Meet Humanfly, the latest band to be named after a type of stuntman. You’ve probably never heard of them, but that’s okay because we have, and we want to explain them to you.
Humanfly are a band, comprising a number of men. They make records about stuff.
The latest one, Awesome Science came out about two weeks ago, and it’s a dense and rewarding slab of atmospheric post-metal. Meantime, they’ve lined up a UK tour alongside Bongripper and Conan (another pair of Demon Pigeon favourites, by the way), climaxing with a slot at Desertfest in London, on Sunday 28th April.
Actually come to think of it, we suck at this. Why don’t we just let them explain themselves to you? We’ll give founding member John Sutcliffe (vocals/guitar) a bit of space below, shall we?
DP: Awesome Science is awesome. We’re big fans of it at Demon Pigeon and we’d like to ask a few questions about your new album and Humanfly in general.
John Sutcliffe: Yeah we’re happy with how it turned out, go for it!
DP: There is a more pronounced prog influence on Awesome Science than on previous albums. Is that how you would characterize the progression from Darker Later?
JS: Hmm, not in my humble opinion but I can completely get behind where you are coming from. It was never a case of ‘let’s prog it up’. Not even sure how comfortable I feel with being pigeon-holed in such a manner.
Our approach to song writing has altered over the last few years, having had opportunities to jam with other people such as Trio VD and Damo Suzuki. We could play massive jams that were completely improvised when we rehearsed and be completely chuffed with it. It got to a point where we just stopped and said ‘why don’t we turn these into songs?’ Then it was a case of working out the numbers, which is the hard part.
It was definitely more of a natural flow than previous song writing which was reliant on putting pieces of a song together like a jigsaw puzzle.
DP: The way the twin guitars work separately and yet together—it’s like the Fripp/Belew rock guitar gamelan thing King Crimson do. Was that influential on your sound?
JS: Andy and I really try to not play the same things, otherwise there isn’t much point in having two guitars. So he approached his guitar playing for this record very differently. Very unique. I kinda see it as if he’s making his guitar sound like a completely different instrument for the most part; almost like keyboard melodies, followed by blistering Santana and Fripp solos.
My approach was a mixture of influences. I wanted to strip back some of the complexity and remove the ‘chug’ elements to free up some room to introduce vocal melody. So I guess I was going for a mix of fuzz and space rock and wah-wah solos and noise. Pretty standard, I guess.
DP: There’s a natural live sound to the new album. It sounds like the full band playing together in the studio. Is this how you approached the recording?
JS: Yes, we’re pretty much used to recording in that way now and I personally prefer not to ‘fake’ it as much as humanly possible. Even when we shoot videos, we crank the amps up. We’re not actors so having to follow a false process to get a ‘studio’ sound doesn’t really appeal. Might work for some people but I need to see people’s heads bopping and some aggressive body language to adapt and bring a bit more heart to what I do.
DP: Your songs follow a very organic flow, as if they’re evolving from one section to the next, like a collective improvisation. Is improv a part of the writing process?
JS: Yeah totally. Massively into jamming stuff out and trying new things. None of us have any jazz training or experience but we are pretty big fans of the concepts behind it, in that we will approach our instruments (fnar) with a different perspective and challenge our own perceptions, at the same time as showcasing our abilities. Yeah, nice…
DP: The lyrics on Darker Later had social and ecological themes. Which subjects fired you up to pen words for the new album?
JS: Oh, variations on a theme. Quite a lot of positive thinking went into this. I’m kind of telling a story but backwards, beginning with ‘the end in mind’. Picture your own funeral in your mind… how would you like to be remembered? Then set your life’s goals and ambitions around that. Time is running out… all things will end. Commit to something and be involved. Birth from death, gravity, time travel, distance, self-belief and a positive perspective…
Type O Negative had a song called Everything Dies. So don’t waste time on shit that doesn’t matter because in the great scheme of things you only have one life.
So yeah, there are quite a lot of themes that are built up around space/science connotations. Make of it what you will, because I really enjoy hearing back from other people as to what they think it means and how it makes them feel.
DP: Four albums down the line, and with a busy tour schedule this year, are there any plans to release a live album? If you could pick one live album as a model for your own which would you pick?
JS: Hmmm, no solid plans to do that as we don’t really play ‘best of…’ sets. We write songs and we play ’em live. That’s how it stands at the moment but I never say never.
Live albums sound pretty poop more often than not but I really like Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous LP. Also King Crimson’s USA album and Black Flag’s 1984 Live albums are pretty buff.
DP: Unlike many bands (and Demon Pigeon, for that matter), both Humanfly and Brew Records seem pretty savvy when it comes to using social media for PR and for engaging with your audience. What advice would you give other bands to improve their profile?
JS: Really? I kind of thought we really sucked at that. Brew are more savvy than us in that they know how computers work and have smartphones! Our own self-promotion is okay, I suppose, but that’s through playing live and hoping that people still dig us enough for word of mouth to spread to the kind of people who dig what we do.
DP: You’re playing Desertfest in April. They’re letting some of us at Demon Pigeon out for that. Which bands will you be watching?
JS: I’m super excited about watching Hammers and Black Moth in particular, as their recent albums have blown my balls off. I will also be hunting down new things for my tender ears to latch onto, so feeling ultra-excited about being involved.
DP: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck with the album!
JS: Thanks dude, my pleasure. All the best!