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The Human Value

Tales from the tour van...
and other stories

If you stuck your head round the door of the UK tour circuit during 2006, you could harly fail to notice The Human Value. The band temporarily relocated to London from their home base in California and spent a couple of months relentlessly gigging up a storm around the UK. That's a hard way to get ahead, of course, but it looks like it's paying off. The band now has the makings of a UK fanbase, the reviews have been good, and even the dear old NME has sat up and taken notice (but you read about them here first!)

The Human Value are Turu (vocals, keyboards), Hiram (guitar, vocals) and Lynnae (drums). Here the band give us their thoughts on life in the back of a tour van - and other adventures...

 

To those of us in the UK it looks rather like The Human Value sprang out of nowhere. But I'm sure there's a back-story that hasn't been told yet. So, how did it all come together? How did the human beings in the band meet up in the first place? How did the music emerge - was it one of those cases where it all just clicks, the sound, the style, and you thought 'Hey! We've got a band here!' Or was it a long process of research and refinement to create the band as it is now?

Well..in a way it’s quite a bit of both really. The band initially did come together rather quickly when Turu and I (Hiram) decided to start a project. We’ve known each other for many years and had already collaborated in the past a number of times so we knew right from the start what we were in for, in terms of sensibilities and influences, etc.

This familiarity got us moving rather quickly right from the get go. We both had quite a bit of material to begin with, which quickly gave way to a whole slew of brand new compositions. In that aspect, the band did just click right away. We wrote a lot of material in a very short period of time and three months later the two of us were in Nashville recording the album.

In terms of the live band you see before you today, that’s been much more of a process.

Once we’d finished recording, we set out putting a live band together. We began experimenting as a five piece in the beginning and went through several line-ups in something like a six month period, before settling on the three piece - which was an easy decision the minute we began playing with Lynnae. We’ve been a three piece now since March 2006, which I guess still isn’t that long a period of time. The fact that all three of us came from three piece bands and have all known one another for years has made the transition very smooth and organic.

So I guess even though for the most part The Human Value did just come together rather quickly, there are also years of experience and shared knowledge between us all that went into forming the band.

Just about every review of The Human Value I've read makes all sorts of comparisons with bands from the 80s-and-onwards post-punk era. I've made such comparisons myself. The funny thing is, everyone seems to mention different bands. There's certainly no consensus as to who, if anyone, the Human Value sounds like. So, is there any big influence? Any particular band that you listened to and thought, 'THAT'S the stuff we want to do!' Or are there lots of little influences? Did any of those reviewers hit the spot with their comparisons?

I hope the fact that so many varied influences are mentioned, illustrates that we never set out to be a copy of anyone. That’s not to say that there aren’t influences present and evident. How could there not be? But they exist on a more sub-conscious level. We’re into so many different kinds of music that it’s difficult for us to pinpoint which influences really come to the surface. When we write songs, it’s never like "hey guys, let’s write something that sounds like Marlene Dietrich meets Black Sabbath today".

NME reviewHow do the songs themselves come about? Are you one of those bands that jams around a few ideas until a song emerges, or is it all meticulously prepared in advance, lyrics written, chords noted down and all? Perhaps more importantly, where do the song ideas come from in the first place?

There’s really no set way to how we write and a lot of it has to do with circumstances. At the very beginning Turu and I spent a very focused handful of months writing with a drum machine for the album. After the album, and when we were first experimenting with a five piece band, she and I were still writing and we would generally introduce a finished song to the band and then maybe tweak a couple things. Since we’ve become a three piece, I’ll generally kick a bunch of ideas around for a while and then Turu will add lyrics and vocal melody. Then, we’ll work on drums and arrangements with Lynnae. In terms of where the ideas come from, I couldn't really tell you. They just come and we try and catch them.

There's obviously a certain attention to the whole package with The Human Value - even down to little touches like putting up red and black balloons at the single launch gig in London. The band's colour scheme even extends to the party decorations! It's good to see that, but so few bands do it. How is that stuff worked out? Do you have band meetings where you discuss the whole presentation thing, or does it just instinctively happen?

The Human ValueThe aesthetic of the band is something that just comes naturally to us. We’re all very visual and it’s how we are when we’re not playing in the band, so it’s not put on nor is it something we have to really "work" at. We also have a lot of very creative friends who we’ve worked closely with on artwork, photos etc. As far as the little touches you speak of, that’s just how we do things around here.

It seems that The Human Value believes in hitting the tour circuit and putting the miles in. These days, when we're told that it's possible for bands to become megastars simply by putting a few tunes up on their Myspace pages and then sitting back and waiting for the music biz to come calling, what makes you stick with the traditional Get Out There And Do It method? What is it about real performances in real time that works?

Myspace has proven to be a very useful tool to a lot of bands- including ourselves- and for a small handful, it’s obviously proven to bring amazing opportunities. However, it’s also become absolutely deluged with a lot of crap, which has already created a bit of a backlash, and it would seem a mistake for an act to rely solely on Myspace to get ‘discovered’. In my humble opinion nothing will ever take the place of seeing a band live, and for us nothing can take the place of performing live in front of an audience. It’s that simple really. We don’t really even think of it as being an option not to get out there and gig our asses off.

