Meet the noisy collective who are tearing their own music apart at the seams
On their bracing, bizarre debut EP Pure Misery, Glaswegian five-piece Humour combine melancholic, open-hearted instrumentation with Andreas Christodoulidis’ utterly alien vocal performances, replete with violent pitch changes and lurching dynamics. Though consigned to the same spaces as less-inspired peers in the British ‘post-punk revival’, Humour occasionally sound closer to their contemporaries in Glasgow’s rich avant-garde, such as Still House Plants and Comfort.
While Humour suggest this is incidental (their primary influences are North American groups like Protomartyr), Pure Misery is underpinned by a genuinely experimental impulse to establish the lead vocals and instrumentation as entirely separate, counterposed elements. “We wanted them to be disconnected,” grins guitarist Ross Patrizio.
This is epitomised in EP highlight ‘Alive & Well’: the arrhythmically howled lines “I tried to please too many people / And somehow every one of them is pissed off at me” competing with a yearning, desolate chord progression. “We were experimenting with different ways of delivering Andreas’ lyrics,” Patrizio explains. “One of the things we tried was a ‘rule’ where Andreas was never allowed to react to what the music was doing – if it got bigger, he had to stay the same or get quieter,” creating jarring dynamic contrasts. “We also tried this ‘theme’ thing, of feeding him one little idea and leaving him for a couple of days to see what he did.”
Christodoulidis explains this song’s lyrics stemmed from guitarists Patrizio and Jack Lyall giving him “a voice note with the idea of being confused why everyone’s pissed off at me.” By screaming the lyrics hysterically, Christodoulidis disconnects them from the song’s subdued, forlorn instrumentation: moving rudderless in the gloom, the monologue feels all the more disorganised and interminable. The acuity with which this technique captures the experience of stewing miserably on a personal misstep is exploited throughout Pure Misery. As Christodoulidis explains, “All of these songs are sad, in some way or another.”
This disconnect between vocals and music becomes the subject of the EP’s title track, which presents a singer performing with no lyrics prepared. Frantically ad-libbing to keep the audience’s attention, they drift into panicked non-verbal scatting: “I’ve got to tell you something! / You know I, I wouldn’t have a microphone if I…” Humour point here to absurdity and mediocrity in their genre, but especially the commonly-demarcated role in bands of the (non-instrumentalist) vocalist, with potentially decreased input into the music they accompany: “These four men behind me ask only that I sing.” “There’s something cringey or uncomfortable about being a group of guys in a guitar band, following a specific format that’s been done before, and the pressure to say something profound but also new,” Christodoulidis explains. “We thought we could make that the point.”
The wittiness of this premise reflects Pure Misery’s use of offbeat humour to further themes of sadness or insecurity. ‘Jeans’ places a narrator’s delusions of grandeur (“I don’t know fear”) in conversation with surreal examples of being humiliated: “I took my car for an M.O.T. / And they laughed at my jeans / And the size of my car!” Christodoulidis explains, “Jack and Ross’ idea was that it could be about a character who’s very pleased about winning a race – I thought that was really funny.” By exploring the silliness of this, recounting an actual experience Patrizio had at a garage where they “laughed at his little car”, Christodoulidis arrives at a genuinely complex character.
While Pure Misery reflects on tangled personal feelings, it is bookended by songs that relate non-lived experiences. ‘Good Boys Remember Well’ and ‘Yeah, Mud!’ (Pure Misery’s only conventional indie track) respectively deal with accounts Christodoulidis read of a submarine disaster and a soldier dying. Presenting these together, an interesting continuity is established between abstract psychological experiences and reactions to fixed material. As Patrizio says, “It’s quite nice that it goes from a frantic person telling you about themselves to frantically telling you about something they’ve found and responded to.”
Reflecting on Pure Misery’s release, Patrizio claims, “We’ve learned so much more about what Humour actually is, and what this band now is going to be.” While they may be aligned for a time with the homogenous ranks of British post-punk, Pure Misery shows Humour have the creative scope to far transcend them.
Photography by Craig R McIntosh
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