’The Sound of a New Generation’
Nashville, TN might not be the first place for a dream-pop band to come together, but the birthplace of American music was a nice fit for Venus Hum. Comprised of vocalist Annette Strean and multi-instrumentalists Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle, the trio formed in 1999.
Although born from very different backgrounds Strean, Miracle and Kubin connected. Miracle set up Chessington Synth Labs Studio in his basement and Venus Hum created a lush, dynamic pop sound. Their self-titled debut appeared on Mono-Fi in spring 2001.
Shows in and around Nashville were successful for Venus Hum and luckily for them, Electroclash producer/scenester Larry Tee (RuPaul) took Venus Hum under his wing. The band appeared on Tee's Electroclash Festival in New York City during summer 2002 and Stereolab asked Venus Hum to open for them in Nashville. The ‘Hummingbirds EP’ coincided a joint U.S. tour with Sing-Sing that October and six months later their proper full-length album Big Beautiful Sky was released to the masses.
Sitting down with the talented trio as they prepared for yet another show on the massive Blue Man Group tour of the States, I first asked Tony Miracle if it was true that a rare medical condition of his had led to the bands name?! ”Oh yeah, and it’s a terribly exciting story,” he laughs. ”Yeah, Venus Hum just means that I can hear my jugular pulsing in my ear. And it can not be a good thing, but I went to a specialist to check it out and he told me that it could even be a tumor! And if it’s not a tumor it could also be an aneurysm! So, we got a cat scan and I was trying to decide how I was gonna die, but when he came back he said he forgot to tell me that it could also be nothing at all," he laughs. ”It’s an odd thing. Some people have tinnitus and hear a high ring, but I can just hear my heartbeat! But, it’s not all the time.”
So, why name the band after your medical condition?! ”I think it sounded good when we were sifting through other band names that we had,” answers Kip.
[Annette] ”But, actually we didn’t have to try for very long as we pretty much only had one page and a half of names. And we just kinda thought about it for a while. But it’s now spelled like the medical condition,” she reveals smiling. ”It’s actually spelt V-e-i-n-o-u-s Hum,” she spells out informatively.
What was another name that could have easily become the band’s name? ”At one point we were Annette Strean and Band, but only because we were playing a woman’s rock show,” she makes clear.”We weren’t even a band then, but by the time this gig came along we had to have a name!”
Was it hard to establish your kind of music in Nashville? ”Well, I think in Nashville they’ll look at your songs first and they don’t care too much about what you’re making that song with,” Kip explains. ”If you’re making good songs, somebody will obviously see you. That’s how people were beginning to judge us because a lot of the things we played were like rock music festivals in Nashville where people would come in and see what was new. But, they’ll stick around if you show them a good song which is why we were a word of mouth band at the start.”
What makes this album stand out from anything that has gone before, especially in the ‘80s?! ”I would say,” answers Tony, ”that in everything we do there is an enormous amount of honesty. Which just let’s us do what we want to do and not really do what Vince Clarke did in 1982. What he did in his own little bubble was his own little thing and us, the way we look at sounds is that we write honesty about what happens to us. We make up sounds that are always in our heads and stick them all together and that’s what we are. “
If this was 1985 do you think you could have musically gone head-to-head with bands like Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and Erasure? ”Sure, I think so,” Tony quickly answers, ”but having said that it’s not our intention to be a retro band. But there’s a spirit of what was going on back in those days and the spirit is let’s do something that’s one foot in tradition and one foot in the future. And that’s exactly where we are, very much channeling the spirit of what’s happening in the past and what’s happening in the modern world. And so, in that regard, yeah, we’d be right up there alongside those bands.”
Was there one artist in particular that you were originally influenced musically by back in the day? ”Well,” he nods, ”when I first heard Thomas Dolby’s ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ I hated it! I was so anti that song and I used it as the song that I would go off on my rants about,” he laughs. ”And then, it was a year later and I heard the whole record and something clicked in me. For me the influence was that he was a brilliant songwriter that could use crazy sounds to make his songs. And that idea was what excited me about the music.”
So, Annette, is it true that you grew up singing show tunes in Nashville?! ”I did, when I was walking through the mountains,' she laughs, possibly even sarcastically! "I like show tunes and stuff, yeah. We had one piano in our house and once a year we would play the ‘Sound of Music’ or ‘White Christmas' and I would wait for those times. So, I’ve always been drawn to that kind of music, especially in the movies having grown up in the choir and stuff.”
What’s the most interesting thing to know about Venus Hum?! ”I’ve never played more than two notes at a time on stage,” Kip chips in laughing.
”Kip also had never played a show live until our first show,” Annette adds informatively.
Kip, tell me more about your introduction to the Keyboards ”Yeah, there’s this company in Arizona called PAIA and my friend’s dad was the one who said he was gonna build a synthesizer with his son. And, as they were building it they were making sounds and that was the first time that I’d heard hardcore electronic music.”
Have you always been a fan of electronic music? ”Well, yeah, that experience really just kind of tucked the sounds back there, but then Tony bought me an Erasure record in college and I kinda had the same reaction to that as he did to Thomas Dolby! One where I really didn’t like it that much! But then I played it sixty or seventy times and couldn’t stop from loving it!”
Finally, how would you describe your music to someone who hadn’t heard of you? ”The new one is,” voices Annette, ”’Folktronica’, so I’m just gonna stick with that!”
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
To win a Brand New copy of the Venus Hum CD, Big Beautiful Sky just this easy question! In which small rustic town in Montana did Annette grow up in?
Now, just send an e:mail to me with the subject title 'VENUS' and the answer in the text to:
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