Low Hummer on Their New Single “The Real Thing” - Almost Touching Bottom | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, May 29th, 2020  

Low Hummer on Their New Single “The Real Thing”

Almost Touching the Bottom

Mar 30, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Low Hummer are celebrating signing to iconic Leeds, England-based label Dance to the Radio by dropping a brand-new video to their attitude laden synth-pop single “The Real Thing.” Recorded at The Nave and produced by Matt Peel (Menace Beach, Crushed Beaks, Pulled Apart By Horses), “The Real Thing” oozes radio friendly appeal.

Embracing the hard-edged electronica indie rock fusion that is having a resurgence across Yorkshire, the quintet from Hull, England have already had a huge reception from UK critics and audiences alike with the release of previous singles “Don’t You Ever Sleep” and “I Choose Live News” after forming just last year.

Low Hummer are led by guitarist/singer Dan Mawer, a key figure around his northern hometown working as a local promoter putting on gigs for The Sesh based in the Polar Bear pub. Plus he’s known far and wide for his previous indie rock outfit La Bête Blooms, which I have personally had the pleasure putting on at gigs in my adopted home of Nottingham (I’m a Hull lad too). The band also features guitarist John Copley, bassist Jack Gallagher, keyboardist/guitarist Stephanie Hebdon, and vocalist/guitarist Aimee Duncan.

Most band members of Low Hummer were formerly part of Le Bête Blooms, one of the city’s leading lights who were already attracting widespread attention and prominent BBC6 music airplay with their hook laden indie rock. Mawer began to develop an interest in the resurging interest in guitar inflected electronica which is currently sweeping across Yorkshire and the North. Whereas conventional wisdom would be to simply incorporate this into the next EP or album, the charming boyish singer saw this as an opportunity to start something totally new and ended the band to start Low Hummer complete with a change in line up, offering the potential for fresh and exciting ideas that might not otherwise have come—but it also brings with it brand new challenges too. 

In my conversation with Mawer I start by asking him about the new single “The Real Thing”—the ideas behind the song and it’s meaning. “It’s a tricky one,” he replies. “It’s sort of analyzing people’s day to day lives really and how they’ve got to where they are. That was sort of the subject matter, especially in the verses. It’s like a lesson of being conditioned into the life you take and the brief moments you realize that that’s the case. Whether you’ve picked a career path because your parents told you to or… that sort of thing. [There’s a] juxtaposition with the chorus which is realizing this is real—this is happening right now. This is your only shot. You’ve already taken the path that was chosen for you.”

Read on as we go further in-depth on “The Real Thing” and its video (which we are premiering in this interview), as well discussing their future plans and the Hull music scene (fellow Hull bands include The Housemartins, LIFE, and Fonda 500). [Note: This interview was conducted before COVID-19 was a serious crisis in the UK.]

 

Jimi Arundell (Under the Radar): Is the song directed at a specific person or a generation as a whole? 

Dan Mawer: 100% a generational thing. Yeah, it’s sort of mindless—I think that everyone is mindless especially with social media and stuff like that and how they operate day to day is a sort of bubble existence. And then, you do have these moments of real, horrible, clarity where you go, “This is it. This my life.” That was the aim when I was writing it. 

Is it a wakeup call? Do you think people have the potential go “Oh shit, I am just wasting my life in this disposable social media world” or is this song your way of telling people they’re already done and there’s nothing I can do for you?

I’d like to think that there’s bits of both in that. Probably, how I see everything. Probably the same way; I can make a difference in this but then that deep feeling of, “Oh this is literally it. This is something happening and I can’t control.” 

There are moments of horror in the video where you see people shrieking and it looks like a scene from a Cronenberg film. How did you create the video and what were the ideas behind it?

I work at Polar Bear, so that was an easy one. “We’ve got a stage, what do we do with this?” Which is pretty much how all band videos go isn’t it? “We’ve got a practice room; oh, we’ll use this.” So, that was it. 

