THE HUMMINGBIRDS could very possibly be the hardest working band on the Liverpool music scene.
You may well recognise them from their infamous busking sessions; showcasing their distinctive brand of dynamic and uplifting music on our city’s streets. From Liverpool ONE to Church Street, to the lofty rooftop of a certain Seattle-based coffee chain, they have become a welcome imprint of late, stamping their blues-infused stylings across town. With a wealth of live shows behind them, notching up gigs in Manchester and London, not to mention welcoming The Queen into Liverpool, The Hummingbirds show no signs of decelerating.
The group’s current line-up of Jay Davies (vocals/guitar), Matty Brougham (guitar), Mic Kountis (guitar/backing vocals), Richard Smith (backing vocals/percussion) and Ryan Lewis (bass) was formed a mere year ago but their musical versatility has ensured their ability to pull in a hugely diverse audience. Jaunty rock n roll shot through with folksy beats provides a vintage soundscape in which the five boys and their trusty rhythmic box (a cajon for those in the dark) excel. They are candid when they confess that, although happy with the way they are progressing, there is a constant drive to develop. “We’ve all been in other bands when we were younger, but didn’t get anywhere near as far as we have as The Hummingbirds… and after a year now at least we’ve got something to show for our work,” says frontman Jay. “We get good gigs but we’re not content with just that… we want more all the time.”
The Hummingbirds have created an instantly recognisable sound for themselves: Merseybeat interspersed with intricate harmonies and elements of country. It is a sound that seems oddly relevant at the moment, with lyrical subject matter that has its roots clearly planted in their home city of Liverpool. I pose the question of how important it is to them to retain a traditional Liverpool aesthetic within their music. “The Merseybeat sound is a popular one, but we don’t try to sound like that though, it just comes out in that way and that’s how we like it,” states Jay. “We write for us. We don’t try to be like anything else. Other bands aren’t listening to what we’re listening to; we’ll go home and listen to Buddy Holly and Gerry and The Pacemakers.”
It’s evident that their musical process is a natural one and far from contrived, where the band are happy to let their creativity take over and see what happens. They are warm and witty in person and hugely likeable, as they laugh about the effect that Wayne Rooney’s tweeting about them has had on the band. “It’s done a lot for us in that it broadens the awareness of the band. Our Twitter presence is heavily influenced by what Rooney tweeted,” says Ryan, and it’s clear that this is another avenue via which The Hummingbirds have sought to allow themselves to appeal to a more diverse audience. They are eager to expand this appeal with the onset of festival season. Having already played the inaugural X&Y Festival and with Kendal Calling on the horizon, it seems they will have a chance to introduce their music to a crowd outside Liverpool. “It’s nice to have the crowd in Liverpool who know your lyrics,” says Jay. “But every time we go to a new venue, if the crowd don’t know us, we see that as a chance for them to get to know us. The festivals to us are a god-send, we need them so much.”
Their EP releases Talking of Tomorrow and Doesn’t Really Matter have been well received and showcase the versatility of The Hummingbirds. There is a clear growth between the first and second EP, with the more poignant and emotive Doesn’t Really Matter still retaining the distinctive modern skiffle trill that belongs to the band. With plans in the pipeline for a third EP to be released later this year, the group have decided to spend some time away and will relocate to a remote log cabin soon to isolate themselves for a few days and work on their new material. So, what can we expect from the next EP and how will it evolve from its predecessors? “So far, we have three potential tracks; none of them are confirmed,” says Jay. “The lyrics are more developed, there’s a lot more harmonica in there. A big country feel to it… more Dylan than Beatles. We’re trying to evolve our sound and show people what we can do.”
If there’s one thing to be said about The Hummingbirds it’s that they are certainly hard grafters, striving to be at the head of the flock and ensuring that their future plans are clicking into place. Numerous gigs, festivals and a trip to Hamburg in November this year as tour support to Young Rebel Set are just a few of the prospects that lie ahead for the band. This is a group that oscillate between retro and contemporary, while managing to remain undeniably relevant; a sign that the song of The Hummingbirds could indeed harmonise for a good while to come.