Music » Music Stories

Indigo Girl Amy Ray gets back to her punk roots on a solo tour, while we catch up with Hum's Matt Talbott, on the eve of his band's New Year's Eve reunion show

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The Champaign, Illinois, band Hum was a local favorite before it split in 2000. After a few one-off reunion gigs in the subsequent years, the group is again reuniting for a New Year's Eve gig in Chicago at the Double Door. Kansas City's the Life and Times — which is playing at the Bluebird Thursday, October 16, with the Jovian Chorus and Echo Bravo — is opening. Tickets to the Chicago show aren't cheap ($65) but they are on sale now and appear to include an open bar.

While many reunion shows are clearly for monetary reasons, this Hum show likely isn't some cynical cash grab.

"We've gotten asked to do a few things here and there and have not really come to any decisions," vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Matt Talbott says. "I would say there's a chance that we'd play another show or two sometime in the next couple years, but it's hard to say, and not something we labor over very much. [We'd] just [have to] see if the right thing pops up where we're all available with our work and family commitments and all that, and if we'd have the time and enthusiasm to relearn the material and have fun with it."

Indeed, Talbott is quite a busy man. Open Hand (which is on Kansas City's Anodyne Records) has been at his recording studio, Great Western Record Recorders, with Paul Malinowski (ex-Shiner) producing. Brooklyn's the Forms recorded part of its last record there, and So Many Dynamos also traveled to Great Western to finish its upcoming album, The Loud Wars, with Chris Walla.

Talbott also coaches high school football, cares for his kids and is teaches at Millikin University in Decatur. And then there's his post-Hum band, dream-rockers Centaur, which performed at the Pygmalion Festival in Champaign last month.

"Centaur has all the material written for a follow-up record to In Streams I like the material a lot," Talbott says. "I find life as a grownup to be pretty overwhelming, so it's just a matter of finding time to get the money together to get it recorded, because if I was going to do it at my own studio, I'd probably need a little bit of help. Plus I'd have to shut down my studio for some time, and then I wouldn't be making any money there.

"I think we actually had plans to record it three years ago, and then my wife got pregnant with our last baby, and so we waved that off. I've just been waiting for the right time, when I feel like my juices are flowing properly — and then I would look forward to the chance to make another Centaur record, because it's pretty fun, and I'm proud of the first one."
— Annie Zaleski

The Life and Times at the Bluebird, 2706 Olive Street. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, October 16. $10 21-plus, $13 under 21. No phone.

Closer to Fine
As an Indigo Girl, Amy Ray has sold a bazillion records, but that doesn't mean she isn't punk. In 2001, she used her first solo album, Stag, to get her political and garage-rock rocks off. Backed up by the Butchies, the songs smoked like burning tires at the barricades of a gender riot. On this year's Didn't It Feel Kinder, however, Ray signals a retreat of sorts into soul grooves and pop arrangements, while refusing to back off from her radical take on personal and social conflict. Fresh off an Indigo Girls tour, Ray spoke with B-Sides about her solo work, American violence and nonprofit ironies.

B-Sides: I was surprised by the new record. There's much more of an R&B presence.

Amy Ray: Part of that is the producer, Greg Griffith, whose bass drove a lot of that. But I was writing in that arena, probably because I was listening to different groups that got under my skin. I was also writing in the Clash tradition, that's always with me, so it became a more eclectic record. And I wanted to use my voice in different ways.

Are there subjects you can tackle as a solo artist that you can't as part of the Indigo Girls?

I mean, I could, but it feels different to me. When I sing with Emily [Saliers] there's a sense of duality all the time, of compromise and harmony, and that's the magic of it. I'm always aware of the other voice. But when I'm on my own, even if there's backup harmony voices, it's so singular to me. I can be graphic and radical in a way that doesn't take into consideration another voice. The people I play with come from the punk community. Their philosophy and the way they record and distribute music is more aligned with what I understand in my heart of hearts.

Is there a tipping point in a song where a theme gets turned into a musical expression? I was thinking of the new song "Who Sold the Gun?"

With that song, I was watching all the news about the Virginia Tech shootings, and at the same time there was news about Iraq, and I was reading about how we support other governments that literally have children fighting in their armies. I was writing in my lyric book and I just started singing it. That's my emotional response, but it's also taking society and myself to task. It was also an attempt to have compassion for this person too, who did something so unbelievable.

Certain subjects, even for the most politically aware, can be taboo. But those are the ones you write about.

I'm tactless. [Laughs] I think it's a fragile situation, especially in that song. There's so much loss and grief, to even say we should try to understand this person, it sounds so terrible. But I really feel that way. I feel the same way about the death penalty. People who have lost someone to murder, but still oppose the death penalty and believe in forgiveness and compassion. To be able to stand in that space is the ultimate place of light, and of healing, too.

Like your other solo albums, you released Didn't It Feel Kinder on Daemon, which is your nonprofit label. But the phrase is almost redundant at this point.

Yeah, I don't even call it that anymore. It was a way to say, look, the money that's coming in is going into artists' pockets and to fund the next record. It was supposed to be a working model of cooperation and stuff. But I'm starting to ask, How much can Daemon do that artists can't do on their own? A label does give an artist some person power. But I want to encourage people who are starting out that they don't have to be on a label to get their record out. I think most people know that now, but there are some young people who still think they need a label deal. And I don't buy that anymore, at all.
— Roy Kasten

9 p.m. Tuesday, October 21. Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard, University City. $15. 314-727-4444.

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