Interview: Hymn for Her Take Listeners on a Psychedelic Road Trip on ‘Pop-n-Downers’
For years, Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing of Americana duo Hymn for Her have traversed the country in their 161 Bambi Airstream, writing songs and performing on the road. While it may sound glamorous, the two agree that their nomadic lifestyle serves a very practical purpose.
"Survival," Waxing explains to The Boot with a laugh during a recent interview in Nashville.
There's more to it than that, though: Their lifestyle affords the duo a constant connection with different parts of the country, and it inspired many of the song on their newest album, Pop-n-Downers, which came out on Oct. 5.
"[Life on the road] keeps us present and connected with people," Tight explains. "I mean, we're connected with people on the Internet, but when you connect just through the Internet, it's not true connection. A lot of people who don't go out and see what the world's like are really afraid of a lot of things."
Those who venture beyond their immediate surroundings will meet people whose viewpoints clash with their own. Hymn for Her say the conversations they've had with those people have often yielded surprising results.
"We were just overseas for three months, and everyone said, 'Why did you guys vote for Donald Trump?' And we said, 'Well, we didn't vote for him.' They were just misinformed," Tight explains. "They believe what they read on the Internet, so they think everybody voted for him, so we're out there telling the truth and also hearing and sharing the truth."
The duo doesn't identify as a political group, and they certainly don't always talk politics with the people they meet in their travels. Both in person and on their newest record, Hymn for Her are more inspired by the carnival-esque, psychedelic and whimsical vibes that fuel Pop-n-Downers. When the music's subject matter does touch on the group's cultural environment, it broaches the subject from a place of personal significance, making its statement all the more impactful -- and all the more dire.
"We have a kid, you know? She goes to school," Tight continues. "With all the school shootings, we're freaked out like any other parent would be. Then we'll go overseas, and people will tell us that there aren't even any guns allowed in their country."
Adds Waxing, "Or that guns are allowed, but you have to go through a series of psychological tests to be able to hold the gun, let alone shoot it."
Pop-n-Downers takes on the subject of mass shootings in the song "Shallow Graves;" Hymn for Her address climate change as well, in the album's kick-off track, "Blue Balloons." Although both the latter song and its accompanying music video tackle tough topics, Tight and Waxing hope the music's overarching message is one of connection and solidarity.
"I hope everybody sees the video [for "Blue Balloons"]," Tight says, "and that it maybe speaks to some people who are closed to some ideas, especially people with children. The idea of that video coming through a child's eyes, of wonder and naivete, that's something any parent can relate to. We just hope that everybody can find something to relate to in that video, and in that song."
Just as important as the record's messaging, however, is its overall sound. Hymn for Her hope Pop-n-Downers will take their listeners on a journey of their own: "We just want people to hear it and feel good, and take a road trip and put the record in," Tight goes on to say.
The duo's primary instrument is a cigar box -- common for an acoustic blues band but less intuitive for an Americana group, especially on a record that leans so far toward psychedelia. "It's an eclectic instrument," Tight says. "When you incorporate it into pop songs, it can really open up certain ideas and flesh them out."
The instrument has been a constant throughout their career as a duo, though; no matter what new vision they may have for an album, it provides a foundation for the sound.
"It does remind us of that roots feel that we want to hold onto," Waxing shares. "That primal, primitive cigar box and broom handle, it reminds us not to go too overboard with a wall of sound. It keeps it simple. It started with a cigar box; It's our baby and the instrument is a constant learning curve."
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