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SO I WOULD JUST GO TO SCHOOL AND PLAY BASKETBALL AND BE LIKE “OK, SO PROBABLY WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IS ALL MY FRIENDS AND I, WE’RE GOING TO JOIN THE BULLS AND THAT’S WHAT MY FUTURE IS GOING TO BE.”
Yoo Soo Kim, Hemmingbirds
Hemmingbirds Chicago, IL
Hemmingbirds don’t hide their influence from emo / pop punk / and classic indie bands, they proudly wear it on their sleeves and use it to craft a sound all their own. Their 4 song EP Half A Second, which came out earlier this year, contains melodic, upbeat, and insanely catchy indie pop with enough singalong moments to keep you occupied for an entire summer.
I started playing music in third grade…or second grade, I started taking piano lessons and third grade I joined my school orchestra and I played viola. I did that until eighth grade and I was pretty good at it, I was generally in the first chair or first stand, and by the time I hit eighth grade I was strumming my viola a lot so I was like “maybe I would like playing guitar” so for my graduation gift I asked if I could get a really cheep acoustic guitar. So I got one and started playing. Coincidently two of my best friends, one of them played bass and one of them played drums; one was the bass player in the orchestra and one was a percussionist in the band. They were like “ok, I’ll get a drum kit” and “I’ll get an electric bass.” From there we made a band and we just covered a bunch of shitty pop punk songs, like Blink 182 and stuff. It was really fun and exhilarating for us.
My family started catching on that I was pretty into music. My uncle got a Japanese Stratocaster way back in the 80’s and he just stopped playing it for a long time and asked “do you want this guitar?” So I took it and I still play it. It’s held up really well. I’ve dropped it a few times, unfortunately. There’s kind of a crack where you can see through the paint. Not great but oh well. That happened Freshman year. That was the first time I thought “this is probably what I wanna do for a while…or forever.” Before that, when you’re a little kid, you don’t really have a concept of how real life works. When I was in fifth grade or sixth grade, I didn’t listen to a lot of music. Whatever kind of music I was exposed to was either classical music or whatever was on the radio, so I was listening to Eminem and since I was in Chicago, I played a lot of basketball since the Bulls were really good. So I would just go to school and play basketball and be like “ok, so probably what’s going to happen is all my friends and I, we’re going to join the Bulls and that’s what my future is going to be.” We’re all going to be professional basketball players. And then I realized I’m about a foot too short to be a basketball player so maybe I should think about doing some other stuff. So Freshman year hit and I was super into playing in this band with my best friends. We’d just finish our classes and go to my friend’s place and play music for three or four hours. To the point where I got so pumped about it that, Spanish was my last class in high school, and I was getting an A and all I could think about after we started this band was “oh yeah, can we got to band practice.” I ended up with a C at the end of the semester because all I could think about was band practice. My teacher asked me “Is everything ok? Are you doing alright?” I didn’t know what to say, I was like “Yeah, I think I’m fine.” I just couldn’t focus ‘cause I was really pumped up about playing with my band. I think that was the actual kindle that started me wanting to be a rock musician.
I guess the weird part for me was I was a super shy kid, I never really did anything that made me the center of attention, but I really liked singing, playing, writing songs, and arranging songs and stuff. I think, even when in high school, when you’re doing the same things with some of your friends, you just kind of assume that everyone wants to do that and that’s just what I thought through high school. My buddies and I were going to record some songs and were going to try to be full time musicians and then when our drummer moved to New York to go to NYU and enrolled in a program for pre-med, I was like “wait…maybe not everyone wants to do what I want to do. Which is fair, but that’s just when it started clicking. That’s kind of how it go started.
That was right around the time that Napster broke out and Kazaa and all that stuff so the only way that I was able to find music besides CDs was by going onto my 56k dial up and being like “What songs do I know from TV and stuff that I can download.” So I would go to my cousin’s place every weekend and sit on the couch, and they were teenagers, and I’d watch MTV for four hours. So I’d just sit at my computer, I had Napster pulled up, and I was like, “Ok, what did I watch with my cousins?” So I’d see the song from Green Day, I’d see “Basket Case,” and I’d download “Basket Case.” I was like “holy shit this is, like, fucking awesome.” And all I’d listened to before that was commercial radio because I just had no other perspective on what music existed out there. So I’d figure out what else my cousins listened to, and I thought they’d listened to Nirvana so I’d download Nirvana. From there I just got exposed to more and more different bands and I started looking into full catalogs from Green Day and Nirvana, etc.. Pirating, unfortunately, really kickstarted me into understanding how rock music worked.
It’s weird, I feel like the stuff that you’re influenced with as a musician or as a songwriter, just from what you listened to in high school, which is such a primal time when you’re absorbing all these influences. It really kind of creates a DNA, at least for me, of how I’m going to make everything for the rest of my life. Sometimes I wish I would have been influenced by things like Death Cab or Jimmy Eat World so whatever else I create now just aren’t so inherently, maybe at the base of it, slightly Death Cab sounding. Instead it could be more like hip-hop influenced or something else. I think ultimately whatever you’re influenced by, it is what it is, and it will forever affect how you create. I’ll always push myself to listen to different music but I think at the base of it, if I tune myself out when I’m writing something, then it kind of goes back to those high school influences. Maybe I don’t want to make music that sounds like this, but it ends up being like this sometimes. It’s a battle of trying to create that are out of your comfort zone vs. what your comfort zone is or was, which is just your basic influences.