Basically, again it was sort of symbolic of the verse, what the song means. The actors that we had in it, I had the idea they could be sat through the verses in their bubble and then sort of waking up in sheer terror during the choruses. It was sort of a loose, easy one to do and we talked to Middle Child about who we could get in to do it. We got a couple of friends basically who are ace, because it’s all as low budget as you can make it obviously.

It was all directed by me, which is no fun init. There’s literally no fun in directing your own music video. You spend all those hours and then you’re babysitting the band anyway. They’re all messing about and you’re just like, “This is horrible.” And then there’s genuine actors you’re trying to direct and everything you say sounds like David Brent [from the British version of The Office], do you know what I mean? “Oh, this is horrendous.”

But yeah, that’s the concept really. It’s quite a loose concept. There’s quite a few bits and pieces of how I wanted it to look. You know, when you first watch Top of the Pops, like ’80s when they do the stupid pans and quite obvious shots. In David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” there’s really obvious shots to actors’ eyes and stuff. All sort of quite obvious and have been used many times and I thought that would be quite nice and something that was not low budget then but quite easy to replicate now.

It’s funny that you mention Bowie because what you are saying reminds me of when he said, “Go a little out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.” Did you have that nervous excitement of pushing yourself outside comfort zone?

I’ve always loved that quote. It’s such a good quote. And yeah, definitely. Even the song itself is not something, I mean you know Jimi we’ve been doing sort of guitar stuff or I have done all my life, and to do something that’s a bit more synth based and sounds a lot more electronic—that was a conscious decision. Something none of us have worked in before and wanted to give it a go. And again, going straight to the music video it’s the same thing. Having actors that genuinely work as actors, it was pretty terrifying. [Laughs] Telling them to scream for the next three minutes and try and get good shots.

You’ve just mentioned your band from the past and that La Bête Blooms were more guitar based and more obviously indie rock whereas the new band has disco elements and it’s encompassed electronica too. What brought about the change in style and direction?

I just got bored. Like I said, I’ve always done guitar stuff and when I first started being in bands, we also had a female voice there that would do as much as me and I wanted to go back to that. It was just boredom really. Starting something fresh with new people gives you a completely new sort of set of rules. They bring their own ideas but also what they perceive to be cool or uncool. And you go, “Oh right. Maybe I shouldn’t do that thing I always do on the chorus” or something like that. So, it just needed a refresh and thankfully I think it’s been a really good decision. 

It definitely seems to be a good choice looking at the response of tastemakers like Clash and Gigwise and this is your third single now following “Don’t You Ever Sleep” and “I Choose Live News.” Why do you think you’re causing such a stir so quickly? 

It’s weird to be in this position where I’ve been in a band for such a long length of time and people see it as completely fresh thing and that’s good in itself. And also, the references that we’ve made that people have stumbled on, whether it be Bowie or LCD Soundsystem, that’s something we wanted when we started. We were like, “These are new references we’ve never used before” so when people like Clash and stuff find those references themselves you realize [relieved sigh] this has worked all along and they’ve got it.

I think we’ve shown different styles already on what we want to do and this, again is a bit more electronic. But the second single was back to basics guitar rock I guess. It’s been really nice to show a couple of different sides to what we want to do rather than it just be electronic so far.

You’re signed to Dance to the Radio. Wicked label. How did you get the attention of those guys in Leeds?

It was a friend of friend basically. We played our first Hull show and a friend of mine knew Sally [Bryant] who [knows] Ross who works for Dance to the Radio just said, “Do you want to come over from Leeds. Check out this, you’ve never been to The Sesh before. This’ll be nice.” So, she came over, we met Sally and she was just immediately a really nice, positive person to meet. Obviously Dance to the Radio has a really great history and some really cool bands that I grew up listening to. So, it just seemed to fit really, really nicely. Sally immediately got what we were going for and yeah, again it just felt really fresh and exciting to work with them, because they’ve given new life to the label over the past couple of years after having a brief time away. Again, it just felt really nice and natural to work with them. 

