Humbird – Indie folk
“Everyone is familiar with the biblical character of Eve, and everyone has their own opinions about her. But what the hell would she say if she was strolling around America in 2019?” Siri Undlin of the indie folk band Humbird marvels. Undlin’s experimental folk and environmental Americana is laced with the elegance of traditional symphonic works and is influenced by the crystalline chill of Minnesota’s Northern winters. Her new album Pharmakon, which will be released on August 30, is about women and the feminine body in folklore as a lyrical method to explore the human experience. Undlin’s latest release, produced by Shane Leonard (Field Report) and engineered by Brian Joseph (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens), joins the ranks of brilliant indie storytellers.
Undlin saw the power of storytelling in her early home as the daughter of a Lutheran preacher and a trial lawyer, and she began writing music and singing in her church choir at a young age. Her traditional upbringing is evident in her voice, which has the unshakable strength of hymnal tunes. Pharmakon leaps between two realms, never resting in one for long, thanks to Undlin’s penchant for unusual musical arrangements and unpredictable, creative techniques of narrative.
It’s no surprise that Undlin’s forthcoming release was inspired by this dynamic, oscillating motion. “I was travelling between extremes and attempting to look at things differently when I was creating these songs,” Undlin adds. “I was experimenting with black, white, and eventually grey.” Plato coined the term “pharmakon” as the concept that something might be poison or cure depending on how much one consumes. Undlin adds, “I love that idea of the two polarised aspects of something that may either be the solution or kill you.” “I also believe the idea is appropriate for the album.” It was written over the course of a few of years, during which I was redefining my own musical power.”
This period was marked with highs and lows, and it didn’t always feel triumphant. The end result, however, is a decisive album that emphasises the universality of women’s experiences throughout history. Undlin is a modern retelling of Eve’s old problem that is inspired by myths and stories such as the legend of Persephone and Angela Carter’s heroine-themed fairytales. “The track ‘Wolf Alice’ was inspired by Carter’s interpretation of the same-named fairytale, which became a vehicle to talk about the attempted ‘civilization’ of women’s bodies as an oppressive force throughout human history,” Undlin explains. “I envisaged Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden and into America in 2019 in ‘Eve Boards A Train.'” Eve has boarded a train and is writing a letter to someone in this story.”
Undlin is learning to appreciate the uncertainty of the creative process, just as the characters in these stories didn’t always know the paths they’d pursue. “There’s this idea that comes with being an artist,” says Undlin, “that there’ll be this one defining moment of accomplishment where everything makes sense.” “And I think that’s a load of nonsense.” Undlin’s new album is nothing short of victorious, despite the fact that she says that the process of making a daring album may be painful and disappointing. Undlin, like the princesses of the fairytales that inspire her, is unafraid to forge forth, no matter where the meandering forest road may lead.
- 48-hour time limit
- Alice the Wolf
- April 5. Pharmakon 3. Eve Boards A Train
- Shells from the sea
Persephone is number seven.
Low Tide (8)
- Hide of Bones
Humbird combines a cold longing with the warmth of a familiar folktale, inspired by the crystalline chill of the north country she calls home in Minnesota. To accept the unexpected, Humbird’s music wanders between experimental folk and environmental Americana. The music brings a welcome sense of dissonance into the room. It scatters bread crumbs along the way and refracts light back to the stars.
Siri Undlin grew up hearing the power of narrative and began writing music and performing in church choirs and Irish ensembles at a young age. Her traditional upbringing is evident in her voice, which has the unshakable strength of hymnal tunes.
Humbird’s critically acclaimed debut full-length, Pharmakon, was released in 2019, and it introduced us to Humbird’s songcraft and harmonic folk approach. The CD is described as “an incredibly captivating listening experience” by Folk Alley. It’s music shrouded in “soft revolt,” according to Atwood Magazine. Millions of people listened to the song online, and it received a slew of awards, including one from 89.3FM. The Current’s “Best Local Albums Of The Year,” one of City Page’s “Picked To Click” Awards, the Star Tribune’s “Best Minnesota Albums,” and as an official showcasing artist at SXSW in Austin, to name a few.
The material on Humbird’s sophomore album Still Life (October 2021) has already received tremendous appreciation from the folk world, having been named one of Kerrville Folk Fest’s New Folk winners for 2021.