The horror-themed band adjusts to life amid a pandemic

Ask any musician what frightens them most at the moment and it’s probably the prospect of empty stages with no end in sight. It even scares the members of Mummula, who should be selling out Halloween gigs with their spooky schtick right now rather than lingering in the shadows.

“With all the uncertainty about the virus, it became a question beyond whether venues were going to be open and more about if they would be safe for the people we care about,” said Eric von Goosebump (the band members all operate under stage names). “We don't want to have our fans, friends and family come see us and then get sick. I think we collectively decided, ‘Let's just play it safe and kind of tap out for a while.’”

Just "tap on it" and sign up for our daily newsletter

As if Mummula’s signature swag and pseudonyms don’t give it away, there’s obviously some deft design and branding expertise among the members, which more than subtly hints at their respective day gigs. Like most bands, moving music and merchandise online instead of at shows has become the standard, but Mummula is also spreading some goodwill as a fall chill settles into Ohio. The band launched its own line of face masks earlier this year, with all proceeds going to the United Way Worldwide's COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund, and an upcoming release to benefit the Movember Foundation next month builds on a prior EP to raise money and awareness for the men’s health initiative.

With the grit of a garage band, the members of Mummula perform horror-inspired hits and credible covers dressed in matching black capes and bandaged heads. Loyal fans are already in on the gag, but the uninitiated are often left wondering whether these four guys are for real or just a ghoulish gimmick intended to hide a bunch of retro rock wannabes.

“People are genuinely surprised when they listen to us because we do a really nice punk show, but we have some garage rock elements in there, as well as the surf instrumentals, which really resonate when it all comes together,” Mark Hovthevampyre said. “It’s like a full-package ... Scooby-Doo kind of show, singing about monsters and aliens.”

But Mummula is very real, and any doubts are settled as soon as the band takes the stage, hitting predictable power chords at a break-neck pace on catchy tunes such as “My Baby’s Turnin’ Into a Wolfman” and “Ed Wouldn’t.” The band is surf meets snark, punk meets parody — as if Dick Dale founded Devo, or Joey Ramone and Weird Al conspired to create the genetic lovechild of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Every song is unexpected, with members trading instruments and vocals, along with the occasional cameo from keytar or kazoo. The band even has its own fan club cleverly called The Wrap, keeping its growing legion of followers hip to its happenings throughout the Midwest, even as the pandemic persists.

Sadly, several annual events were either canceled or delayed indefinitely this year due to the coronavirus, such as the local Fraternal Order of Moai’s Hula Hop and the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. In fact, Mummula’s last show before everything wound down was the Horror Prom at Spacebar, a Valentine’s Day “paranormal formal” for macabre couples. It was an unintentionally ominous milestone just as the thin line between dark fantasy and harsh reality was about to blur.

“One gig that really stands out for me was when we played HorrorHound Weekend several years ago. The crowd was huge. That was probably our biggest show so far, so it was kind of terrifying,” said El Santos. “But we were in our element, connecting with a bunch of horror fans, and we got to end the day with a lot of bigger bands in the horror punk scene.”

There is indeed a “horror punk scene,” but it’s hardly obscure or recent. Though Mummula technically evolved from a running gag that developed among its founding members during a road trip to a horror convention, the band’s story actually dates back to the late 1980s, when the Canadian horror band Forbidden Dimension captured the imagination of the musicians. When Mummula eventually released its debut album, The Rise of Mummula, from 2016, it even asked Forbidden Dimension singer Jackson Phibes to create the cover art. The two bands eventually shared the stage during a concert in Nashville, bringing the relationship full circle and illustrating the unique genre’s ability to connect fans and bands despite the distance and decades between them.

“Mummula hits all of these different communities: people who love surf, people who love punk, people who love monsters,” Kevbot 2 said. “I think that’s the thing I miss most, when you go to a show and you play for someone who hasn't seen Mummula and they dig it. They’re surprised, and it completely makes their night.”