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In Conversation With: The Hummingbirds

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Hattie sat down with Michael, Matty and Ryan from The Hummingbirds before their Bush Hall gig supporting Ryley Walker. Having grown up in Liverpool’s vibrant music scene the guys chatted about their importance of their roots, rock and roll and why they make Australians angry.

How did growing up playing in that Merseyside music scene influence you as a band?

Michael: We all played in bands for years. I think growing up in Liverpool probably most kids play the guitar.

Matty: Everyone you knew was in a band or someone at school was in a band

Michael: We were all just close friends, I think we just settled on us because everyone is in like 10 bands and they’re hoping one will make it. Like we jumped up above the other bands we were all in so we left the other bands and decided to concentrate 100% on the Hummingbirds and it’s worked, we’ve gone from strength to strength in the past couple of years.

You’ve been together a few years now and in that time the rock and roll sound has really taken off again, with people like Jake Bugg hitting the mainstream, have you guys noticed any sort of growth or change in the scene since you’ve been playing in it?

Matty: We haven’t always sounded the way we do now, it’s just kind of developed as we’ve developed. We did notice Jake Bugg and other bands coming out but there’s a few Liverpool bands who have a similar sound who split up recently, just thought they wouldn’t go any further. Everything changes very fast around you and you’ve got to keep up with it all.

Ryan: It all changes very quickly, we just keep doing our thing and if people enjoy it then fantastic and we just keep writing and playing.

How do you make your retro sound stay modern and relevant?

Michael: I don’t think any of our references have been modern though which is weird. I think it’s our take, like when we first write a song to when it’s been recorded and finished it sounds totally different. Actually I don’t think it sounds modern personally but obviously people are enjoying the music now so it’s not gonna sound like it’s from the 90s. I can’t explain it, it’s just when we play music together it’s what we sound like. Maybe in 20 years we won’t sound modern any more, we’ll sound like a 2010 band.

Out of curiosity, where did the name come from?

Matty: We were trying to think of a name one day and we just couldn’t think of nothing and then Jay was playing a Hummingbird, the Gibson acoustic guitar and that was it really. No great story or nothing.

Michael: We were thinking of a name and a hummingbird came down and touched us.

Ryan: I was having a pint with Bill Oddie.

It’s not a homage to the Australian 80s electro band then?

Michael: It seems like a really popular name! A lot of people in Australia are angry that we’re called The Hummingbirds as well, lot of diehard Hummingbird fans over there.

Ryan: Yeah but we’re miles away so…

Michael: We were told that if we ever toured in Australia we’d have to be called the Hummingbirds UK as our official name onstage. “Hi guys, we’re the Hummingbirds UK, this is an electro number called Blush we wrote back in 1987.”

What contemporary artists are you listening to at the minute?

Michael: Ryan Adams, his cover of the Taylor Swift album we had on in the car a lot, but I actually liked the Taylor Swift album before the Ryan Adams one came out. I read an article and thought ‘this is going to be interesting’ and his last two albums have been really good. They’re all to tape, all live and no autotune which is what we try and do in our recordings.  And there’s the Milk Carton Kids, they’re this duo from LA. They kind of do this Simon and Garfunkel type thing but they’re really new. You couldn’t put a time on it though, it sounds like it could be from the 70s. The pop music I’d listen to is probably Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, ten years ago you wouldn’t have said that, but now it seems like a pretty cool thing to listen to. I do appreciate band music more but you’ve got to keep up with what’s current in the charts, I enjoy it secretly.

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