Catch Up With: The Howl & The Hum
May 2020 saw The Howl & The Hum release their highly anticipated debut album “Human Contact”, during the UK’s lockdown. We were lucky enough to catch up with Sam from the band to chat through the album and its new meaning following the pandemic, as well as find out more about his song-writing process and what we can expect from their upcoming show. The Howl & The Hum are an essential live act, so get booking your tickets for their headline show on Fri 19 Feb 2021 here.
Hi! How are you all? How have you all coped with lockdown over the past few months?
We have been finely sculpting our bodies and minds over the last few months to become the physically elite band of North Yorkshire, so finally when the charity football tournament comes back around we will not become devoured once again by humiliating defeat.
Sounds like you’ve been using your time in lockdown wisely! We’ve had your debut album, ‘Human Contact,’ on repeat since its release. How does it feel now it has been released in to the world?
THANK YOU it feels weird. Some people have described this album as our baby, and some of these songs have been developing for nearly 7 years, so to finally release the album feels like we’re giving birth to 13 kids and one of them has been in the womb for 7 years. That’s a very strange feeling, he’s a weird looking kid coming into a weirder-looking world.
The album could be seen as a reflection on technology and the consequences of this on relationships. Has this theme taken on a different meaning to you all following the pandemic and the lockdown period?
Definitely – it was originally written with I guess more of a negative view on technology’s obstruction of real human engagement, but in isolation we rely entirely on technology for our only form of human interaction (or did more so towards the start) so it flipped it like a tasty metaphorical pancake. But we’re happiest when people flip their own syrup onto it.
Can you tell us about why you chose to end the album with [Pigs]?
We wanted the end to contrast with the start. I think the understated-ness of Pigs lends itself to restarting the record…but also it’s just a pretty song that ties everything up, and accidentally predicted every day in isolation.
The song-writing on your album is very captivating and intricate, where do you think your passion for this style of song-writing originally came from? Did you start out by writing stories or poems, or were you always only interested in writing songs?
I think there has to be a story in the song or it’s not worth telling most of the time, but the story has to be song-worthy. Not every story fits into a song. But I do write a lot of short stories that get turned into songs, because I think the tiny details that make up a short story – those little invasive, microscopic parts of conversation and action – are truly worth singing about. They can make a song universal. I think that comes from Dylan and Raymond Carver. The songs and stories don’t take long to read or listen to, but they can summate a life span, a century, in one good line.
In your podcast with HYYTS, you mention writing songs together over email. Do you feel technology can help the creative process of song-writing or would you always prefer to write collaboratively in person?
Technology can definitely help the creative process in the time we’re living through, we have to rely on technology to keep anything going. I think creativity works best through constraints as well, so a friend and I were writing a song over Zoom but only within the 45 minutes we were allocated, and after that we let the song go until the next Zoom call another day, and I think that engineers your songwriting to be more concise, less pondering and more instinctive.
As a band that met and formed from York’s live music open mic scene, has it been strange to transition from live gigs to livestreams? What have you enjoyed about live streaming while on lockdown?
Oh yeah, I hate live streams. I mean…maybe that’s strong, but they’re really making me miss being in one room with a lot of people, a proper sound system and the instruments making noise at the volumes they were born to be made at. There’s something to be said for the intimacy of a live stream though, so it takes down a barrier between fan and audience, like watching some of my favourite songwriters play songs in their own houses, where you’d assume they’re most comfortable. But a lot of the time, and I think this is beginning to show a little more, a lot of musicians are far more comfortable on tour, in hotel rooms, and especially on stage. It’s a lot more difficult to get into a character if you’re waiting for the band width to catch up. But my auto-correct just changed that to Band Witch which is pretty sick. Swings and roundabouts.
We’re really looking forward to your headline gig here with us in February 2021, can you tell us about what we can expect from the show?
I think gigs are going to be mad when they come back. Obviously we don’t have any money now to put on the sort of extravagance we want to, but quarantine feels a little like hibernation, and the prospect of live music in venues again is like… I dunno. Honey season. In my head when the bears come out of hibernation, Honey Season is this mad festival where all the bears wear beehives on their heads and take acid and rave and drink Honey Cider. So if you see anyone turn up in a beehive hat…give them a sweet little kiss.
Do you have any pre-show traditions or rituals?
We’re considering having an on-stage ritual, but it depends on if we can find a local urban farm willing to lend us a goat. Otherwise, I’m doing weird things with my voice for an hour and thinking about not disgracing my family on stage, and I think everyone else is getting p****d.
We are a team of foodies here at Islington Assembly Hall so we always have to ask this final question: if you could only eat one food forever, what would it be?
Our Conor makes the best arrabbiata I’ve ever had, we had it while recording the album and ate it at least once a day. Otherwise we are still on the hunt for the world’s greatest pizza – we got to Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn last year and I think that has topped our personal charts so far.
Don’t miss The Howl & The Hum taking over Islington Assembly Hall on Friday 19 February 2021, book your ticket here.
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Sheffield-based experimental stalwarts 65DAYSOFSTATIC take over Islington Assembly Hall next November, following the release of their latest album Replicr. 65DAYSOFSTATIC play a tense, dramatic form of instrumental post-rock which heavily incorporates electronic music styles such as drum’n’bass, techno, and glitch. They are definitely not to be missed! Grab a ticket here.