Two weeks ago, after a problematic performance in the semi-finals, Bainbridge Island's Gruff Mummies thought they had completely blown their chance at any sort of Sound Off! victory. "We had really tough competition that night, and we didn't play to our greatest potential," says Mummies' 17-year-old frontman Kirk Nordby with a slight laugh. "We had all these technical difficulties during the set--for the first song the keyboard wasn't on and the guitar was on standby!"

But difficulties be damned, they were announced the victors of the evening anyway, catapulting the band into the final round of EMP's annual all-ages competition. On Saturday, February 26, the Mummies shared the Sky Church stage with electronic duo Handshakes and emotional indie rock outfit, the Last Romance. And Gruff Mummies won.

Combining the confident swagger of Steven Tyler and a tough-as-shit attack reminiscent of ex-Catheter's frontman Brian Standeford, Nordby enchants the audience with an entertaining mixture of drama and comedy (and sometimes glitter), usually speaking with a faux British accent.

"I've been acting since I was really young," explains Nordby. "My own history of being on stage has gotten me comfortable with being in front of people and doing weird stuff."

Gruff Mummies are a mess of sequins, glitter, feathered hats, and moppy blond hair. The quintet (also featuring guitarist Paul Brinkley, bassist Cameron Snyder, drummer Caleb Strickland, and keyboardist Geneva Pritchett), combine their favorite aspects of classic and glam rock with a young, playful energy and fantastic sense of humor. They're doing what too many young bands don't do these days--taking a chance on something different.

"It's a drive for originality," says Nordby. "Musically we're inspired by a lot of the glam and prog rock bands of the '70s. We parlay that into our writing, but at the same time we actively seek not to rip anything off. Chord changes, tempos, lyrics… if anything sounds like anything else, we change it."

The Mummies have been around for over two years. They've played local teen centers and grange halls, mostly sticking to the other side of Puget Sound. But with their current lineup in place (they found Strickland about a year ago and added Pritchett on keys only about six months ago), they're looking forward to playing more shows in the city. Winning Sound Off! (and the prize package that includes a slot at Bumbershoot as well as an opening slot for the Presidents of the United States of America) will certainly help them reach that goal.

"It's pretty incredible," smiles Nordby. "Seeing how bands like Schoolyard Heroes and Idiot Pilot have done after being in Sound Off!, we can only look forward to a really great year. It's awesome." MEGAN SELING

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