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|Origin||Champaign, Illinois, United States|
|1989-2000, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2010-2013, 2015-present|
|Labels||Mud Records, 12 Inch Records, Cargo, RCA, Sony BMG, Martians Go Home|
Bryan St. Pere
Hum is an alternative rock band from Champaign, Illinois. They are best known for their 1995 radio hit "Stars". After initially disbanding in 2000, Hum were largely inactive (save for sporadic performances) until reuniting in 2015 for a series of short tours and, as of 2017, a forthcoming album of new material.
The initial line-up of the band formed in 1989, with guitarist Andy Switzky, guitarist Matt Talbott, bass guitarist Akis Boyatzis and drummer Jeff Kropp. Matt and Andy met at a cafe named Treno's, in Urbana, Illinois, where Andy worked. Discussions about music led to the two forming the nucleus of Hum. Matt had previously played in the local group We Ate Plato and was presently a member of Honcho Overload; Andy had performed in the semi-serious live band Obvious Man and had studio experience with Designer Mustard Gas.
The group performed at Akis' basement for their initial months. Due to a suggestion from Rick Valentin of Poster Children, the band chose the name Hum (over contenders like Grendel's Arm, Pod, and Feedbag), an intentional vague description of their sound and went through a second drummer before overhearing Bryan St. Pere playing along to a Rush record out of his apartment window and recruiting him.
This line-up was not to last long, though, as Akis left home for Greece in 1990. Local musician Joe Futrelle, who played with Andy in Designer Mustard Gas joined briefly, before leaving for more serious musical pursuits and was replaced by Rod van Huis, later of Steakdaddy Six. Due to personal reasons, he amicably split the band and went on to perform in the Great Crusades. With the addition of Balthazar "Baltie" de Lay, of the band Mother (later Menthol), the band recorded their first demo in famous engineer Steve Albini's basement in Chicago.
The band recorded eight songs in first or second takes, with only vocal overdubs and had an official demo to shop around, named Kissing Me Is Like Kissing an Angel. At this point, the group's primary singer, guitarist and songwriter was Andy and that remained the case when their first album, Fillet Show, was released by local label 12 Inch Records in 1991. The album features a faster, heavy sound somewhere between punk rock and heavy metal, with more overt political and humorous material than the later oblique lyrics that Matt Talbott would write.
Pressure grew on Baltie to focus his efforts on Mother and other pursuits, so he too left on good terms with the other members of Hum. Left without a bassist again, Matt suggested Jeff Dimpsey, his bandmate in Honcho Overload. In that group, and during his brief stint with the Poster Children, Jeff played guitar and Matt actually played bass, but the transition was smooth, and the band recorded two singles, "Hello Kitty" and "Sundress", the former on 12 Inch, and the latter on the new Champaign-based label Mud Records. Around this time, the Champaign scene started to coalesce with members of one band joining up with members of another to form an indefinite amount of one-off side projects, and the Parasol Records distribution company helped promote local acts nationally and brought in alternative music to record stores in Champaign, Illinois.
In the interim between these singles and the next album, creative differences grew between members of the band, and Andy left. The remaining members recruited a local fan named Tim Lash, almost a decade their junior, to play guitar. His previous experience had been in a speed metal group The Grand Vizars (with Joe Ludwinski from Scurvine and Matt Friedburger from The Fiery Furnaces), and once casually remarked to the band after a show that if they ever needed a guitarist, they could give him a call.
The classic lineup of the band was in place, and the quartet headed to Idful Studios with Brad Wood producing Electra 2000. The album was released in its first two pressings by 12 Inch Records and distributed through Cargo Records. The lyrics were far more non-linear and conceptual, and introduced some of the space and science imagery that would dominate later songs. The album produced no singles, but due in no small part to distribution by Parasol, caught the attention of representative of RCA Records. The band was signed, and hooked up with local club owner and sometimes-musician Ward Gollings as tour manager. They switched to producer Keith Cleversley for their major-label debut You'd Prefer an Astronaut in 1995. The album would produce their biggest hit, the single "Stars", with promotional appearances on Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and The Howard Stern Show.
The album swiftly sold 250,000 copies, and Hum played their largest dates promoting the record. Further singles "The Pod" and the promotional "I'd Like Your Hair Long" failed to generate much interest, and the band spent much of the rest of the year and 1996 on the road. In late 1997, they teamed with Mark Rubel at Pogo Studios to record their fourth album, Downward Is Heavenward.
