Can you remember the last time an album really lifted you by the lapels with its instantly memorable melodies and hooks, and wouldn't put you down until it had finished, 11 infectious tracks later? Exactly. It doesn't happen every day, or every month, but it’s about to happen with the Hummingbirds’ long-awaited debut album ‘Pieces Of You.’
The five-piece have become widely celebrated and much loved in their home city of Liverpool, where they easily command sellout status at the 02 Academy. Their almost insanely melodic song craft has made them the modern-day exponents of the Mersey sound, a rich tradition stretching back to the days when the Beatles swept the city, and then the world, before them.
What’s fascinating about the Hummingbirds’ sound is that it delivers a 21st century take on that heritage, and sprinkles it with elements of Americana and other influences. Think of the hooks of the Fab Four of ‘64, the harmonies of the Hollies circa ‘Sorry Suzanne’ and the jangling guitar landscapes of early Eagles, and you’re somewhere near. Yet, after honing their style on stage and in the studio, the group they sound like most is the Hummingbirds.
The other ingredient is a touch of British modesty. “Technically we’re not the best players,” says guitarist Mic Kountis, “but when we play together, it’s kind of unique. You start to add the layers, and it sounds like a Hummingbirds song.”
The original Americana ingredient was from lead vocalist Jay Davies’ collection, which featured the likes of Johnny Cash and, interestingly, Buck Owens. It was this lesser-celebrated country hero’s original version of ‘Act Naturally,’ with his trusty Buckaroos, that so attracted four other Liverpool lads in the ‘Help!’ era.
“Wherever you go in Liverpool, you’re touching places the Beatles have touched,” says Davies. “But we love them, they definitely influence a lot of our music.”
Davies and rhythm guitarist Matty Brougham were the band’s initial backbone, and when Kountis was invited to contribute, he in turn enlisted drummer Richard Smith, and Ryan Lewis joined on bass. “At the beginning, we did do some covers,” says Davies, “then we went to some open mic nights. People liked it, Matty and I on acoustic guitars, then quickly we started writing our own songs, especially when the other guys got involved.”
Refreshingly free of major-label hype and hot air, the band made their own word of mouth, swiftly leading to an admirable live reputation and a One To Watch nomination at the Liverpool Music Awards. In autumn 2011, they self-released the single ‘Talking Of Tomorrow,’ which will feature on the debut album, and the buzz really set in.
“When ‘Talking Of Tomorrow’ went up, it was quick,” remembers Kountis. “People were saying ‘Where’s the next one?’ If we’d just waited until we put an album out, maybe it wouldn’t have been like it is now in Liverpool. But the fact that there’s been a lot of exposure, and people have heard a lot of our music, and videos and stuff, it’s really helped us, because we’ve been everywhere.
“If someone mentions the name, someone always says they’ve heard of the band, and that’s a good little seed to have in people’s heads.”
As for the songwriting, it’s a five-way thing. “Mostly it's a combination of me, Matt and Jay,” says Mic, “then Ryan and Rich will add the rhythm section afterwards. We always write acoustically, and simplicity’s the key with us. Everyone does get involved, especially sometimes if me and Jay get stumped. It’s like five brains in the band, with different influences.”
With typical self-reliance, these five-brain Hummingbirds made the ‘Pieces Of You’ album with the help of a PledgeMusic campaign. They’ll release it in the early part of next year via Absolute Label Services, and with the steady hand of independent bastions Just Music for management and publishing.
By way of a preview, October sees the release of an EP featuring the lead song ‘Out Of The Rain,’ already featured on BBC Radio 2, as the Hummingbirds’ story spreads nationwide and beyond. They look forward to it with a healthy combination of humility and ambition.
“I’d like people to understand the music, to get what it’s about,” says Kountis. “It’s very universal, most of the album’s about love. It’s a whole heartbreak record, like the classic albums. I’d like people to pass it round and say ‘If you want some good music, listen to it.’ It’s a bit different, it’s a bit retro, it’s different from what they’ve heard before.”