In the third of our series on WA artists to watch in 2022, Around The Sound speaks with Matt Simich (Vocals and Guitar) and Ollie Kable (Guitar) from they-might-be next-big-things, Humble Armada.
Almost a year ago, Perth band, Humble Armada, launched their debut EP, The Door, to a sold-out main room at the Rosemount Hotel. That’s no mean feat for a local outfit just beginning to make their way on the fickle path to rock and roll infamy. Almost a year later, on 14 January 2022, to be precise, and with three more singles under their belt, the fivesome are about to release their debut album, All Around You.
By going DIY we were given the opportunity to be completely indulgent…Matt Simich
During 2021, the buzz around Humble Armada began to take on the character of a nest of angry hornets. The band packed out venues across WA. Word of mouth made them darlings of the Perth indie rock scene, and they began to inherit the sort of reputation that would render their next move make or break. Expectations were running at an all-time high.
So, even though it’s early in their career, there’s a lot riding on All Around You for Humble Armada, and Around The Sound got an exclusive opportunity to talk to the band and have a listen to the album.
First up, yes, you heard it right, in a world drowning in a sucking ocean of singles and EPs, Humble Armada are about to release an album. A bold move in 2022, if ever there was one. Add to that, the band claims their music is 60s influenced. In 2022. Most of their audience’s parents weren’t even alive in the 60s much less the young hipsters that populate their shows. So, what’s with that?
“That’s a good question,” said Matt Simich. “I’m not 100 per cent sure that it’s the vibe that resonates with young people across the board, but I do think there’s a market for it and there is a yearning for reviving that kind of music. There’s a growing movement for enjoying old music and enjoying it for what it is. I do think there’s a market there and, coming from a band perspective, it was the kind of music that I grew up listening to and it has a place in my heart. I see it as the best era of music, the most influential era of music and a time period that different genres were born out of. I think it’s really magical and it’s growing in popularity amongst young people.”
OK, well, there’s no knocking that as a thesis on the enduring power of 60s music. But what relevance does it have to the 22-year-old front man of one of Perth’s hottest bands?
“My parents weren’t exactly huge music lovers,” continued Simich, “I think they were into glam rock and disco and stuff (our condolences). My best friend in primary school is who I grew up listening to and playing music with; we used to busk on the streets. His father was Phil Morgan, the bass player in a couple of well-known Perth bands, The Silent Type and Never Never. So, I grew up over at his house a lot and learned about a lot of great old artists through his music.”
Sounds like some kind of idyllic childhood and obviously, for Simich, it was a fertile grounding for what was soon to become his very own career in the music biz. Humble Armada was formed in 2020 out of a convergence of friendships and musical interests. But don’t for one moment mistake such beginnings as being an excuse for partying and making more new friends. Humble Armada are deadly serious about what they do. Just ask manager, Jackson Maher. Actually don’t, because he wasn’t on the line when we spoke, but, when I asked Simich and Kable to explain how Maher made the transition from bandmate to band manager, Simich threw Kable under the bus.
“Um, well, he… I don’t know that’s a tough one,” said Kable.
You don’t say.
“I think when the band first started it was like a bit of fun and games,” Kable stumbled on, “and the strongest part of his (Maher’s) work in the band was dealing with the managerial side. He was strong in ways that we weren’t strong. It wasn’t an easy decision at the time, but it worked out in the end.”
There’s surely more to be told about this chapter in the Humble Armada story and, should they amount to anything, biographers will open cheque books to get to the bottom of it. For now, we’ll leave it at that, because if the band’s debut album tanks, Perth’s music punters will take one collective exhale and that will be that.
So, let’s talk about that debut album, All Around You.
“A lot of the music on the album, although quite diverse, has a constant theme of satire and trying to almost imitate genres that are not popular right now,” said Simich. “That’s something that I find really interesting and the fact that it’s all done DIY makes it even more that way, it comes out a little bit crappier and that’s why it’s a little bit of a joke. There’s a little bit of satire in there. It’s going beyond just making music and it’s trying to make a little bit of theatre as well. That’s kind of the general approach.
“It’s like satire and giving that style of (60s) music a warm embrace, too.”
