Sam Humans was born in a tree and raised on a tug-boat. He invented beards and rainbows and calls a cloudy day in the mountains swimming weather. A proponent of a life well lived, Humans has founded a pirate radio station, builds experimental synthesizers, teaches music, is a father, recording engineer, producer, and touring musician.
Tension is a fundamental ingredient of great music, which is why the best bands will always, eventually, break-up. This has been true of all Humans’ past projects which have all collapsed under the pressure of expectation, success, and internal conflict. As it should be. It’s a cycle that fuels musical creation and rebirth, and lends itself to a search for new creative territory. A search that never stops for Sam Humans.
Enter the one-man-band, the solo project; the band that never breaks up. In 2017 this usually means musician-with-laptop. Everything pre-programmed, it all comes out “perfect” and modern performers are typically just that: an energetic presence on top of a static musical presentation. The problem, reasons Humans, is when you don’t give yourself the chance to fail, you also don’t give yourself the chance to excel, to reach new heights, to transcend.
There’s a palpable tension to Humans’ music. No computers and no quantizing, loops are made live and on the fly, controlled by Sam’s feet as he plays drums and sings. Or dances about and plays lead guitar riffs. Or stares down the audience over a steadily increasing wall of feedback and noise. All of it controlled and contained in the mind of one man. It could (and sometimes does) go off the rails. Loops get out of sync, parts are accidentally erased, wrong notes are looped and repeated forever. But here-in lies the magic of the moment, the ability to embrace mistakes and create something new that exists only in that time and place, something unique shared between audience and performer.
Because like fine wines and snowflakes, no two Sam Humans live shows will ever be the same, and this is part of the magic of Sam Humans. His sermon-like performances and ride-the-edge-of-chaos performance style create a once-in-a-lifetime moment and a bond that cannot be re-created in any other way by any other performer.
Sam released his first solo record, Highwater Moonboot in 2003 under the moniker “Modernstate.” Modernstate would go on to tour the US multiple times and perform alongside amazing artists like Crooked Fingers, Alela Diane, Talkdemonic, The Decemberists, Horsefeathers, Karl Blau, Microphones/Mount Eerie, Old Time Relijun, Songs Ohia, and even Mary Lou Lord. After releasing the critically acclaimed The Burning Beard in 2006, Sam mostly retired the name Modernstate and began to focus on collaborative projects.
Principal among these was notorious art-punk auteurs …worms. Their reign of chaos would birth 2 releases, a 2005 self titled 4 song 7″ EP and a 2007 45 rpm 12″, both now out of print. No song titles, no album titles, …worms existed to confound and confuse and confront, and to the shocked admiration of all who saw them, this they accomplished in spades. A few short years later …worms disbanded when, classically, everyone in the band got fed-up with the lead singer.
2008 saw the first “Sam Humans” shows and brought a new band, hugely influential psych-cumbia basement party kings OBruxo (named for renowned Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal). OBruxo changed the game for musicians in Portland, opening up a realm of possibility and positivity that still resonates in the scene today. 2009 saw the birth of a child and the recordings of what would go on to become the first official Sam Humans release, 2011’s Live Free, a split 10″ EP with Chicago band The Heligoats, aka Chris Otepka from Troubled Hubble.
Fatherhood became the principal focus of Sams life, along with a string of new collaborations including the fantastically adventurous Secret Drum Band (featuring members of Unwound, !!!, Explode into Colors and Psychomagic) and holding down both percussion and guitar duty in trad-cumbia outfit Orquestra Pacifio Tropical. Finally, in 2016, Sam released Soulboss and toured the world. 2017 will see the release of a new batch of songs, Anthropocene, and another world tour.