ORIGINALLY APPEARING IN THE PIONEER VALLEY UNDERGROUND 9/16/16
Amherst at times is a sleepy slow moving town, swallowed by the mountains and trees that fill the pioneer valley. This is directly contrasted with Amherst in September, a bustling hub for returning college students. The bus lines go from empty to entirely packed seemingly overnight, and the number of available parking spots downtown becomes non-existent. Even when busy however, Amherst does not lose it’s small town charm.
“Kinetic psych-folk” band Humble Digs personifies the general mood of this setting. Humble Digs is comprised of four very laid back members who, once plugged into their amps, becomes a booming mixture of funk and groove, with the ability to bust into a jam at any moment. The band is comprised of singer/guitarist Jake Slater, Bassist Riley Feeney, guitarist George Condon and his twin brother drummer Henry Condon.
Humble Digs has been active for about 3 years. Originally just Slater, the band naturally formed together as the members had met over their college career. Since then, Humble Digs has put out 3 mix-tapes as well as a few singles and EPs, with 3 EPs expected to be completed over the next few months.
The band is self-described as kinetic psych-folk, combining the dance of funk with their influences of Tame Impala, Steely Dan, and White Denim.
“We are also influenced by those weird 90’s Tarentino movies. You know, the movies that make no sense until it all wraps up in the end, following all of these crazy characters. I picture each instrument as a character telling their own story, which in the end wraps up into one thing” Slater said.
One can hear this “Tarentino” approach in their live performances, every instrument has seemingly a mind of it’s own while coming together to form a neatly done song. This is possible due to their high chemistry. Not only does the band consist of a pair of twins on top of the fact that they have been playing together for three years, but 3 of the members share a basement which doubles as their musical space, with Feeney living in the upstairs of the same house.
“That’s kind of what Humble Digs is. Digs is where you live you know, and this is humble” Slater said, as he sat shirtless in a laundry basket on his mattress made of cloth and wooden dowels behind a set of drums, stretching his arms to gesture the humbleness of the tight space the band shares.
“We like each other as people, we decided we were going to play and work on this for the long haul, and you don’t just do that with anybody. We had to be friends before we could be in a band.” Feeney explained.
It wasn’t hard to imagine how the band could play together constantly on top of sharing a home. Every member had the same philosophy and attitude towards music. Humble Digs has something to express, and while they make the music themselves, they believe it to be selfish to not share. The band reiterated how important it was to them to see people dancing. Humble Digs aims to share the energy with people, hoping to give people fulfilling experiences at shows or parties. While the music is exciting, the lyrics convey a different message. The lyrics are often about loneliness, trying to communicate that everyone feels a little lonely and one is not alone, according to Slater. Overall, the band hopes to communicate their energy as well as a positive message.
“The message of Humble Digs is a reassurance to the people who don’t fit a mold and are kind of out there. Fuck it, dive into the offness, that weirdness creates something that nobody else can” Feeney explained.
“As far as the music, I feel what I play, and I want to communicate that and have others feel it too” drummer Henry Condon explained.
Humble Digs aims to book larger shows in order to express their message of dancing and positivity to larger numbers of people. This goal is quite possible, as their first show at the Raven in Worcester had 6 people in the audience, as opposed to the hundreds of people who showed up for their last show at the Unitarian Universalist church in Downtown Amherst.
“We play a good amount of parties and house shows. We played a show in the woods recently and spent two hours lugging our equipment back and forth in the dark through this shifty cornfield, but that experience was funny and brings us together” Slater said, as he slapped a large amp indicating the physical work it took to move the equipment through the field.
While Slater is a UMass alumni, the remaining members are still students and have so far been able to find a way to balance school, work, and the band. It is clear it’s a grind to keep the band going, as Feeney had been so busy he was eating dinner during our interview. George Condon even declared his independent study for his STEPC major as Humble Digs, working on a write up on class/gender/race in the music industry, using his time working on the band as the necessary hours for the study as well as where he will draw the experiences for his study from. On top of playing and recording music, the band’s time is divided up into designing posters, hanging flyers, and eventually turning the pile of blank t-shirts in their kitchen into Humble Digs merchandise. They explain that nearly all of their time goes to the band, whether it’s school, their personal lives or even their friendships.
“All of us living together is nice, we can come home and play and work on the band. It increases our productivity for sure” Henry Condon explained.
As for the future of Humble Digs, the band hopes to book some larger music festivals for the summer, showcase more local art at their shows, and finish their upcoming album.
“The fact that our band setup is a part of our house means we can’t escape our responsibilities as band members. It forces us to always be thinking of what we can do next” Riley said.