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April 18, 1996 * Vol. 6, No. 16


Thrown more than its fair share of hard luck, Dynamo Humm has gotten really good at making lemonade.

by Randall Brown

We hear a lot about the "Rock Factor" in local music, but what about the all-important, but so often neglected, "Roll Factor?" As in "roll with the punches." Dynamo Humm found themselves with unexpected company recently, when they were joined onstage by a rowdy fan who must have seen that new "Mentos"-style Foo Fighters video one too many times. The rambunctious fellow grabbed singer-guitarist Will Fletcher's back-up guitar and chimed in on the chorus of their song "Another Like You."

The band dealt with it without missing a beat. They were already performing under the duress of partial microphone failure, and it took them a minute to notice they had company. To the drunk guy's credit, the near-unintelligible Nirvana lyrics he chose to add to the band's song were in perfect meter.

"He was right in key," says Fletcher, "right in time to the song. But then I noticed he had my guitar."

"Yeah, getting up onstage is one thing," says bassist Nathan Mitchell, "but the guitar is off-limits." Without dropping a note from the bass line, Mitchell physically escorted the unwanted doo-wopper off the stage.

"I just sort of got in his face," says Mitchell.

So score one for Dynamo Humm for valor in the face of adversity. Named for a Frank Zappa song (which they swear they've only heard once--they just liked the sound of the title), Fletcher, Mitchell and drummer Paul Turpin came together after the usual string of bands that come and go (Fletcher and Mitchell played together in the Genghis Khan Artists for a couple of years). They play an old-school, rough and tumble brand of three-piece rock that, like I might have mentioned earlier, also rolls. It's the "old Stones" spirit, and classic influences like the Faces, that come to mind.

Fletcher and Mitchell crank out the raw-but-rhythmic guitar/bass energy over Turpin's take on Ringo drumming--steady rolling beats without all that artsy fooling around. It's only rock 'n' roll, but you know what they say.

Stage-crashers and equipment failure aside, they are more concerned currently with not having a permanent practice space. Since Fletcher moved from his previous apartment, they've been borrowing space from various other bands (particularly the very gracious State Champs). Still, they don't whine about it, but turn it to their advantage. Practicing at low volumes (sometimes unplugged in the most literal sense), with Turpin using brushes, they've discovered they pay more attention to the nuts and bolts side of songwriting.

"You have to be able to play a song really quiet," says Mitchell, "and then play it really loud, also. I like volume, but if it only sounds good loud, then it isn't as good a song."

Their practice habits seem to be working for them. Judging by the size of their set list, they are possibly the most prolific band in Knoxville.

"Yeah, most bands say 'We've got 15 songs,'" says Mitchell, "but we wrote 15 last week."

Dynamo Humm songs don't waste time tackling lofty issues, or discussing Derrida and such. They get right to the point of everyday life.

"Our songs are just about stuff that happens," explains Mitchell.

"And girls," adds Fletcher. "Girls and stuff that happens. That's it."

They also cover some not-already-overdone classic songs--the Rolling Stones' "Little T&A" and "Star Star," Paul McCartney's "Let Me Roll It," and "Bummer" by the Grifters. They're proud of the off-the-beaten-path nature of their cover picks--great rock songs that have somehow escaped becoming "standards" of the cover band mill.

But it's their ever-growing original set list that takes center ring. Basic, good songs are the key to Dynamo Humm. It makes for a no-nonsense confidence in their presentation. When you ask them what they do, they don't have to mull it over.

"We like to think that we rock," says Fletcher.

"It's really good stuff," says Mitchell. "We just want to get it out to people, because we think they'll like it."

"I think the best thing about our music is that it's honest," says Fletcher. "We write what we write. We don't try to write a song to any kind of form. If you go into a band with the idea of 'We're going to sound like this,' I think that's where a lot of stress occurs."

"You end up sounding like something," says Mitchell, "but six months later it's out of style."

© Metro Pulse