Saturday – Humming House w/ Becca Mancari
Humming House Previews New Direction With ‘Takin’ Over‘ Video Premiere
Turning on the radio, computer, or television can seem like a gamble, at best. Each new tuning offers a deluge of anxieties to greet us. In the face of this 21st century tumult, Humming House is on a quest. They do not want to wish away the pain and fear all too real in our lives, but to put those elements in conversation with the elements that sustain us: hope, partnership, even joy. And so, their newest album begins with Tam’s unmistakable voice intoning, “I want to be your companion.” It’s an appropriate beginning for a band who has built itself on complex musicianship and careful collaboration. They know the value of hard work and compromise. Their music is evidence of the thrill of creativity.
Humming House is Justin Wade Tam, Bobby Chase, Joshua Wolak, and Benjamin Jones. The band formed organically out of jam sessions that Tam held in his living room in East Nashville-evidence that some of the best projects come from spontaneous collaboration and the subsequent seeing it through. Now, three albums and six years later, Humming House continues to embody what is best about the Nashville each transplant chooses to call home.
What Humming House does so well is paint sonic landscapes that are at once compelling and honest, even in the most rollicking of songs. Revelries, Humming House’s second full-length album released in 2015, was largely influenced by the band’s history of touring. Its songs revealed the power and revelations that come from travel. Companion, to be released by Soundly on the 6th of October 2017, continues to pursue that which transforms. In part, it is still movement, movement that comes easily to the body as well as movement driven by the unease we daily brush up against. What’s most powerful about Humming House is their ability to be present with you, to take those moments in life that seem mundane and shift the lens so that they are rendered extraordinary. Theirs is a music of presence.
Humming House maintains that sense of intimacy that derives from making music with friends altogether in the same room. It is fun combined with substance. With Tam’s sincerity, Jones’ groove, and Chase and Wolak’s charm, their live shows extend the invitation to participate. As Dustin Ogdin observes in No Depression, “Humming House exudes restraint and a wily intelligence. They never pander to their crowd, but do respect them. They also seem to understand that the best music comes from an exchange between artist and audience rather than simply one giving and the other receiving.”
These essential traits of Humming House are evident in Companion. The story of the album mirrors the story of the band: it’s one of collaboration, experimentation, and showing up for each other over and again. There are songs of hope and of desperation so that the prevailing mood is one of exchange and balance. In the spirit of experimentation, the band threw out the constraining rule that they would only write with acoustic instruments. While those sounds still center the creative impulses of the songs, the added electric experimentation and expanded instrumentation imbue the new songs with a dynamism that is irresistible. Tam notes that the “extremes of the record in emotion are wider on this album. There’s more desperation, but there’s also fun and an upbeat aspect that’s more joyous.” The first half of the album is infused with Indie Rock, especially in songs such as “Can’t Stay Away,” “Takin’ Over,” and “Make it Through.” The influence of quirky 90s rock, a la Cake, is there too. “Takin’ Over” adheres to the Humming House desire to move you and is emblematic of those moments in our lives where the rhythm of the things that we love: music, friends, family commandeer our bodies until we’re compelled to move in joy.
“Sign Me Up” and “Companion” nod to Paul Simon, while “Silver Lining,” “Find What Waits,” and “London” gesture to Humming House’s long engagement with classical composition and songwriter driven melodies so strong in the realm of Americana. The album isn’t all hip swinging bravado; halfway through, “Silver Lining” will stop and compel you to attend to the broken things that shape us. “Make it Through” and “Hope in My Head” are prisms to transform difficult days into livable ones. “I Want It All” does justice to the nostalgia and influence of a favorite album, while “Sign Me Up” conveys the increasing distance between our digital, urban lives and the ecosystems that sustain us.
“Wishing Well” is a late album gem. It opens with the observation, “Be patient with the ones you love / because we’re not here for long enough / to judge,” and so the song is an invitation to come to terms with our collective humanity, a difficult enough feat in the current torrid climate of politics, environmental concerns, and general unease. Thankfully, Humming House is dedicated to honest songwriting, attending to the complex interactions that shape us, and is committed to being present with us in their albums and live shows. What choice do we have but to respond? Theirs is a music that places us.
Becca Mancari is rewriting the rules.
Born in Staten Island, New York, to an Italian-Irish preacher and a Puerto Rican mother, Mancari has lived a life of transition – from working as a janitor in South Florida, to writing songs with train hoppers in the Blue Ridge Mountains and seeking spirituality in India. But it was her time in Virginia and Nashville where she found the roots music that would continue to inspire her musical evolution to today.
Her anticipated debut album, “Good Woman,” is hauntingly lonesome, with dust-cloud swells of electric guitar and don’t-look- back lyrics revealing scenes from Mancari’s well-travelled story. She recalls, “I remember being 19, and I would go to this old warehouse where a bunch of old timers would be siting around picking and drinking moonshine…and we are talking straight up moonshine. “During this time, Mancari’s curiosity to see the world with eager, fresh eyes grew, drawing her to travel and experience all types of people and places. Her travels would inevitably impact her music; since her music is the landscape of all she’s seen, “Good Woman” evokes the sound of city grit and the mountain music of her youth, swirling into a fresh, nostalgic sound.
Mancari explains that she wants her music to be familiar to audiences, but also pushing creative boundaries, rewriting the rules for her genre. She explains, “Our hope is that we’re doing something that respects the roots but also has space and the galaxy in it.” It’s these planetary frontiers, along with the powerful fragility in her voice, that make Mancari’s music beyond standard classifications.
Perhaps more striking than Mancari’s sound is the tender honesty and vulnerability present in each of her songs. Ann Powers describes Mancari’s writing as “lyrical and raw,” commenting on the “great personality in her songs.” As a gay woman in the south, she has fought hard to reconcile her spiritual beliefs with her sexuality. Her strong personality enables her to be a spokeswoman to the outcast and the misfit, helping her redefine the categories that so often divide people. Mancari explains, “It was not an easy road when I came out. No matter how hard I tried to fit into society’s molds, I could not. I want to be open and proud of who I am, because I needed people like that in my life when I was young.” Mancari hopes that people will find the bravery in her story and be able to discover their own inner strength.
When Mancari sings, she shines with authenticity. It is evident that Mancari knows exactly who she is, and her music has a strong sense of identity. But it is her refusal to subscribe to molds and societies trends that sets Mancari apart. Mancari is challenging all of us to throw away the old book and create a new genre of music.
In a short time, Mancari has made a name for herself in Nashville and the southeast. She has toured and played with Margo Price, Hurray For The Riff Raff, The Lone Bellow, SUSTO, Joan Osborne, The Weeks, and more.