By Adam McGrath
There are certain benchmarks in a band’s evolution that must be met in order to grow from local favorite to the national spotlight. That first big festival gig, a second release that builds on the first, and piling into a big brown van called the Slug for a 14-city winter tour.
Okay, that last one is specific to Philly’s own The Humble, but you get the idea. Bands that are serious about taking the next step must make strategic, focused choices, some of which may be controversial. Before taking the stage at The Foundry for their homecoming and EP release show on February 21, band members Jordan Caiola, Shane Woods, and Nate Matulis filled me in on the moves they’re making to get to that next level.
First, fans of the Temple grads will notice a name change. Saying goodbye to Mo Lowda might be painful, but Caiola explains why it was necessary.
“No one could pronounce it, remember it, spell it, anything,” he said.
He’s right about that; I heard at least three different pronunciations of the fictional man’s name throughout the show that evening. Plus, opening emails addressed to “Mo” got old real quick.
Woods continued, “People would ask ‘How come you guys are just The Humble now? Mao Louda was the best name.’ Well, that’s why, dude. Cause you can’t say it. But, we didn’t want to lose fans that have been with us since the beginning, so we wanted to keep some aspect of the name.”
So even though their SEO might take a hit, the move should make the group more marketable going forward. Caiola even did the dirty work of updating all of the band’s various websites and social media platforms.
The crowd at The Foundry was clearly familiar with the band, loudly cheering and singing along to every lyric from the very successful 2013 release Curse the Weather. It was quite the stacked bill, as Doylestown natives Commonwealth Choir and Jersey boys Pine Barons rounded out the night of local talent.
While nothing can compare with the energy of a hometown show, the other 13 cities on The Humble’s February tour proved equally welcoming. Starting with a stint down south through Tennessee, the Carolinas, Alabama and Georgia, and then all the way north to Boston, New York, and New Hampshire, the Slug logged some serious miles in just under three weeks.
“It went beyond our expectations,” Caiola said. “We did the eight supporting dates with SIMO out of Nashville, and then we headlined the last six. But we were definitely taken aback by people coming out in towns we’d never played.”
The ubiquitous streaming platform Spotify can take some of the credit for that.
“We started talking to people at shows,” Caiola continued, “and asked if they know SIMO, and they’re like, ‘No, we know you guys via Spotify.’ The ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist was a big help in that regard. It’s cool to see our music finding these avenues to people that we typically wouldn’t reach just by word of mouth. It’s a long way from home, you know, in Alabama. That was really cool, and I think we were really happy with the turnout, as far as that goes.”
When asked if they had any favorite venues on this trip, Woods was quick to endorse Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts.
“It was our second time playing there,” he told me. “Oddly, we have a decent following in that town, and all the people who work at that place are really nice, and the room is really awesome. There’s a sound guy, Jim, who’s really nice and helpful and makes things sound good.”
“Yeah, we feel at home there,” Caiola concurred. “We like that room a lot.”
“It’s cool, cause that venue has a reputation of its own,” Woods said, “so there are people mixing with that culture who just want to see music. They know ‘Hey, if we go to this venue that night, we’re gonna see a decent band.’ I talked to one couple who said, ‘Yeah, we just wanted to hear music tonight, so we came to the Iron Horse.’ Luckily they enjoyed it, so you get some fans that way.”
On any tour, there are always war stories and party stories. Apparently The Humble attract a lot of ‘shushers’ at their hotels. (Jeff and Ryan, you know who you are!) But aside from some ice cube wars and Shane’s odd habit of hanging out in not-hot hot tubs, the touring lifestyle seems to agree with them.
Favorite food stops included Sweet P’s Barbeque in Knoxville, Tennessee (“Best I’ve ever had,” says Shane), and Panera Bread was a staple for affordable, somewhat healthy grub. But, be warned, just because a burger in a random diner only costs two dollars, don’t assume it’ll be small.
“Oh yeah, that was good,” Caiola recalled. “You know, you expect a two-dollar burger is gonna be like this little slider.”
Woods was the culprit on this one: “I asked the waitress, ‘So what is it, just like a burger on a bun?’ She’s like ‘Yeah.’ So I ordered three of them.”
“They come out,” Jordan chuckles, “and they were the most normal-size burgers you’ll ever see. Pickles, lettuce, the works.”
“She put it down in front of me,” Shane laughed, “and I just looked like this idiot with three giant burgers in front of me.”
With all that barbeque and ground beef coursing through their systems, of course the question of tour hygiene came up. While all three members insist they regularly shower, they were thankful that the Slug had automatic windows.
“I forgot to put on deodorant three days in a row,” Matulis suddenly chimes in.
Shane: “That’s weird, dude.”
“I put it on once we pulled over and I could get to my bag!” Nate defended. “I actually just started keeping it in my coat pocket.”
“Need some deodorant, kid?” Jordan laughed, mimicking a dealer.
All joking aside, the Foundry show marks a turning point for The Humble as they celebrated the release of Act Accordingly, a five-track EP dropping Friday, March 11. The songs on this album represent a more collaborative and nuanced effort, and should tide fans over nicely until the boys can dip into their new stash of songs later this year. Check back with That Mag on Friday for a track-by-track review.
Recorded at The Headroom Studio in Philadelphia, Act Accordingly benefited from the expertise of producers Joe Reinhart (who plays in Hop Along) and Kyle Pulley (member of Thin Lips and brother of Pine Barons’ Brad). Woods also chipped in some engineering as the group explored different sounds and recorded to both digital and analog.
“We put a microphone, a U87, in the pipes in the bathroom,” Woods said, “and that ended up being the drum reverb on one of the songs.”
The rest of 2016 should see another single from The Humble that’s not on the EP, and the band has some shows coming up in April. Right now, though, Jordan, Shane, and Nate are just happy to be home and excited for what comes next.