The Human ValueWhich brings us to the UK tour. I must admit that I was surprised that you'd conjured up such a lengthy tour in what is, after all, a very small country - especially as I've heard many bands complaining that the British live music circuit is a shadow of its former self and there just aren't many places to play these days. It's ironic that it's taken a band from California to show us that it can be done! But it seems to me that the tour is very much a 'throw enough mud at the wall and hope some of it sticks' kind of exercise. You're playing every obscure back room of a pub in every random town in the country. Places such as Sleaford, Worksop and Herne Bay are hardly names that shout 'Rock 'n' roll wild times!' from the rooftops. So - how is it going? What is it like to play these obscure towns that seldom feature on the tour itineraries of British bands? What impressions have you gained of these obscure corners of the UK?

In addition to these obscure towns you’ve mentioned we’ve also played several gigs in a little town called London as well as places like Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, and we just did two dates at the In The City conference in Manchester. But yes, we are hitting a lot of smaller towns and it’s actually been quite great. The crowds are often much more receptive and appreciative than in the larger towns. We’re taking The Human Value to every corner of your great island nation and bringing in our own 'rock n‘ roll wild times'. It’s something that is regularly done by bands in the states, which by the way is so much larger geographically and therefore a more difficult task. I guess it’s not that odd to us and so far no one has complained that we’re playing their small town.

Somewhere along the way you must've gathered a few tour stories - mishaps and mayhem, nights when it all went horribly wrong, nights when it all went gloriously right. What's the worst gig so far? And the best? Tell us some tales!

Ohhh so many stories...you can check our myspace page for full blog details, but the night that stands out most happened to be one of our first London shows. We managed to blow the power in the club 3 times before we realized that Hiram's pedals were no longer functioning and then we were forced to play an acoustic set...which by the way ended upThe Human Valuegetting an amazing reaction...then we continued the evening by driving the owner of the club home...when he jumped out of the van he slammed the door shut on to all 5 fingers...as we began to drive off we heard a huge cry out...we nearly dragged him down the street attached to van, clinging for his life...fortunately, Lynnae flung the door open and he ended up with all fingers intact. Then moments later a couple of miles down the road we smashed the side of the van in by going up on the curb and sideswiping a ballard......hmmm fun night! Best gig in the UK....InThe City Manchester....it was amazing and we feel really great about the response as well as all of the people we met....great things have come of it!

I've seen three gigs so far, and I swear 'Give Me' is getting faster every time you play it. By the end of the tour it'll sound like Motorhead! Is this just me, or is some sort of gung-ho tour frenzy kicking in?

I hope you don’t think there’s anything wrong with us sounding like Motorhead! I think what you’ve experienced is the sheer reckless abandon which can sometimes overtake us at such times... mixed in with that gung-ho tour frenzy thing you mentioned.

What have the audiences been like? Have you been getting warm receptions, or the dreaded British 'cricket clap'? It must be difficult playing to audiences 'cold', as it were - you can't rely on a bunch of friends in the crowd, or a contingent of loyal fans, who will cheer and shout and generally kick off the applause. Your friends are thousands of miles away, so you've got to get out there and win over a room full of strangers. Is that a daunting prospect, or do you thrive on it?

For the most part the audiences have been great to us and like I mentioned earlier the smaller towns have been even more so. Even though it’s our very first time here, there usually is a mix of people who know us from myspace or reviews or whatever, as well as those who’ve The Human Valuenever heard of us at all. But like you mentioned we’re not playing in front of established Human Value fans, which we absolutely thrive on because we generally are able to win a room over and whip people up pretty good. So far hardly any ‘cricket claps’. Thankfully.

Have you met any bands on your travels who seem to be kindred spirits, musically? I mention this because on the night you played with assorted indie/dadrock bands at the Archway Tavern in London, The Violets were playing three miles down the road at the Buffalo Bar - and in my view, that's the gig you should've played! I think you would have come away from that one a few rungs higher up the ladder than when you went in, because The Violets have exactly the kind of 'new new wave' audience which I think would go for your stuff. There's some sort of embryonic scene here - post-post punk, if you will - and I think that's where a lot of potential fans of The Human Value might be lurking. But it's all based around particular clubs and promoters, so it's not necessarily visible out on the random tour circuit. But have you met any bands who seem to be pushing things in the same direction as you? Or do you sometimes feel like the odd band out? Is it a lonely business, being The Human Value, on tour in random British towns? Or do you feel there's something here which you could be part of?

We are absolutely positve that there is something to be part of here in the UK....we have been made to feel on many levels that people here have appreciated our music. We have made many friends and heard some amazing music and had some life changing experiences. We have found fans of our music in the most unlikely places and not in any particular scene. There have been of course moments of lonliness on the road....but what in life does not have those moments. We would hope to play with bands like The Violets when we return of course and we have plans on doing just that.

We would not give this experience away for anything in the world....this has been a complete adventure with pretty much just the three of us taking huge risks...and having the time of our lives...we love the UK. We would do it again, and we will do it again. We plan on starting work on our second record back in Nashville and we will release our second single "She" here in the UK in February...so look forward to more Human Value tours soon after that.

The Human Value are indeed planning to tour the UK again from March 2007. I've already reserved a place in the moshpit...and, frankly, so should you. Thanks to the band for taking the time to kick my questions around - now, follow the links for more!

 

 

 

 

Essential links:

A review of The Human Value's debut album is here.

A review of the band's show at the Dublin Castle in London is here.

Photos on this page are either taken from The Human Value's MySpace profile (go here for full credits) or by Uncle Nemesis, taken at the Dublin Castle gig (go here for more).

The Human Value: Website | MySpace

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  Page credits: Interview, certain photos as noted above, and construction
by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.