Though we’re able to nostalgically ponder the sea change of the 1990s, we’re also left with the gift of hindsight. Now we know that the alternative movement that swept through much of the grunge decade was largely the product of major label assembly lines and signing sprees that bled the well dry. Yet the 90s also held its share of deeper bands and artists whose work would continue to linger well into the aughts and find new audiences thanks to explosion of internet-based music discovery.
Such a group was Champaign-Urbana’s Hum. Helmed by spectacled front man Matt Talbott, the band’s genuine every man appearance and inspired hymns pertaining to space (lending the band the shallow ‘space rock’ moniker they continue to receive) and time and love are still as fresh and inviting as they were during the band’s peak. Hum dissolved in 2000 but the band has continued to pop up for the occasional live show as well as testimonials as the air speaks toward yet another sea change–this one away from major label meddling.
I was able to speak with Matt Talbott about Hum’s continued live appearances as well as his new musical ventures: starting up his own label, Earth Analog Records, which happens to share its name with Talbott’s studio.
Justin Spicer: When did you begin the process of launching your own label, Earth Analog?
Matt Talbott: I had been thinking about it for quite some time, really for the last several years. Not because I thought there was money to be made in the record business, that’s for sure. But I was seeking a way to grow my studio business and to connect with more artists who might be interested in analog recording.
JS: Is there a specific aesthetic behind Earth Analog Records?
MT: Absolutely. It’s really about the connecting appropriate (as in “good”) bands with a style of recording that I am into, but which is not really the industry standard way of doing things any more. All of our records are cut to tape, then mixed to tape, and then we avoid any kind of digital argle-bargle (beyond sequencing) at the mastering point. It’s my hope that the vinyl versions won’t even need digital solutions for sequencing, although that’s a particular challenge given the way vinyl record lacquers are made now.
JS: How involved are you in recording the music for Earth Analog (as I understand it, the label takes its name from your studio)?
MT: So far one of the projects (Dibiase, from Collinsville, IL) has been done entirely by me (as in recorded and mixed by me at my studio). The other project (New Ruins, from Champaign, IL) was recorded by Brian Deck but at my studio.
JS: What drew you to releasing music from Dibiase and New Ruins as part of the label’s launch? How do the bands reflect your goals for Earth Analog?
MT: It really had everything to do with me loving their music and feeling that they were good enough bands that they wouldn’t need any digital trickery to make awesome recordings. As in, they have great songs and can all play their instruments.
JS: How involved are you in the Hum tribute album released via Pop-Up Records?
MT: Not at all. That was a fan driven project.
JS: Does a tribute album make you any more aware of how admired and respected Hum continues to be?
MT: Yes, it does in fact. It’s very humbling, and I’ve just started listening to some of the recordings. Some pretty cool versions of the songs.
JS: What was at the root of Hum’s dissolution in 2000?
MT: We felt our best days as a group of collaborative songwriters was behind us. Writing together became a bit of a chore. One day, one of us had the good sense to say, “You know, we don’t HAVE to do this.” It was extremely hard for me to let it go, I have to admit. But I think the timing was perfect. We’d accomplished plenty, and probably shut it down at an appropriate time.
JS: Why the (infrequent) live reunions?
MT: There seems to be some version of pent-up demand for our music with both long-time as well as new fans that we do not, truthfully, quite understand. But the shows that we do happen to accept are always fun and really gratifying. The guys in the band are still my friends. We have a really good time being together for these shows. There’s no way any of this would be sustainable for long periods of time. We’d eventually be reminded of why we broke up, and any one who has been dying to see us would eventually see us. For now, though, the occasional one off’s are cool.
JS: What goals do you (and the band) have, if any, playing live?
MT: We’d like to start and finish are songs at the same time, which we do at about 90% success rate. Which is not bad really.
JS: Is there a possibility of a permanent reunion–or at least a more active Hum? More live shows and touring–perhaps a new album–or is the band just content to play a few regional events and festivals?
MT: I think more than the occasional gig is not in the future for us.
JS: Beyond Earth Analog and occasional Hum performances, what else are you working on at the moment?
MT: My golf game. I’m really close to a break through. Beyond that, I’m really, really excited about this years NFL season and, of course, the start of NCAA football. In a few weeks it will be cool enough for chili, my flannel lined Carhartt pants will make their annual return, and then all bets are off.