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"Still Humming"

by Andy Lietz

When Hum's "Stars" single broke nationwide, the Champaign scene waited impatiently for the development of one of their own. To hear a band on the radio that you had once seen play a keg party in the basement of some ramshackled hole in the wall was quite cool to say the least. To add to their mounting fame, the one and only Howard Stern wanted them to play live on his syndicated radio show in 1993. Bassist Jeff Dimpsey told us the story.

"He liked our song, and we were in New York at the time. He wanted us to play, and we said that would be totally cool. They promised us we could play a certain way over the telephone. When we got there, they said no, we had to do it a different way. So that was something we had to work through. It's never nice to get lied to, is it?"

Those years were most likely filled with empty promises and praise-filled chicanery from the likes of money hungry record label suits and ties, but selling out was something Hum could never do. They had the chance in 1993, and stuck to their roots. We, the collective whole of the Champaign scene, who watched with bitten nails and smitten nerves in '93, assure that when Hum makes another triumphant return to its ancestral city, it will be welcomed with open arms and louder appreciations for staying true to themselves and not taking that easy corporate buck.

When Hum was approached to play a benefit for the Champaign County Heath Commission at the Office this Friday, it saw an opportunity to come home and play new material before a live audience without heavy expectation. The cause is a good one. The Champaign County Health Commission is a grass-roots, non-profit organization that helps everyone from seniors to students, with such programs as Medicare 100+, Dental referral, House Building, and a tenant union.

"All the money goes directly to them. That's the main reason for the show," Dimpsey proudly said. "We wanted to play our new material before we record it. It seemed like a good opportunity to have people not pay for it since we don't know if it is good or not yet."

Not having any idea where they were headed, and just having fun, it seems like just yesterday when Hum started on this campus. They began by doing the basement house party circuit and ended up major label darlings.

"It's (Hum's beginnings) the regular ol' college rock band," said Dimpsey. "Guys were looking for something to do on Friday nights and formed a band because they liked playing music together. And things kind of went from there."

That loud explosive sound fueled by manic guitars that defined the Champaign sound is what Hum came to embody. Guitarist and singer Matt Talbott, six-string slinger Tim Lash, drummer Bryan St. Pere, and Dimpsey make up the collective whole that is Hum.

"The chemistry of us four developed a certain sound, and I guess it will always be that way," Dimpsey said. "It's hard to pinpoint one (musical influence) and say this is what we do and this is why we do this."

Now they are returning not baby-faced indie rockers, but seasoned veterans that have seen every side of the double deal gone down, ridden the wave and lived to tell. Dimpsey side-stepped all attempts to categorize Hum as the Kings of the Champaign scene, due to the fact that they evolved during the C-U heyday and made it.

When asked if he missed the "old scene," he said. "I miss it because I was a big part of it. I was having fun and younger. I partied a lot more. It was a good time in my life. Sure I miss it. But I'm glad that the bands are doing something then that now. It would be kind of boring if the local bands were doing something that was done five or six years ago."

The band still hates to be labeled, and continues to defy mere expectation. Like a marriage, Hum has continued to carry the indie-rocker precedent set by the Poster Children, Honcho Overload, Steak Daddy Six, Mother, and Hum themselves.

"We've developed the sound a long time ago and we really haven't strayed from that, for better or for worse. Maybe our sound is getting old to some people, but others really like it. You do what you do," said Dimpsey.


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