Recently I interviewed the incredibly talented Yoo Soo Kim of Hemmingbirds, all the way from Chicago, Illinois. Read on to find out what the guys had to say about music piracy, self producing and how it felt to be named The Deli Chicago’s #4 Emerging Artist!
Thanks for taking time out of your day to catch up with us today. How’s 2012 treating Hemmingbirds thus far?
2012 has been pretty sweet thus far. We’ve mainly been lying low to write and record for our new record. We just played in Austin in all of the SXSW frenzy.
2011 was a pretty busy year for Hemmingbirds, what does the rest of this year hold?
Indeed 2011 was pretty busy for us. Right now our big focus is getting our record done and out by the end of the summer. We’ll have a national tour in support of our release, and get a music video out for our lead single. We’ll see whatever else happens that we don’t plan!
You were recently named The Deli Chicago’s #4 Emerging Artist of 2011, how did that make you feel?
That was pretty awesome and gives us some confidence in what we’re doing. We honestly did not expect it because we were dominated by a bunch of other bands in online voting. But the judges liked us, so we’ll take it.
How would you describe the support you’ve had from your hometown?
Chicago’s awesome. The music scene is very cool with great bands and press. We’re still trying to build more of a fanbase here, but I think it’s slowly building.
How did Hemmingbirds come to be? What first made you inspired to be in the music business?
Hemmingbirds started off as a solo project of mine. The band I was in before had just broken up, so I had a batch of songs that I wanted to record and loosely form into some sort of record. I asked my friend Zach to play drums on it, and that ended up becoming Death Wave. I then asked Tim and a couple past members to join the band, and we started making a run at the music business.
As for why I want to be in the music business, I think it’s something that I always assumed I would do. I never considered not being a musician – maybe because I’ve been playing music since I was 6. I graduated college and went straight into a full-time job that I hated. After I was laid off, I gave myself an ultimatum of finding another full-time job or giving this music thing a shot.
Out of all of the names you could have chosen, why did you choose Hemmingbirds?
Well, it’s a bit of a bland story. I came up with a list of potential band names. I rounded the band together, and we democratically voted out of the group of names which ones they liked best. The actual name is a combination of Hemingway and hummingbirds. Sorry for the lack of a better story (laughs)
Do you all share a common musical inspiration, or is it a mixed bag?
It’s definitely a big mixed bag. I’m heavily influenced by Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and other baroque poppy stuff. Matt, Tim, and Zach are influenced by a lot heavier stuff like Nine Inch Nails and Foo Fighters and ‘90s punk. We’ll all agree that certain albums are awesome, but our influences are definitely fairly scattered.
You’ve been compared to the likes of Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes, but how would you personally describe the sound of Hemmingbirds?
Not quite sure how to describe us. I’m an eclectic writer and we have eclectic influences, so our sound isn’t concretely one thing. I think the core of it is pop rock and there are spurts of experimentation and ambiance. I’m cool with people saying we’re like Arcade Fire – that is a tremendous compliment.
Which direction is the new album going in?
The album is a little bit heavier and soulful. The other members naturally play a little heavier than I do, so that’s leaning our music towards that direction. And I’ve been getting into more hip-hop and electronic production, so that will play an influence.
Also, since our first record came out, we’ve been playing as an actual live band, so we’re really employing a live energy that wasn’t present in the first record. The last record was all part by part, but this time we’re going to track some stuff in live takes.
What is the main inspiration behind the writing process of Hemmingbirds?
It’s hard for me to make up emotions for lyrics. So, as of now, I write a lot about aging and maturing. Twenty-somethings is kind of a weird phase – it really feels like the true phase of going from an adolescent to an adult. It feels like by your mid twenties, you have to start shaping what you will be for the rest of your life.
For any readers out there who are just being introduced to Hemmingbirds, where would they get their hands on your music?
You can check us out on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, or Bandcamp. These links are available on our Facebook page and website.
Do you enjoy being able to self-release your music, or would you rather have a company do all the leg work?
Well, self-releases can be good for people to see what it takes to release one’s own music, but I’d really rather have a label or company do all the leg work. I’ve heard about the downsides of working with a controlling label, but right now I spend way more time promoting our music than I do writing and playing music, which is sort of a backward feeling when you want to be a musician.
What are the main difficulties you’ve had to face as an independent band?
I think the largest difficulty for any up and coming band has got to be finances. Being a musician in an independent band is a huge financial strain. You’re basically trying to make this largely unprofitable thing your job.
Your music is still quite pirated despite Hemmingbirds not being in the mainstream– how does that make you feel?
I think it’s awesome. I pirate myself, and really, who doesn’t? The big thing I want is for people to listen to our music. And if it’s up on torrents, then I guess we pass some sort of test on being cool enough to share with strangers. If you think our music is good, then support us by buying our record, merch, or going to a show.
What are your thoughts on EPs (Extended plays)? Are they the successor to the album for the digital generation?
I think LPs are still going strong. EPs are making a surge, but I feel like I haven’t really seen EPs make a huge takeoff. EPs are making more of a surge in the indie market because it’s sort of like the new version of a demo that attracts labels. EPs may never conquer LPs because you can’t put as much hype and marketing into something small like an EP.
Does it surprise you how popular you’ve become in such a short period of time?
I think there are aspects of it where I’m very surprised. People torrenting our albums, people listening to us outside of the US, and people saying that we’re their favorite band are things I didn’t expect.
What part of being in a band do you find most enjoyable?
I would say the aspect of doing what I love and creating music that I’m very proud of. Being in a band definitely has highs and lows, but I keep doing it because I love music.
Before we finish up, is there any advice you would have for any readers out there hoping to follow in Hemmingbirds footsteps?
I think just general life advice that applies to trying to be successul. Be nice to everyone. Don’t spread yourself out too thin. If you really want this to work out, you’re going to have to put the time into it.
What’s next for Hemmingbirds?
Just trying to get our next record done and seeing what happens from there. We’ve got a collection of songs that we’re excited about, so it’s a matter of seeing if the public feels the same way.
Once again, thank you for chatting to me today. Is there anything else you would like to mention?
The pleasure was all mine, Yoo Soo! Like Yoo says, check out Hemmingbirds on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, or Bandcamp. And remember to find the lads on Facebook and Twitter, too! There’s no reason for you not to be introduced to the wonder that is Hemmingbirds.