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Humbird builds a house for us all in “Still Life”

Photo by Smouse

“What happens outside a house can deeply shift a person’s internal world” ~Humbird

The residents of Minnesota were subjected to a whirlwind of happenings in 2020, that still are shaking the foundations of our community. For Siri Undlin (Humbird) and Adelyn (Addie) Strei, they happened upon a collection of songs that wouldn’t have been written if the world hadn’t blown up. Call it an accident bonus record. In January 2020, a space opened up in a house that Addie was at with her sister and their partners, along with two cats and Spud, a toad. Although a fairly sizeable house, Siri moved in with the intention that with their professions, Addie and Siri would be gone most of the time on tours. For the first two months, that was the case until the pandemic forced them home, sick with the virus.

Photo by Dahli Durley

Living together in this house with matching yellow bedrooms, they started to make music. In Addie’s bedroom cauldron she would work on parts that Siri would hear through the wall, all the time wondering how that’s going to fit in. What that did for Siri was it pulled out the parts that stuck out and that grabbed her emotionally. This process continued until they paused and asked, “I guess we have a collection now. Are we making a record?” That framework lead to Still Life.

Photo by Dahli Durley

Still Life is a wishing well that is constructed for everyone to gather around and toss your penny in. Still Life was created in a home surrounded by a city reckoning with anger, grief, and white supremacy. As the world outside filled up with negatives, Siri and Addie made a blueprint for hope, giving it a concrete voice, a living verb. Each song became a residence for stories to be heard and for burdens to be lifted. Now being released from its’ four walls, the album is a reflection of deep friendships, artistic respect, and a love of togetherness.

Still Life album artwork

Album Review

“Hymn For Whom” lays like a welcome mat. A hinge of nostalgia, a dash of holiday cheer, the instrumental track sets the tone with a layered blend of acoustic, synths, and winds. You’re then in the living room with “Summer Storm For Charlotte”. For those that know Humbird’s music, it doesn’t stray away from talking about politics, despair, and American existential angst.

“I’ve been writing songs about how distressed I am about current events for the last decade. And now shit’s actually really bad. I don’t want to do the same thing I’ve been doing,” Siri shares.

Instead, they turned to carving out a safe space for imagination-focused positivity to take those really intense emotions of fear and anxiety and making a room for them to cope with it. “Summer Storm For Charlotte” pushes hope forward with its calming layout. Like a living room filled with comfortable seating, you’re tucked in riding out a storm in the place we feel most safe.

This leads us into the kitchen with a song called “May”. It’s the track that exemplifies the production techniques and styles that Addie cooked with throughout the album. Wispy guitars, heartfelt vocals, flirting woodwinds, and a gradual increase of textures. Addie shares that the situation changed her production techniques greatly, as she learned to trust her first instinct. Because they didn’t have time to linger on parts, they were able to remove things and not get too attached. You can hear this natural selection baked into every song. It flows, it seems to breathe, and it’s not intended to be perfect.

“I love the trajectory that Humbird has taken and I wanted it to keep feeling like it was moving forward, while staying cohesive with the earlier work,” Addie shares.

Addie pulled some ideas from a solo Siri residency she did in Colorado that incorporated a lot of natural elements with weird vocal techniques like sending it through a voice loop pedal. Still Life also carries ties into Pharmakon with natural noises, chimes, and sounds like a loon call.

Photo by Smouse

“Heavy” is a song that we could easily place in the intimacy of a bedroom. The song speaks of bringing home the heavy and finding space for tenderness. Siri wrote this song in the heat of everything taking place in Minneapolis. Written more from a space of meditation as opposed to a song formula, “Heavy” is poignantly laid out and expertly produced. Lyrically it circles around the idea of traumatic events happening around you that change you. You can’t go back because it will never feel the same. But you have to figure out how to come home with it, how to live with it, and then resolve that weight internally.

“Stone Giant” sits comfortably in a cool basement, holding buried treasures. “My Pillow Is A River” feels like an airy attic with the windows up, where you can look out and see your boundaries. Ending the album is “On The Day We Are Together Again”. A song with porch swings and the moment where you wish your visitors goodbye, it’s knowing the next time will be better. It’s the resolve to connect in a better way the next time we’re together.

The events of 2020 have changed our communities and conversations. They’ve sparked discussions on world-building and the sovereign act of helping out our neighbors. Still Life is a tiny piece of this future. It’s meant to provide shelter in a world where you can just feel your emotions to cope. 

“I’m really proud of this record. It does feel very geographical. The songs feel like places you visit and it was an exercise in world-building that was very raw and genuine,” Siri adds.

Photo by Smouse

November Residency at Icehouse

It’s only fitting that an album written about a house is to be celebrated at a venue called Icehouse. Every Wednesday evening will feature a powerhouse lineup including Pat Keen on bass/guitar, Peter Quirsfeld on percussion, Addie Strei on keys/synths, and Hillary James on cello.

November 3rd will feature Courtney Hartman, a close friend who also recently released a new album. November 10th includes Mayyadda and Brass Messengers. November 17th invites Faith Boblett and Laura Hugo, and November 24th finishes with Freaque. All these artists have strong connections to Siri and embody the sounds of Minneapolis. The residency illustrates the diversity and talent that lies in our area, outside our doors, ready to influence us.

Photo by Smouse

Siri and Addie share that the organic structure of each evening is left open-ended. This group of musicians hasn’t played together for a long tour to iron out the parts. Instead, you’re going to witness musicians inhabiting each song and entertaining each other. Much like how the album was made, the residency is a collaboration happening in real-time, with the outside world still finding ways to change us.

Check out the photos and summary from the residency HERE.

 

 

Smouse
Author: Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.

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Written by Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.

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