The Hamicks
By Ronnie

The Hamicks seem to defy description. Originally formed in Austin, but relocated to Chicago, the band has gone through numerous line-up changes over the years. But the one constant factor is the creative mastermind/genius of singer/songwriter Bob Taylor. Maybe it's his art background that gives his compositions such a visual feel (his artwork being almost as fascinating as his songs). His songwriting evokes the styles of Syd Barrett and David Byrne. Add to this a driving rock band and mesmerizing stage presence and you get the Hamicks. They've got a new, self-titled album out on Creepy Drifter Records (see our review section for an upcoming review). I talked to bassist, Arman Mabry about the current state of the Hamicks.

E.C.: First I know you guys started in Austin, but are now based in Chicago. Why the move? I wasn't even aware of a music scene there?

Arman: Well we wanted to move out of Austin so we could play in a different area to a totally different batch of people. We decided on Chicago because we liked the city and it was pretty much centralized. As far as a scene in Chicago, well you'd have to be from a different planet not to know about SOMETHING going on here. I mean there are a lot of bands here that a lot of people are into, most of them suck shit but there are a few that are worth their salt.

E.C.: Are the Hamicks signed to a label right now? I know that for awhile you were on Unclean Records in Austin.

Arman: We're not signed to a label, and never have been. We have put out records on various labels out of Austin like Framed!, Unclean, Lil Deputy, and Big Jerk. We also did a 7" for Scooch Pootch. We self released the latest record on our own label called Creepy Drifter. It's really good and everyone should own one.

E.C.: Are all the songs that the Hamicks perform Bob Taylor originals? Or do any of the other members contribute?

Arman: All the songs we do are pretty much written by Bob. The band does do some editing or re-arranging, but for the most part Bob calls all the shots and signs all the bad checks.

E.C.: How did the current lineup evolve? I know that you started as a three piece with guitar, bass and drums. For awhile you also had two guitarists and a keyboardist. Was the Hamicks originally envisioned as a large lineup? Who is in the Hamicks now?

Arman: The current line up is a bit different than what you think. Currently it's Bob, myself and Chris Matranga (formerly of Sugar Shack). Before we made the move to Chicago a couple of members decided to do flake out so Bob and I moved anyway. We found a keyboard player who eventually didn't work out for us, and we found (through our old guitar player Johnathan Toubin) Chris to play drums. We've been a three piece for a few months now and I love it. We never set out with the intention of having so many people in the former line-ups of the band, it sort of happened that way.

E.C.: The keyboards seem to give the Hamicks an Elvis Costello-ish sound. Was that intentional? At times I catch a devo thing. What do you think? How do you guys classify yourself?

Arman: I love having keyboards in the band, they've given the sound a very distinct odor. We never intended to cop anyone's sound like Costello or Devo for that matter. We were often pegged as that sort of '80's type new wave but we've pretty much stuck to the rock. We do draw a lot of influence from very many sources, so many that it makes our sound familiar but hard to pen down. I think we are doing something no one else is doing right now which tends to make a band pretty inaccessible. I think people like familiarity because it's pretty safe to like a band that sounds like your other favorite band because you don't have to readjust your ears very much.

E.C.: What touring plans does the group have?

Arman: Right now since we don't have a van, we are concentrating on doing weekend trips around the mid west. We do plan on going back to Kansas and Texas in the spring to do some shows, but nothing major.

E.C.: It is a strange trip inside the mind of Bob Taylor. How does he come up with those songs? You have the old classics like, "There Was Poop In His/Her Pants", "Unga unga" and "Why Do You Wear That Stupid Toupee"; the newer songs like, "Ventriloquist" and "Statistic Man". Is there any pressure for Bob to come up with even more "bizarre" songs? Will he always keep the same approach?

Arman: I couldn't really tell you how Bob comes up with his song ideas. I do know that he draws a lot from personal experience and what he views the world as. Sometimes it's pretty strange but most of the time it's some pretty basic, down to earth stuff that anyone could figure out. He goes through cycles of writing that certain groups of songs are written together and you can tell, like "Ventriloquist" and "Vacuum". They have a certain structure that are totally reminiscent of each other. Not to mention they both start with the letter "V".

E.C.: Is politics ever a thought in your lyrics?

Arman: I hope the hell not.

E.C.: What is the message of the Hamicks?

Arman: Loan me $20 till pay day.

E.C.: Has the ultimate Hamicks record been released yet?

Arman: They are all ultimate records, but the one where someone else pays for the recording and pressing and promotion then THAT will be the coup.

Click here to visit the official Hamicks website