That’s the one-word description singer/guitarist Matt Rowe gives for the sound of his band, The Humans.
Bassist John Ludwick tries to be less abstract: “For lack of a better term, I’d label [us] a rock band.”
In fact, there really isn’t a better term—despite the ridiculous proliferation of names for various rock sub-genres. Not that this is a brand new, as-yet-unnamed style. It’s the kind of music The Stooges were playing more than 30 years ago.
It’s loud, upper mid-tempo to fast, fairly repetitious and mostly free of such frills as guitar solos and, sometimes, even choruses. The riffs are simple and dirty, the vocalists mainly yell, and the drums endure terrible violence.
In case that description seems to imply that no skill or nuance is involved, it’s worth mentioning that The Humans play it really well.
Since it’s a fundamental—which is not to say generic—kind of rock, devoid of the stylistic tics that separate rock into its numerous ghettoes, all the band members are able to relate to it, though their individual tastes are hardly identical.
“We all have a different influence of where we draw our music from,” says Ludwick, who is sufficiently into metal that he was once in a band called Witch Lord.
“I’m wearing a Slayer shirt,” he points out.
“My heroes—I can’t play their music,” says Rowe. “So I listen to some bands that I can play their music, like The Runaways and The White Stripes, The Hives, The Stooges, MC5 …”
And drummer Josh Hageman claims he only likes Nirvana, though eventually he unenthusiastically admits The White Stripes are “pretty good.”
Differences in taste aside, Rowe had long liked Hageman’s work in the several bands in which he played various instruments, but strangely, it was seeing Hageman fall off a stage while playing a guitar solo that solidified Rowe’s admiration for him.
“He fell off it onto his elbows on his back, and he kept playing, and he got back up. And I was like—someday I’m gonna play with that guy,” says Rowe.
“Matt thinks that’s so cool. It was really embarrassing … I didn’t do it on purpose. I tripped over a monitor,” says Hageman.
When Rowe, who’d formerly only sung in bands (The Fidels, The Dead Beats), decided to take up guitar, he went to Hageman.
“I said, ‘Josh, in one year I’m gonna mesmerize you with my guitar skills.’ That didn’t happen,” he says.
“He didn’t mesmerize me,” Hageman agrees. “But he writes good songs.”
So Hageman helped Rowe record some of his songs. Then they agreed to play a single show as a band. Now, thanks to a drunken handshake agreement, the band is committed to record at least three full-length albums.
In rock, the drunken handshake agreement is sacred.
As a guitarist, Rowe still sticks with the basics, leaving it up to Ludwick and Hageman to fill up the sound, which is a nice change—in most rock, the guitar is the center of the universe. Luckily Ludwick (who’s also in South Virginia Street Sluts and Discreet Doll Band) and Hageman (also currently the guitarist for Mother’s Wing) are both solid players.
Rowe, who writes almost all the lyrics, has the right kind of voice for shouting nasty rock and roll songs. And the songs are nasty.
“Matt has an infatuation with sleaze I’ve never seen before,” says Hageman. “You wouldn’t tell by looking at him, though. Sweet kid.”
Though he may write songs about, as he puts it “bad things,” Rowe seems completely un-cynical and has an almost puppyish enthusiasm about playing music.
“I love playing with Josh Hageman and John Ludwick,” he says. “It’s my dream come true.”