During lockdown, Lewis Doig and Ruaridh Smith would look out of the window of their Glasgow flat. In a living room across the street, they could see their neighbours faffing around with unwieldy boards of wood, constructing a large cubicle that eventually filled most of their living room, then draping it in duvets. “It was quite menacing,” Doig recalls. They could not have guessed just how dramatically this wonky structure was going to change their lives.
All five of the musicians who make up the band Humour live in one of those two flats, and have all been part of numerous projects together that never quite took off. “Everything was too reverb-drenched,” laughs drummer Smith, as the band sit down over post-soundcheck pints before their first major London headline show at Sebright Arms. Over lockdown, however, they had the time and space to reassess their outlook. “It was liberating to play more horrible sounding music, to create things that were jarring without having to find a way to deliver it [live],” says guitarist Ross Patrizio.
They used the wooden structure as a vocal booth, where frontman Andreas Christodoulidis “could scream as loud as he could without annoying the neighbours,” as Patrizio puts it. Whereas in the past Christodoulidis says he’d fallen into “a spoken word thing that felt a bit forced, contrived,” over weeks of pushing his voice to absurd extremes, “I found out what my style could be.” When combined with the kind of work the rest of the group were doing, it made for something unique: vocals that veer wildly between extremes, sometimes a manic gibbering mess, others an emotive swagger, the instrumentals tightly wound and hard-hitting.
Launching their assured debut EP ‘Pure Misery’, their performance to a packed crowd in the pub’s basement shortly after our conversation is ample proof that that they now know exactly what works and what doesn’t. Their sound lurches across tempos but still runs like clockwork, Christodoulidis standing still but simmering with nervous energy while his bandmates nod in perfect time with each staggering beat.
Since lockdown, “everything has been about pushing things deeper,” Patrizio says. They often set Christodoulidis briefs they’ve concocted on the fly – to write from the perspective of someone who’s just run a race on ‘Jeans’ for example, or as someone trying to convince an audience that they’ve got something important to say but repeatedly drawing a blank on the dramatic ‘Pure Misery’. A visual artist, Christodoulidis then uses the narratives that have emerged as inspiration for bold and angular cover artwork that hint at a wider backdrop.
The briefs, Patrizio admits, are quite hard to work with. “It’s easy for us to think, ‘It would be good if this or that happened,’ but then we don’t have to deal with the pressure of actually doing it.” Similarly, when lockdown ended and the band were able to enter the studio more formally, Smith found that drum parts that Lyall had written for him on Logic were physically impossible for a human being to perform. That, however, is the point. It’s outside of comfort zones that Humour find their most interesting material.
Having spent a year building up their music entirely behind closed doors, Humour’s first live gig since lockdown, which took place in August 2021, was a daunting prospect. It was at Glasgow’s iconic King Tuts’ Wah Wah Hut – a launching pad for almost every significant Scottish indie band of the last three decades, and host to crucial early gigs from the likes of Blur, Radiohead and The Strokes. “I was insanely nervous,” says Patrizio. “As well as having to get onstage with this new music, you’ve not even been in a room with 20 or 30 people for a year, let alone 200 at King Tuts.” After just four shows, a friend passed their demo tape to So Young Records, who signed them in an instant. They’ve been performing as frequently as possible ever since.
Whether its the pace with which they’re ascending, the circumstances in which they formed, or their inherent distaste for staying comfortable, it all makes for music with an inherent sense of extremity; it makes sense that the vocals are heavily influenced by American hardcore bands. It often spills over into absurdity, something they’re all too happy to embrace. ‘Pure Misery’ is partly about “how there’s something a bit ridiculous about a band of five guys getting on stage and shouting really angrily as if they’ve got something important to get across,” Christodoulidis says, laughing.
Humour distance themselves from any attempts to situate themselves in any kind of ‘movement’, whether that’s the new wave of Scottish indie bands, or the increasing presence of politics in guitar music. “We just don’t think that kind of thing is going to sound that interesting if it comes from us,” Patrizio says. “It’s important that it sounds like you’ve created this thing with purpose.” Their focus remains on continuing to delve deep into the unique formula they arrived upon during those experiments in the makeshift wooden booth: surreal, intense, preposterous, and entirely themselves.
Humour’s debut EP ‘Pure Misery’ is out now