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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicago band Hemmingbirds pushes musical boundaries on new album


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago band Hemmingbirds is not afraid to take musical chances.

The band charts a new musical direction on its new album, "The Vines of Age," set to release on Sept. 25. To celebrate the new release, Hemmingbirds will perform Sept. 21 at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Av., Chicago.

Milano, Northpilot and Glittermouse also are on the bill. The show starts at 8:30 p.m and tickets are $8, available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the chance to talk to Hemmingbirds' Yoo Soo Kim about the new album.


Q - You started Hemmingbirds as a solo project. When did you discover that you wanted to make it into a band effort?

I think I always had the project in mind to become a band when [it] first started. “Death Wave” was arranged for a band so it seemed like that was the only option. 


I’m most comfortable in a full band setting, so I wouldn’t have wanted the record to sound like one person anyway.

Q - "The Vines of Age" is heavier and more soulful than the group's last release, "Death Wave." Do you think that is a result of this album being more of a band effort?

Matt, Tim and Zach listen to a good amount of heavy music, so I think they had a very strong influence in that. I also believe that it’s easier to get heavier when you’re writing songs in a full live band. 


Feedback and rocking out carry a better energy when played live than when recorded track-by-track by yourself.

The soulfulness was a conscious decision by us to move toward a different direction. The folk influence from “Death Wave” was sort of residual from the last band I was in and by the time we started to write for “The Vines of Age,” I was interested in trying something new.

Q - Do you think fans who liked your last album will be taken by surprise by the band's new musical direction?

I’ve sent this new album to my friends and close fans to listen to and prefaced each email wearily with “it’s a lot heavier, noisier, and different.” I’m a little afraid of what people will think of our transitioning sound, and I do think there will be an element of surprise to the record when they hear it. 


Hopefully it’s a pleasant surprise.

Q - "Death Wave" reached #109 on CMJ's Top 200 national charts. Did that surprise you and what are your aspirations for your new album?


 

We were all very surprised by that we charted well on CMJ. It was our first college radio campaign and we had no idea what to expect. 

It gave us confidence that we actually have songs that people enjoy hearing.

For the new record, we’d like to top everything we did with “Death Wave.” We really tried to be as ambitious as possible with this record, and hopefully it all pays off. But it’s really hard to say from the perspective of a musician what people will like, so I guess we’ll see!




 

Q - You've also been called a local band to watch. How do you think you fit into the Chicago music scene? How do you think the Chicago music scene compares to other parts of the country?

Chicago is a large city with a very diverse scene, and I think we have our place in it with bands that have similar sounds and aspirations to us. The only other music scene I was actively a part of was Champaign-Urbana’s, which is much smaller than Chicago’s, so it’s hard for me to give an accurate judgment on how we compare to elsewhere. 


I think Chicago has great bands, great venues, and arguably the greatest lineup of summer festivals, so we can hold our footing pretty well against other major cities.

Q - There are plenty of resources available to musicians these days to get their music out there. How is your band taking advantage of those resources and what are the challenges you face being an indie act?

It’s incredibly amazing how easy it is to be a musician who can release material worldwide for anyone to hear. I think there are a number of bands that have achieved success from the advent of Facebook, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, etc and the ease that those sites provide. 


At the same time, there’s so much music now that it’s harder to stand out as a band among the thousands of other artists trying to do the same thing you’re doing. You’re no longer just the band that put in the investment to pay for a record, because the cost of that can be so low now. 

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem was asked a similar question and he responded about how he hated it because there’s too much music out there and a lot of it isn’t good. I wouldn’t go as negatively as he did about it, but there are definitely pros and cons to these numerous resources.

Still, we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve on all the new sites and such where you can release music. We joined Frostwire and NoiseTrade and and got great responses from that. 


I think in the end, though, that while the challenge of becoming a successful band is now very different, success still boils down to whether you have great songs or not. 

I’ll hear about bands that will be at it for years without garnering much recognition, and then I’ll hear about a band like Passion Pit where the front man made an EP for his girlfriend, and then the tracks went viral.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

In the short term, we’d like to promote this album as much as possible to have it be as successful as it can. Ultimately, we’d like to be in a place where we can play music and have it support us financially. 


Not sure how and when that will happen, but...