Do you feel like as a band that you have peers amongst your label mates and other emerging acts or do you feel more like you’re operating in isolation?

I still feel like we’re fairly isolated Jimi, to be honest. We obviously have really good things, we actively listen to everyone on the label because they’re all real good so that makes sense. Doesn’t feel like we’re necessarily part of anything. There’s obviously quite a noisey guitar thing that’s been going on. Sort of political, politically charged stuff and we’re sort of on the edge of that. We’ve got bits and pieces that sort of engage with that audience a little bit even though we’re still pretty new. That feels really good, but then obviously we’ve got this sort of electronic stuff which doesn’t quite fit in there but fits in with stuff like Working Men’s Club. We’re sort of on the peripheral vision of everyone in different genres basically.

There’s something about being from Hull that is a unique experience. We’re Yorkshire and yet we’re kinda our own thing too. When you say about isolation, do you think it’s more difficult being a Hull band and getting that attention?

Tricky that one. LIFE have proven that idea wrong. I think, through the context they made from Hull and being true to themselves that they are from Hull, I think has worked in their favor big time and goes hand in hand with them. I think it is a little bit trickier. We’re in a different position because Dance to the Radio are helping us and that immediately helps builds a support network that Hull traditionally doesn’t really have, if that makes any sense. In Hull, it’s hard to find those links outside of the city, which does create isolation in itself. So, Hull pretty much talks to Hull. Everyone in Hull knows everyone that works within Hull, supports everyone in Hull. So, you’ll get really mixed line ups that are really exciting and you get a whole range of genres and nobody sticks their nose up at anyone basically which is really nice. But it does mean a little bit of isolation, as in its very difficult when you first start to get out of the city and create your own sort of network.

It’s still very early in the year, what are the plans for the band in 2020? Could we see an album?

[Laughs] Every single time I talk to you I’d love to be bringing out an album. We’ve got an EP out in April, which has got two other tracks on it. Again, I’m hoping that they’ll show another side to us again which will be really nice. And we’re basically playing all day festivals if that makes any sense.

We’ve only got one show and that’s the 8th of May at Polar Bear and that’s just to promote the EP as sort of a party. So, all sorts like that gig and the festivals which is really exciting because me on my own, I would never have got those festivals—even though we’re early on it’s still really exciting to be part of them.

Which festivals are you involved in? I saw you’re on Long Division. [Note: Long Division has been postponed due to COVID-19 since this interview took place.]

Yeah! That’ll be real good. I saw Fonda 500 are on that so that’s exciting. Bunkerpop are ace too. Both of them we’re ripping off so that’s nice and works out well. We’re playing Long Division, Deer Shed Festival, Live At Leeds, Stockton Calling, and then there’s a few more that haven’t been announced yet. There’s a couple more that will be really exciting for us as well. [Note: Stockton Calling has since been cancelled due to COVID-19.]

The EP, does it include the three singles already released?

It’s the three singles plus two more basically so five tracks. A real nice happy number, I’m glad with that. We had some arguments about a couple of them. [Laughs] I’ve never really had an argument in the band so it was kind of refreshing as usually I just do things and people just go, “Yeah… whatever.” But, being in this band everything’s talked about and we ummed and ahed for a bit and now it’s a five track EP. 

But a bit of a barney is good as it shows people really care.

[Laughs] Yeah! Imagine that! It’s real weird mate but I’m getting used to it. It’s real nice, everyone does genuinely care and wants it to look and feel like right which is really good. 

How did you resolve the argument in the end?

Erm... I sort of said, “Well Sally thinks that’s a good idea” and everyone’s like “Oh right. Fair Enough.” I can’t remember how it worked out. I think it just whittled out and everyone got to the point of being like “I don’t care anymore.” Maybe I whittled all the enthusiasm out of them until they just let me have what I want.

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