Q&A: Hum Discusses Chicago Reunion, Lyrical Intentions, and Artistic Integrity

RCA did not offer much support for Downward Is Heavenward (Hum’s followup to …Astronaut and final release). Did you question jumping to a major label?

Dimpsey: No, we never, ever questioned that. It was really good for us to be on a major label. We probably wouldn’t have put out as many albums as we did if we hadn’t been on a major.

Talbott: Getting on RCA made it financially viable for us to keep writing and touring, and I don’t think that any of the indies that I was fond of at the time — Touch and Go, Sub Pop — would have ever touched us with a 10-foot you-know-what.

Dimpsey: I don’t blame anything on RCA; most of it was on us. We were probably a more difficult band than we needed to be back then. I really loved Downward is Heavenward, but RCA didn’t hear a big single. They let us make the album we wanted, and I think that we put out a really quality album that stands up over time, but labels need to hear a hit.

How were you “a more difficult band than you needed to be”?

Dimpsey: When we recorded the video for “Stars,” MTV came back and said that they’d put us in the “Buzz Bin” if we had some bigger-name director shoot it, and we told them, “No, we’ve got our artistic integrity.” Then RCA told us that if we cut “Why I’d Like Your Hair Long” by 45 seconds, they would make it the second single, but we told them, “No, we’re not cutting it.”

We thought that we were in a battle with them protecting our art. I’m of the mind now that as long as I can create the music I want to create, then I don’t really care about how it’s marketed afterward.

We got our way all the time. (laughs) Maybe that’s why people still like our music.

How would you describe Hum’s status right now?

Dimpsey: I’m shocked. Weirdly enough, we feel more respected than ever. We weren’t really that much of a respected band when we were in action — 75% of our reviews were negative, and we were charged with being a “Smashing Pumpkins wannabe” — but it seems like over time, and through word of mouth, people are sitting down to really listen to us. It’s cool.

I think a lot of it has to do with Matt’s lyrics. They’re timeless and they speak to a lot of things without being direct. People can associate memories and experiences with the picture he’s painted in the lyrics; they stick with people for a long time.

Can we expect any new Hum material in the future?

Talbott: Expect the unexpected. But probably not. But you never know. But I doubt it.

This week, scientists reported that there is a “supermassive” black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Does that freak you out?

Talbott: No. Celine Dion in a three-way with Oprah Winfrey and Don King — that might freak me out. But no, I’m at peace with what you’ve described here.

Hum plays two sold-out shows at the Double Door on 12/31/08 and 01/01/09. The Life and Times and Dianogah open.

– Jarrett Dapier

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