Start talking music in Champaign-Urbana, and it's inevitable that Hum will eventually come up. After all, they are inarguably the best known group to come out of the area in the last several decades. As they've been anything but active in the past ten years, issuing no new material and only playing sporadic live shows, any news coming from the band is good news. 2011 will see a relative glut of performances, with the band playing festival shows in Chicago and Austin, plus club gigs in Kansas City and this Friday, in Champaign. I recently spoke with the group's lead singer and guitarist (and local recording studio owner), Matt Talbott, about current happenings in the band's world. Here's what he had to say:
SP: What was the impetus for the band reuniting in 2011?
Matt Talbott: We do the occasional one off "reunion" show here and there if it fits our schedule and seems like a cool and worthwhile event. We were asked to play at the Onion's AV Festival in Chicago in September and also at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin in November. Both of these shows sounded like a good time to us so we agreed to do them. We added the Champaign show coming up here on the 9th since it seemed like a shame to get all rehearsed up for the Onion gig and not do a hometown show.
SP: Do you feel that the band is rusty when rehearsing for these shows, or is it relatively easy to get back into the musical swing of things?
Matt: Both. We'll get together for a good two or three days of rehearsal for these gigs. The first practice will be unlistenable and it gets better from there. By day three we sound like a band again.
SP: How do you go about picking your setlists? For instance, you played some lesser known tunes like Hello Kitty at your shows last year. Whose idea was that?
Matt: We argue incessantly before, during, and after rehearsals, then follow it up with a week of emails chock full of insults and name-calling. In fact, I am sitting at my computer right now looking at seven unopened emails with the subject line "Re: Setlist Suggestions for Champaign." Should be a real treat. I like how we are using uppercase letters too, like it's the title of a goddamn book or something.
SP: Does a studio recording exist of Inklings [an unreleased song that the band has sporadically played live]? If so, have you ever thought about releasing it?
Matt: We're working on one. And another song. If these turn out cool we'll release them. If not, they'll go to the dumpster. We'll know in about six months.
SP: If you were to choose one band for Hum to play a show with, who would it be?
SP: Are there plans for any more shows this year aside from what's already been announced?
Matt: Not at this point. We've got Champaign and Chicago this weekend, and then Kansas City and Austin in Novemeber. That might be it for now.
SP: Have you heard any of the tracks from the Hum tribute album that's coming out this year?
Matt: Yeah, I've just started listening to that stuff a bit. It sounds like it's been a fun project for the fans that put it together. I hope it does well and that it has been and continues to be rewarding for the participating artists.
SP: How do you feel about Hum's musical legacy? Do you see your music as exerting an influence on any current groups?
Matt: Not really. I don't think our legacy is too far reaching. But we do have a core group of fans that still seem to love our music and our occasional live performances. So that's more than gratifying enough.
SP: Why change the name of Great Western Recorders to Earth Analog? Is there any specific piece of gear in the studio that you're especially proud of?
Matt: That actually came out of a semester-long collaboration with a group of business students at Millikin University (where I teach). They did a branding exercise on my studio and one of the conclusions reached was that they didn't love the name. I really didn't either, and I also wanted to start a record label affiliated with the studio. Great Western Records was already taken. So I re-named the studio and solved my record label name (by launching Earth Analog Records) at the same time. This was all going down at a time when I was really digging my heels into the ground regarding digital audio, to the point that I sold most of my digital equipment and invested further into my analog infrastructure. I've been very comfy with all of these changes, and I think they will prove to be good for my business in the long run.
And, to answer your question more completely, I guess my favorite pieces of gear at my studio are indeed my tape machines. I have a Studer A820 24-track now. These machines are amazing and perhaps one of the greatest achievements ever in audio equipment engineering (if you ask me...). Incredibly robust transport, linear as all heck, and self-aligning. They were going for tens of thousands of dollars not long ago and can now be had for less than one would pay for a Mac Pro tower. They weigh about 700 pounds. I don't know why everybody doesn't have one.
Hum perform this Friday (September 9th) at the Highdive, with support from Earth Analog Records artist Dibiase. Tickets are $10 and the show starts 9:00 p.m.