul have been released, the most recent being last year's smoking-good Bed, Bath and Behind, as well as a live DVD. The Mummies just released a best-of collection, to be titled Hits and Mrs., this week.

Java said the Mummies' favorite funk artists include Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, the Commodores, Billy Preston, the Meters and Bernard Wright. Java was reluctant to compare his band to such important predecessors; he said the Mummies simply try to keep the party going.

"We are just keeping it alive. Even when not playing funk, we are upholding its core tenant of booty moving," he said.

Bed, Bath and Behind will remind listeners of the funk and R&B acts they might have fallen in love with while growing up, from Parliament to Con Funk Shun, but Latin, reggae and disco rhythms also infiltrate the tunes.

The Mummies even stretch out on the album-closing, nine-minute funk-rock slow-jam "Stick It," which bears no small resemblance to a classic Funkadelic workout, with dueling horns and frantic guitar-soloing in the style of that band's Eddie Hazel.

From "Jump on My Ship" to "That's What She Said," from "Ripe" to "The Rub," the Mummies' lyrics often are focused on the sexual habits of the human species, but the music never descends into obscenity.

"Baby, let's face it: Funk is sex music," Java said. "It is about making you dance, shaking the goods you've got and expressing your inner beast. I can't speak for other mummies, but we were mummified alive; thus, the male sex drive is alive and well with us ... only multiplied over the millennia.

"Sex is fundamental, and none of us are immune. Funk taps into our sexual spirit. We like tapping."

There's no reason to sing dirty when you can employ a wide range of colorful double entendres, after all. Java concurred, saying eyebrow-raising wordplay is "more clever and more funny. I will say that we occasionally slip into single-entendre," adding that "there is no real effort put into cleanliness; we simply write what makes us laugh."

Naturally, the boys in bandages are obsessed with strong, sexy females. Good evidence can be found on catchy dance-number "Glamazon" and the soulful "Aeroplane Blonde." It's pretty clear they like it when the feeling is mutual, Java said.

"It is our single mission to move lady parts. Happy, sweaty, gyrating ladies make dudes happy." True, that.

The band, which has included as many as 12 members when recording, apparently tours constantly with a core group of eight players.

"We never really stop," Java said. "Our nomadic nature puts us on the road all year, every year. Besides, our stench is so extreme that the neighbors call the police if we stay home for too long."

The Mummies' fall 2012 American tour has been dubbed the If the Clown Shoe Fits ... tour, which is weird and enigmatic. Java remained circumspect when asked to describe the conceptual relationship between mummies and clowns. "Just see the show; it will be evident."

As far as he could remember, Here Come the Mummies haven't played Tucson before, making this weekend's gig their Old Pueblo debut. "So make sure you bring clean undies," he said.

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