HVMM demands your attention. Pronounced “hum”, the Worcester four-piece present a dark, ominous image, all monochrome Victoriana.
The band’s debut EP is called Talk To Me Like I’m Dead, the cover of which features an old man on the phone about to have a nail hammered into his skull… HVMM’s is a theatrical kind of noir. Their sound is hard-rock-blues, blissfully rhythmic, sex and swagger. Lyrics are snarled with venom and purpose. There be feeling here. At the centre of the darkness is lead singer Andy Teece, who resembles Tom Hardy’s character in Taboo in both looks and brooding menace. He creates his own foggy, pea soup atmosphere from frequent tugs on A vape. On single Going Postal Andy’s staccato vocals are briefly taken up by guitarist Ebony Clay, whose feminine purr gives a new depth to “Low-fi / underground / dripping / love sound / naked / evening / simple as breathing”, and HVMM’s genius and potential dance on your grave. Ebony is some kind of guitarist; rock boys gravitate to her during sets, intimidated by Andy, hypnotised by the rock goddess siren. Drummer Sam Jenkins is the first to smile, friendly and easy, but hits the drums like they’re going out of style. Jack Timmis is warm and solid; on bass he locks down the HVMM sound with the authority of Led Zeppelin IV.
Despite the heavy instrument cases being hefted past, there’s a mellow vibe in the lower depths of The Astronomer, a Victorian establishment just off Old Spitalfields Market, where HVMM are preparing for their Disorder SoundCheck. After a speedy unloading, the so-called Hubble Room is a tangle of wires and music machinery, and HVMM lark with each other while setting up. Andy surveys the room from his corner spot looking pensive, almost vexed. He’s focused, stretching out against the red chesterfield booth, blowing out a cloud of vape, tapping his foot as his bandmates wake up their instruments. There’s a certain coolness and northern charm about the group, whose sound is suffused with a blend of old-school heavy rock, bluesy riffs and commanding vocals. Based out of Worcester in the West Midlands, their anticipated debut EP Talk To Me Like I'm Dead dropped in summer 2017.
“Apparently it’s the medical name for herpes,” jokes bassist Jack about the band’s acronymic moniker. “But we liked the sound and it fits on the drums so it’s stuck.” Jack met Ebony, part of a blues band at the time, while gigging in Derby. After learning about the band, she came in pursuit. “I kind of just forced my way in. I just said ‘I'm gonna be in the band’ and Andy said ‘Well that’s okay cause I didn't want to play guitar anyway’. He just wanted to roam around like a nutter.”
Newly formed and penning down new material, the band won the attention of American music label ILA after playing a gig at the Old Blue Last in London’s Shoreditch; were the label’s first UK signing. “It all happened so quickly,” says Jack. They soon began recording their debut EP, which took ten tough days at Brighton Electric Studio – “It reminded me of an old school,” says Ebony – perfecting riffs for eight hours until they were perfectly anarchistic, teeth jangling and laden with attitude.
The band got fortunate with their rehearsal space, often a nightmare for emerging bands. “Luckily my parents rent part of an old manor house which used to be a working fruit farm,” explains drummer Sam. “It’s got this huge walk-in fridge. So I spoke to the old girl who owns it and just said ‘Look, can I have it?’, carpeted it out and it’s soundproofed.” Surely it’s not still refrigerated? “Yeah. If you want it to be! It’s got three massive fans. It’s practically free. I pay money towards the electricity. And it’s in the middle of nowhere, out in the sticks.”
Operating out of Worcester, removed from the relentless, cynical capital, has an obvious focusing, singularising effect on HVMM. Andy says: “There’s a lack of major advertising and stuff. I think that has an internal influence. Bands coming out of London, they can all sound the same. You can’t help but take in things and that’s not a bad thing, it’s just that our situation isn’t that. For us there’s nothing to follow or be influenced by musically, so we’re left to our own devices. And it works. I got told ‘If you’re not in London you’re never gonna make it,‘ I never bought that. It’s bullshit. You can be anywhere in the world, where it actually starts, the actual guts of it. If you have a guitar, or access to the things you need, then you can do it anywhere. After that, you’ve got to be willing to get the fuck off your ass and go do something with it.”
Self-criticism towards their early music helps explain the progression of their sound. “The songs were like someone spitting on your face on a constant basis,” says Andy, “They were an attack; they were in your face so quickly. It’s formula that we were copying, that had been done a million times. We needed to sit down and go, right that’s cool but let’s push things out of the box.” The inclusion of Ebony’s melodic voice in Going Postal was, for the guitarist, “hard to get it at first. Andy knew it would work straight away but I was sceptical. That was one of the major things. Another element to mess and create with.”
Talk To Me Like I'm Dead makes it clear that HVMM are not just your normal heavy rock band. This is a band with range, stylistic variety and depth, and an exciting sense of unpredictability. Andy says, “You can’t read these tracks. You’re enjoying it as it’s coming and you’re not predicting it. Normally you can skip to anywhere in an album and get the same vibe but ours can sound like a different band. I personally love that. I mean, what’s the point in writing a whole album of riffs and guitar tones and every one sound the same? Bands are afraid to do something different.”
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Want more HVMM?
Go tune into their SoundCheck session.