Listening to Simich down the line, it’s easy to mistake him at first for just another earnest young musician who has nothing interesting to say. Listening back to the tape, you begin to hear the magic in his words.
Humble Armada, far from being a muddle-headed bunch of younglings having a bit of fun in Perth’s underground live music venues before going off to have august careers in stockbroking, medicine or taxidermy, know exactly what they’re about. Here’s a band that understands the value of creative control, producing their own music and creating their own ethic while doing it.
Expounding further on his band’s approach to making music, Simich said, “For us, originally doing it DIY was a way to save money. I guess the other aspect of it was to allow ourselves to have the freedom of the experience, because we didn’t have the pressures of money and professional studio time allocations and restrictions. We never had to worry about producers or whether they might not like what we were going for. By going DIY we were given the opportunity to be completely indulgent and I think that’s why a lot of the album is quite indulgent in terms of song structure and tempo changes.
“It’s all been done before, but to put it neatly, I really enjoy the experimental aspect of producing your own music. If you’ve got the opportunity to be a little bit experimental, a little bit arty farty, then why not do it.”
Hearing those words, it’s hard not to be deeply besotted with Humble Armada right now. They sure know how to say all the right things about their music. The line goes basically thus: We care deeply about our music, but we don’t really give a shit, which is why we produce ourselves, because we enjoy fucking around in the studio and doing shit we haven’t tried before. Actually, while we were recording the album we really got off the hook and wigged out with a whole lot of weird stuff. Who knows is anyone will like it, but we do.
That’s pretty much the line that everyone from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin, The Strokes to The Stone Roses, The Libertines to Palma Violets have used to try throw people off the scent of their genius. In the music biz, genius is an ephemeral thing. Bring it out into the light of day and give it a stroke and, pouf, it’s gone. But hint at it, run it down, never quite let it out of the box and it sticks around long after you’ve shuffled out of your last venue’s back entrance, like so much perfume on a dandy’s feather boa.
Humble Armada is a band that knows that genius is a will-o-the-wisp proposition, so they’re talking it up without ever once laying claim to it. After all, they have debut album, All Around You to do the talking for them.
What’s it like, this album?
It’s very rare that a band can do the same old shit and make it sound fresh and new, but that’s exactly what Humble Armada have done with All Around You. Basically, they’re just playing the blues, and sure it sounds a bit like the 60s, just as it sounds like every decade since the 60s. Maybe that’s what gives the songs on All Around You their timeless quality? OK, so the production is at the low fi end of DIY, but don’t for a moment mistake that for a band just looking to save money or avoid the clutches of what passes for a producer in most of Perth’s recording studios. What Humble Armada were shooting for with the 12 tracks on All Around You was nothing less than ramshackle glory and that’s exactly what they achieved.
All Around You is set to become an instant classic that, in 60 years’ time, kids will be citing as an influence on whatever passes for music in the 2080s. With standout tracks like ‘Let U Down’, which sounds like The Sone Roses on meth and is magnificent in all its spiky, trippy glory; and, ‘Cry’, which is set to become a torch song for the 21st Century, All Around You will cement Humble Armada’s place in the pantheon of contemporary music history.
Will they hit the big time and make it? Well, that’s up to Humble Armada and a little thing called fate.
If dedication to your art has anything to do with it, Humble Armada certainly deserve the sort of success that producing a top-notch album like All Around You doesn’t guarantee on its own.
Let’s let Simich and Kable have the last words.
“I once crashed my car into the back of a parked car,” Simich said when asked about the dumb things that people in the music biz do. “I was on the touch pad of my car screen and I was playing through our demos trying to get to the next one and I crashed into a parked taxi,”
Kable came straight back to top him. “I was fired from my job recently at a café,” he said. “I’d had a party the night before. I went as Post Malone and had texta all over my face. I woke up a bit early and I rushed into work with texta still all over my face and that was the end of the job. I think our songs are on their work playlist, so I’m still there.”
As for what Simich and Kable said about their bandmates, we won’t repeat that here. We don’t want to be responsible for ending the career of Perth’s hottest new band just as it’s taking off.
Let’s finish on another note of genius.
“In terms of being inspiring, I don’t really care about that too much,” Simich said. “I haven’t really thought about inspiring people younger than us.”
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