Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Humming House

A “nod” to many genres is how Humming House’s Justin Wade Tam describes the music he and his band are making.

“That is true!” he says. “In each song we nod to many genres, but use that to create our own sound."

With not one, but two producers with Grammy awards on their mantles contributing to the group’s first album, it’s no surprise that the record is nothing short of genre-blending perfection. Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay) and Vance Powell (The Raconteurs) are the men who really gave Humming House the confidence they needed to move forward as a band.

“Landing two Grammy-winning producers was a bizarre experience,” Tam recalls. “We had planned to do it with Mitch, but then the day we were supposed to go in to track, he had a family emergency and ended up having to go out of town.

“He made a phone call to his partner, Vance Powell, and he just happened to be available. It was totally this freaky, terrible, wonderful thing that led us to working with Vance. We ended up getting along so well on a personal level that he wanted to help mix the record, as well. Mitch came back and helped finish the record by adding his incredible producing touches.”

Their debut album is set to be released on Jan. 17 and it is a musical milkshake, blending a little Americana, folk, blues and gospel to create a final product Dane calls “Irish Porch Stomp.”

Tam compares the blending on the album to something reminiscent of Girl Talk. “We enjoy genre-blending a lot,” he explains. “I think my voice, and the five of us together, make it into a Humming House song and it seems to be cohesive. We have covered Intergalactic live and for some reason that still really works. I think it’s because of the chemistry of the band members that make it make sense.

“This album is the best thing I have ever done,” Tam continues. “I think it is a good mix of story songs and songs that are very personal to me. I tend to like that in a record, something that is not completely fictional and something that is not completely personal, so it gives the listener both angles.”

The seeds for the formation of Humming House were sewn at casual Irish jams Tam hosted at his Nashville home which were attended by his future bandmates. The talent assembled in the band is undeniable. Aside from what they do together, individually their resumes are impressive as well.

Fiddle player Mike Butera has a PHD and is a Professor of Sociology. Mandolin player Joshua Wolak plans corporate scavenger hunts. Vocalist Kristin Rogers is an R&B singer-songwriter and bass player Ben Jones is a classical composer.

“When we did the Christmas song for the Christmas album for the Brite compilation, Ben came to rehearsal with a four-part string section written out in full score,” recalls Tam, who is in awe of the talent in his band. “I don’t know why they play with me. They are far too talented.”

The terms humming and house are not necessarily words you would think to put together, but for Tam it was the perfect name for their band.

“It’s been in my head for a long time,” he says. “I like what it insinuates, it can be a house with a bunch of people in it and if it is humming it can be a musical term to insinuate things are happening or commotion. There’s that, and then I am also a sucker for alliteration.”

In less than a year together, Humming House has made an album under the direction of two Grammy winners, been featured on WPLN’s Live in Studio C and NPR’s All Things Considered, played Soundland, and had their latest music video, “Cold Chicago,” sponsored by Stetson as part of their Stetson Center Stage series. Not too shabby for a band still in their first year of making music together.

The thing Tam most wants people to know about his up-and-coming band is simple: “Everything we do is very intentional,” he says. But even though they put a lot of effort into every last detail of what they do, he also wants people to have fun listening to them.

“We’re not trying to be an all on guard art band hiding behind microphones,” he says. “We are very personable people and we want to relate to people and we are very inspired by stories. We want to write songs that are inspiring to others in a way that the stories are inspiring to us.”

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