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The Beauty of Folk Music as Protest: bath Based Humm Talk Queerness and Nature

Humm have a vintage honesty, a rare legitimacy and striking poetic truth glinting with late 60s spirit.


 

I had the pleasure to speak to them just before the release of their personal, wistful and yet distinctly hopeful single “Danced Alone (who I am when I’m in love)” earlier this year.

 

Carys has that warmth that normal people like me have to work at daily to achieve, and still fall short. Both radiate with a deeply comforting presence, even through my smudged laptop screen. They spoke to me with gentle rumination and delicate compassion, like you can tell they’re truly listening. This care and attentive understanding I think is the secret to their beautifully present music, as if they’ve somehow walked in your shoes.

 

On a first listen, ‘Danced Alone’ read to me as a love song, which I guess was not entirely wrong. It is a song about love, just not how you might assume.

 

Carys: “As cheesy as it might sound, the song is about what it means to love yourself”

 

“We were both going through amicable breakups, and I remember having this deep conversation with Arty… the song was based on that. It’s figuring out what it’s like to be on your own and spend time in your own company, to figure out what you like separate to another person”

 

Arty: “Initially when the line [I danced alone] came to me, the song had a bit of a different meaning, I guess had a bit more of a pessimistic point of view. For me it was about realising all the mistakes I’d made in my relationships… It was having that retrospect, making sense of the person you were.”

 

Carys: “The first verse is knowing in your sub-conscious, having this gut feeling that you’re not happy anymore and that you need to get out. That happened to me, and I ignored it for so long, so it’s definitely this plea, like listen to yourself”

 



They recorded with Josh Clark, Kate Rusby’s drummer and producer in his studio just outside of Bath. They tell me about their kind taxi driver, and the cups of tea at their arrival.

 

Arty: “So much of it came together in the studio”.

 

Carys: “It was really nice honestly; he was really listening to the music.”

 

But Humm are not only focused on creating beautiful songs; they have a message they’re begging you to listen to. Advocacy for the environment is the lifeblood of their music – their earlier releases ringing with righteous, folk-styled rage.

 

A particular stand out is exert from “Mankind (no more)”:

 

“Mother Nature I’m on your side,

I am not mankind…

I don’t eat with them,

I don’t sleep with men,

They keep their bitter hands to themselves”




 

Carys: “Folk music is protest song. We’re both very politically driven… If we had different political interests we would’ve lasted a week”, she offered with her characteristic laugh.

 

But it’s honest, this is so much more than chords and melody to Humm.

 

Carys: “Everything is about nature and the planet; it really is ingrained in what we do. The combination of [Arty’s] factual knowledge and my interest in whimsy, fairy tales and folklore, along with our shared love for the plant creates this puzzle piece thing that comes through in the music.

 

I’m from Cornwall, I was lucky enough to grow up there and be around nature for most of my childhood, and I like to share a little bit of that in the music.”



And Carys refusal to be anything but wholly genuine is powerful, a concrete reminder of the impact it has to be proudly yourself.

 

“I’m non-binary and also queer, so of course my experience seeps into my writing; it’s definitely both intentional and unavoidable. There’s a lot of hatred in the world for queerness – it’s crazy how connected the hatred is for the planet and for the gay community.

 

“Everything I write is queer.”

 

Humm are playing at Holburne Museum Pride in Bath at 11am on June 15th, and if you can handle a morning gig, you should be there. They are a powerful reminder of what folk music can, and I would argue should be.


 

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