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"Hum-town Boys Make Good"

by Christopher Straley

Hum, one of the greatest bands to emerge from the Champaign-Urbana area once again invaded the University by playing for a hometown crowd at Mabel's Thursday night. Many people are familiar with their blaring guitars and hard-hitting drum beats in songs such as "Stars." Still, most people don't know the personalities working to create such energetic music.

Recently, The Daily Illini received a chance to interview Jeff Dimpsey, the bassist and back-up vocalist for Hum. He gave us a little insight about the band, its history and why they love what they do.

A lover of music, especially Husker Du, Dimpsey first started playing bass because he wanted to move people in the special way they moved him. According to Dimpsey, in the beginning the band was nothing more than just something to do. "We just wanted to pass the time, get drunk and hang out," Dimpsey said. His first public appearance with Hum was at a frat party. There were only about 10 guys hanging out and watching the band perform. "Our first real gig was at a bar off campus in Athens, Ohio," Dimpsey said. At this point the band mainly played small clubs and parties, with no intention of making a living solely on their music.

One day, out of the blue, the lives of the members of Hum underwent some very drastic changes. Shortly after one of their performances, an agent from RCA listened to a copy of Hum's second full album Electra 2000, and called the band up to see if he could come out and see a show.

Shortly afterward, Hum was signed to do a third full-length album release. In 1995, You'd Prefer an Astronaut hit the shelves of music stores across the country. Hum's hit song "Stars" brought the band's explosive sound to new listeners, as it was aired throughout the nation. Now, the once smalltime band from the University was the originator of a hit record that sold more than 250,000 copies in the United States.

After the release of You'd Prefer An Astronaut, Hum promoted the record by going on tours with other well-known bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins and Bush. During this time the band also aired their talent in a video on MTV. Hum had now reached an unthinkable pinnacle, and there was no turning back.

Late last year, Hum decided to go back to the recording studio to produce their fourth full-length album, Downward is Heavenward. When Dimpsey was asked how this album would compare to previous works, he replied, "That's for the fans to decide."

When it comes to actually writing the songs, Dimpsey describes the process as being very democratic. He stated that the songs take their shape primarily through communication between the band members as they express their likes and dislikes. Dimpsey said the songs are perfected when each member of the band, "tells everyone else in the band that their part sucks."

Members of the band often dispute musical differences until they feel that they have reached a final sound that everyone can be happy with. Finally, once the music is solidified Matt Talbott, the singer/guitarist of Hum, adds the lyrics and perfects the vocals.

Even though the members of Hum have long since left the University, the school still remains a piece of their musical world. "Apollo," one of the more mellow tracks on Downward is Heavenward was recorded live in just one take at the Krannert Center.

Dimpsey said he enjoyed the experience of getting the opportunity to play in "one of the best sounding rooms in North America." He also added that he really enjoyed recording because it allows the band to reach a creative peak as they shaped their songs. The band continually makes use of overdubs and add-on instruments, such as the synthesizer, as they produce compelling and almost hypnotizing sounds.

"We wanted to use the studio as an instrument," Dimpsey said. Hum ended up spending almost two and a half months searching for the perfect effects to complete their new release, a considerable amount of time to record an album.

As for the future, Dimpsey stated that Hum will take their time in exploring new musical facets. "The only way this band can function is to not worry about that," he said. Rather then concern themselves with constantly finding new sounds, Dimpsey added that Hum will simply let the music come to them. "Whatever happens, happens."

Still, with the release of Downward is Heavenward it appears that Hum will continue to make good things happen for themselves, and for their fans through the vitality of their music.


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