NewTracks New Artist: Hummucide

NewTracks New Artist: Hummucide

Hailing from the creative student lab of Te Aro in Wellington, HUMMUCIDE describe themselves as a four-piece minimalist rock-jazz group, citing influences ranging from BadBadNotGood to Aphex Twin, to Yussef Kamaal and further. With a scattering of groovily jazz singles and a couple of EPs dating back to 2020 they are surely due to provide an album in the near future. Meantime their latest single Park provides five minutes of sway-and-dance escapism that warmed NZ On Air enough to add them to their NewTracks compilation this July.

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Ben Stewart and I play keys and synth in Hummucide. We also have Toby Leman on saxophone, Hugo Olsen-Smith on bass and Lennox Grootjans on drums. 

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Toby, Hugo and I all met in high school (Wellington College) and started playing/writing music together there. We met our amazing drummer Lennox at jazz school, and started the project there. 

Any other previous (or current) projects might we know you from?

Ben also plays in Dr. Reknaw and Sky Canvas. Toby plays in Revulva and General Vibe. Hugo plays in O & The Mo and Revulva, and Lennox plays in Spacey

What’s the background to how Hummucide came to be? 

We all met at Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music in Wellington and started regularly playing together through our classes. We had some mates who threw house party gigs, and we played most of our first gigs at those. House parties are such an amazing vibe as the audience is super engaged and ready to dance, and we were very surprised at the reception to our music as it incorporates a lot of elements borrowed from the jazz tradition, and weird time signatures! But people still enjoyed dancing. 

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

We’ve definitely grown and formed more of our own sound over the years. Our first EP was made up of songs Toby and I wrote in high school and our early university days, and we love those songs, but it felt great to release them into the world. Toby writes a lot of our music, and when he’s in the right headspace he can churn out an incredible amount of songs that are all awesome. I’m a much slower writer personally. But we’re definitely both figuring out what the Hummucide sound is, and we’re getting closer with every song. 

How did you come up with the name for the band?

Oh man, we came up with it during a conversation as a pun that someone misheard, and it stuck. It’s definitely a strange choice, but we haven’t come up with anything better yet! 

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

We’ve been lucky to play at some beautiful festivals around Aotearoa – Welcome To Nowhere and Tora Bombora were both definitely highlights! We’ve also been amazed with the reception of our music on streaming platforms, and our first EP has just hit 100,000 streams which is a bit silly. 

What makes Park stand out for you as a single?

It’s a lot of our friends’ favourite song, and we’ve been playing it for years live, so it was special to record it and release it so that our friends can enjoy it. 

And what’s the story behind Park?

The majority of our music is heavily jazz-influenced, yet we play to an ‘indie’ music crowd. Toby wanted to write a song that was more easily identifiable for this group of listeners and a song that was overwhelmingly positive sounding. I think we achieved this because many of our friends say that Park is their favourite moment of our live sets, because it is easy to sing along to, and makes them want to dance. This is a great feeling when performing live, seeing your friends and supporters dancing and expressing their enjoyment of the music. We want listeners to take away this feeling of being able to express themselves in response to our music.

What’s your own favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

Ben: Personally I love the ‘chorus’ of the song when the arpeggiated synths come in with the hook riff. This was so much fun to produce and bring to life! 

Toby: My favourite moment in the song is the bass solo. Hugo is really great!

Who did you write/record/produce Park with and where? 

Ben: We recorded the single (along with the rest of the EP) in my parents living room! It’s not the most amazing space acoustically, but it’s very important to us that we record in the same room where we can all see each other and interact. A big part of our music is the improvised nature and the interaction, and this means that every time we play a song it ends up a little bit different. If we’d tracked all the parts individually it definitely wouldn’t have had the same vibe.
Our friend Zane Hawkins recorded the track, and he’s an absolute wizard! We did use the hot water cupboard to isolate the guitar amp when we recorded Exothermic [released May 2021] with guitarist Luca Sturny. Toby Lloyd [Tiny Triumph Recordings] mixed the track for us, he’s amazingly talented and an awesome human being too! 

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Toby: I wrote this track in mid-2018, when Hummucide was a new band. It was one of the first tunes that I brought to the band for the specific purpose of playing it with this group. Our membership has musical roots in many different areas, including dub and reggae, and the pre-chorus/chorus tries to honour that musical connection which we share with bands such as Dr. Reknaw. The music is inspired by those sensibilities, but equally by music by Tigran Hamasyan, whose work has deeply touched me. I enjoy a sense of separation from the inspiration of a song and the music itself, as I wish the audience to form their own interpretation of what the song means to them, however, it is important to me, in this case, to note that the song is named for my friend James Park, who always inspired us to laugh and be joyful. 

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

We have no concrete idea really – what this whole process has taught us is that there isn’t much of a formula that can compete with a song that people resonate with. Our most ‘successful’ song was 8 Mullups, which got on the NZ hot singles chart even though it’s over 8 minutes long. We’ve been lucky to have been playing gigs regularly for a couple of years before we released any music, and this allowed us to refine our sound a bit and build a bit of an audience. This was super helpful when releasing our first EP [October 2020], as we already had a bunch of people who were very keen to hear what we’d made and share it around. 

Who else is in your team?

We’ve self-funded all of our music and released everything ourselves so far. It’s been a steep learning curve and very challenging, but also very rewarding to have full creative control over how the music is presented. We’d definitely like to pass some of the admin on to someone with more of an affinity with that side of the music business than us at some point though, we’d much rather be writing music than writing emails! 

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Ben: Toby has an awesome electronic project called Earl Green with Pōneke based producer Comf, and they have an EP coming out at the end of the month. I have an EP out of my jazz compositions, and I’m slowly delving into making house music – but none of that will see the light of day for quite a while! 

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Revulva: Tuning Out
  • Skilaa: But I Do
  • Sky Canvas: Fossil

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? Which was it and how did you work it out in the end?

This is the first time we’ve applied for funding and NewTracks. We found the social media followers criteria difficult for quite a while – we understand why it’s there, but it can feel like a popularity contest at times. 

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Ben: I’m personally really into a Youtube channel called Sol State at the moment – a bunch of amazing music producers have started live streaming breakdowns of their music and processes recently, and Sol State condenses these streams down to 10-20 minute focused breakdowns with really useful tips. Definitely recommend to people looking to get into mixing or producing music! 

Have you got any music videos online? 

We don’t have any music videos out currently, however, we do have an awesome video by William Cho from our gig at Bats Theatre in Wellington: 

Any last words?

Thank you so much for chatting to us and featuring our music! We love what you guys do.

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