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I chatted to Sam Griffiths and Conor Hirons from The Howl & The Hum before their set supporting Sunflower Bean at Hull Central Library for Get It Loud in Libraries, where we talked about their love of Bond films, gun control in America and finding beauty in everything…
You had a pretty busy summer performing at festivals such as Latitude and Citadel – what were some of your highlights?
S: This was our first year of doing festivals without being little idiots and just drinking lots of alcohol, so in a way it was nice to experience things from the other side. It’s cool to be behind the scenes and see how festivals are run. The crowds that turned up were absolutely ridiculous, we still can’t really get our heads around people enjoying our music yet! [laughs]
C: Those summer festivals were the biggest crowds we’ve played to, by far, so it was really good! Some people had heard one or two of our tracks, perhaps on a festival’s playlist or something, but it was nice to see them sticking around for the full set to hear more.
S: We still had to prove our worth to those people, we can’t just do ‘Godmanchester Chinese Bridge’ ten times over. We have lots of other things that we want to say during our set through our music.
‘Don’t Shoot The Storm’ is very different to a lot of your other songs, in terms of the theme and the subject matter. What attracted you to that story and what made you want to write about it?
S: There’s something really artistically beautiful about ridiculous people, there’s beauty in the horror show of what’s happening in America at the moment. There’s beauty in everything but it’s not always entirely evident. That song is about a lack of logic through gun control, and the lyrics are about how if you go into something immediately, very headstrong, then something bad is probably going to happen.
Do you think you’ll continue to make songs like this, with a more alternative backstory? Or do you want to maintain the variety that you currently have?
S: We hope that an alternative backstory is contained in all of our songs, we don’t really have a song that’s just a plain love song. We wrote a song about a bridge that’s not really about a bridge, we wrote a song about a portrait that isn’t about a portrait, and a song about murder that isn’t really about murder.
C: The sound is different as well as the story, it’s good to throw a curveball in there every now and then because it keeps people on their toes, but it also keeps us on our toes. Someone commented on the track saying ‘The Howl and The Hum have gone party!’.
S: Yeah that’s our party song now!
C: And it’s about gun control, which is mad. Someone should write a song about us writing that song.
How did you hear about the story of the Godmanchester Chinese Bridge?
S: I’m from Essex and we formed the band in York, but around the halfway point there’s a village called Godmanchester. On the drive up to York once, we saw a brown tourist information sign at the side of the road that said ‘Godmanchester Chinese Bridge’ and I thought ‘I can’t believe no one has written a song about this’. I wrote down the name and a couple of weeks later, I found it in a notebook so I did some research and this story started to unravel in front of me. We did a show in London recently where we explored the past of the bridge and started the show talking about this architect called James Gallier, who moved to New Orleans and then at the end of the show we told the audience that James Gallier built the Godmanchester Chinese Bridge, so we tried to weave the story of the bridge throughout the show.
C: We’re on the Wikipedia page for the bridge now, so we’ve made it!
S: Yeah Conor’s going to retire now [laughs]
In the song, you make a link between a couple and the bridge. Is there a building or a landmark that’s equally important to you personally?
S: The idea of bridges is a beautiful one, a connection between two places. The most prominent bridge in my mind is the Severn Bridge which connects England to South Wales. We used to visit family there quite a bit when I was younger, so that bridge gives me a sense of familiarity as well as foreignness. York has also become such a home for me, even though I’m not from there. York is full of idealistic architecture, like the Minster.
You’ve previously described your music as ‘Bond themes for films where Jimmy is still hung up on that girl’, what do you love so much about Bond?
S: I do love the Bond films, but the theme songs are some of the best and most stylistic songs ever written. Someone can play a chord and it’s instantly recognisable. It’s sexy, it’s dark… We’ve never really attempted to be a sexy band but people have been doing some sexy dancing at our gigs, which we’re allowing (at the moment!). We don’t condone it though [laughs].
C: If Bond lived in our music, I think he’d be less cool, more grounded. The music would still be great, but he’d be a character that your mum tries to get you to knock about with when you’re younger.
Do you have a favourite Bond film?
S: I like a lot of the old ones, like Dr. No and Goldfinger.
C: Sean Connery is amazing.
S: Daniel Craig too.
C: He’s a great modern Bond.
S: GoldenEye is the best game, but Pierce Brosnan wasn’t the best Bond really.
What’s next for you guys?
S: We’re writing and recording at the moment. We can’t really say much, but we’re creating with the prospect of a larger piece of work being released. We’re always writing and recording. In my head, I want us to release a few more songs and then release an album, hopefully within the next 2 years.
C: It’s great to even have the prospect of making an album. We’ll be gigging a lot more next year as well, a lot more.
The Howl & The Hum are embarking on a UK headline tour in Jan/Feb 2019: