Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin
Sometimes going backwards is an invigorating consideration. It leads to getting out of those fucking ruts that feel like grotesque warts and dogged humidity. It's the reason that city dwellers, those motivated by the high life, impressive digs and the best food money can buy just need to get away and they take themselves to the outdoors - where stress dissipates as it can't exist in such clean air. It's the reason that we just want to turn ourselves off, to shut down and retreat to somewhere green, somewhere quiet and somewhere hidden, out of the reaching hands and arms of everything that's come to own us.
There are the boundary waters up north in the Canadian wilds that are fawned over for their pristine state, miles out of cell phone range (though that sadly can't last for long), and loved for their worshipful escape qualities. Going backwards should be taken further though to get the most use out of it. Even when we're out of cell phone range, or without a wireless connection, there's something that eats us about needing one, wanting one as soon as we get back to "civilization." It can't be helped, this dependency, but what if it wasn't there at all, if we were back when there were just telephones or even when there were just telegraphs and the Pony Express, when you could really be separated from everything that wasn't in your neighborhood. New York band Hymns, aren't Luddites, haters of mechanized machinery or modernism, but they offer a music that is the sound of returning to scenery, of maybe having a car and a full tank of gasoline, but no purpose and just a sky's blanket of stars to keep you warm at night. It's about as close as we're going to get to separation these days.
The band's latest record Travel In Herds sounds to have been made in one of those ideal situations that bands and artists put themselves in that make the rest of us long for a chance at that kind of focused seclusion to get as stir crazy and creative as they were able to get. They were able to shut themselves away on a 60-acre ranch in Texas, never leaving the compound (though there had to have been a filthy local shit bar that played a role in some of their late nights) and enjoying "The Big Lebowski," "The Hudsucker Proxy" and "Fargo" repeatedly as a group. What they made while living in that one spot is a record that speaks to mornings where you wake up surrounded by opened and emptied brown bottles strewn about the floors, tables and counter spaces. It speaks to going back to days when phone booths and pay phones were our only means of calling others from the road, going back to a time when it wasn't thought twice whether we could afford a road trip. It's got a feeling of blissful exertion that doesn't rely on table scraps to fuel it and yet it has a seductive way of feeling dirt poor and needing to be fueled by the table scraps. It's a barefoot quality, a slight body odor quality, a restlessness and a pulsing liveliness that just beams through the album that gives it to us straight.
The songs that Brian Harding, Jason Roberts, Matt Shaw and Tony Kent make are about getting out there and just doing stuff, not sticking themselves in a house and never coming out. The songs are kind of about open roads, but more about the levels of free voice, big lungs and big eyes that can come from not ever knowing what you're about to see just a mile or two down the road. It's about having no connection to hints and information, just an unbridled need to get some wind through your hair and experience some Dean Moriarty time, out with the burning lights and the calming moons, just encountering the necessities, the openness.
Hymns Official Site