The biggest promotion for the album came with an appearance on Modern Rock Live on January 25, 1998, and the album was released in February. Singles "Green to Me" and "Comin' Home" were promotional-only, and the band only sold 30,000 copies by the end of the year. Around this time, the band missed out on an opportunity to record live favorite the Police's "Invisible Sun" for the X-Files: Fight the Future film soundtrack. At the last minute, Sting and Aswad decided to record a reggae cover, keeping the band from a large potential fan base. Due to disappointing sales, and large record label mergers, the band was dropped from their contract in 2000. While touring in Canada, the band's van got into a minor accident, signaling the last straw. They played their final shows in 2000 on December 29 in St. Louis, Missouri and December 31 in Chicago.
Matt went on to form Centaur with local musicians Derek Niedringhaus and Jim Kelly. The former had been in Castor and Sarge, who had been produced by Matt, and the latter was involved with Parasol and drummed in 16 Tons and Love Cup. To date, only one album has been released, In Streams, on the Martians Go Home label, set up by the band themselves to release the vinyl version of "Downward Is Heavenward" and the re-release of Electra 2000 on CD. A second is being produced. Matt produces in his studio Great Western Recorders, now Earth Analog Records and has started a family. He also teaches at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Matt is also currently contributing to Open Hand, on Trustkill Records, and contributed vocals to First Days of Spring from the Neverending White Lights album Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies released in 2005.
Jeff resurrected a side-project from 1997, National Skyline with Jeff Garber, also of Castor. This outfit put out a self-titled album, the ep Exit Now, and a second full-length, This = Everything. The band was also featured on the Parasol compilation Sweet Sixteen, Volume 2. He moved to Texas to pursue his career. Jeff is currently playing with Adam Fein (Absinthe Blind) in a new band called Gazelle. Their debut album, 'Sunblown', is available via Parasol Records.
Tim has played in four groups after Hum, the electronic duo Glifted with T. J. Harrison of Love Cup, Balisong, a heavy rock trio with local musicians Eric Steckler and Joe Ludwinski, as well as a mysterious unnamed sports rock trio with the legendary Johnny Chancellor and Mr. Franklin Wahler. To date, Glifted have released Under and In on Martians Go Home. A follow-up album was reported to be in production by Lash, but in 2008 he confirmed that Glifted was no more. Balisong never recorded anything, but played a few live shows in Champaign. Tim is currently working with Joe Ludwinski (Scurvine, The Grand Vizars), and Jason Milam (Scurvine, Lovecup) on a new project called Alpha Mile. Alpha Mile played their first show in December 2008 at the Highdive in Champaign. Alpha Mile has been recording off and on, and hope to have an album out in 2010. The 2009 Pygmalion Music Festival featured sets from both Gazelle and Alpha Mile. This was Gazelle's debut live show.
Bryan has largely quit music with a brief stint on Vykanthrope's The Devil's Waiting EP 2013 thundering through Viking War Doom and is rumored to have taken up residence in Indiana in the pharmaceutical industry. He also has a family today.
In 2003, the band reunited for a one-off appearance at Furnace Fest near downtown Birmingham, Alabama at the historic Sloss Furnaces. Furnace Fest, held August 15-17, 2003, was a festival of hard rock, alternative, indie, and emo acts from across the country. As the story went, the band said that they would be willing to play any show for a high price (assuming that no one would actually be willing to pay that amount), and the organizers at Furnacefest called their bluff. Hum headlined Saturday night, playing a set and an encore. The band was reportedly dissatisfied with the performance, and actually preferred the surprise warm-up show they played in Champaign directly prior.
Though declining to reform on a permanent basis, Hum has continued to perform occasional club shows and regional festival appearances. In an interview with The A.V. Club, for whom Hum headlined a show in 2011, Matt Talbot affirmed that Hum was likely to continue on an informal, sporadic basis.
In May 2010, Miami-based record label Pop Up Records, announced a Hum tribute album in the works entitled "Songs of Farewell and Departure: A Tribute to Hum" featuring Funeral for a Friend, The Esoteric, The Felix Culpa, Anakin, (Damn) This Desert Air, Constants, Junius, City of Ships, Stomacher and more.
In June 2015, it was announced that Hum would partake in two brief tours. In August 2015, Hum opened for Failure for five shows on the east coast of the United States. The band played an after show for Wrecking Ball Fest in Atlanta, GA in August 2015. Following that, performed at Riot Fest in Chicago, Illinois in September 2015, before embarking on a six-show co-headlining tour with the band Mineral on the west coast. After the tour was announced, drummer Bryan St. Pere parted ways with the band, with Jason Gerken of Shiner taking his place. After the conclusion of the tour, St. Pere rejoined the band. The reformed band has confirmed that they are recording new music.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|You'd Prefer an Astronaut||
|Downward Is Heavenward||
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1992||"Hello Kitty"||--||--||Non-album release|
|1995||"I'd Like Your Hair Long"||--||--||You'd Prefer an Astronaut|
|"Green to Me"||--||--||Downward Is Heavenward|
|"--" denotes singles that did not chart.|