Hum (Reluctantly) Shoot A Video


Chicago correspondent Gil Kaufman reports: Matt Talbott, lead

singer and guitarist for Hum, is looking a little distressed, even

though today is a big one for he and his comrades in the band.

Today, filming of the group's first video for the song "Stars" on their RCA

major-label debut You'd Prefer an Astronaut is taking place.

Talbott is stressed because the camera crew in his house is running

roughshod over the quaint fixer-upper he and his girlfriend just moved

into in a quiet residential neighborhood in Champaign, Illinois. The

unlikely front-man of this noisy quartet, with his non-rock, almost

nerdy glasses, shaggy hair and hang-dog expression, looks like he'd be

more comfortable working a slide rule than a slide guitar. While a dad

plays catch with his daughter in the front yard next door and muddied

teenagers hop into their cars after baseball practice at the high

school across the street, Talbott watches helplessly as the fireplug

of a director, madman Tony Vegas, bellows for some loud, funky party

music on the set and the temperature in the living room climbs above

eighty degrees.

Such is the dilemma of a small-town rocker who just wants to make

music but gets discovered by the majors and learns that he sometimes

has to play the game. Frankly, Talbott would rather show you the

garden he and his girlfriend are working on, with tomatoes and several

kinds of peppers already planted, than watch the parade of freaks

Vegas has lined up for his vision of a fruit-filled cocktail

party-cum-orgy. One of the only saving graces for Talbott is that the

majority of the freaks are friends of the band and local musicians who

have volunteered to have their wardrobes and buzzes augmented with

kaleidoscope jackets and plenty of free beer.

The exception, however, is a tattooed older gentleman who goes by the

name Rodgers. Rodgers arrived with Vegas, who allegedly has no

permanent address and owns only a camera and two BMW motorcycles (one

of which he purchased from the Illustrated Man). Rodgers mostly sits

quietly in a corner gumming fruit rinds. His arms, ears and torso are

covered with vivid patterns and swirls, his wrinkled ears heavily

pierced with metal posts and huge rings, his quiet demeanor punctured

only by random utterings of the phrase, "I only drink well water."

Vegas, on the other hand, is a whirling dervish of sound and vision

who somehow makes himself stand out among a room full of silver-faced,

afro-wigged and otherwise harlequin-dressed freaks, hangers-on and

patient siblings. He cranks up the tunes and calls for the next

couple, exhorting them to "really get into it because there's two

things people in Champaign do, rock and make out." He hands them

gigantic fake martinis with kiwi fruit stuffed with watermelon serving

as oversized olive garnish and handfuls of massive strawberries they

are to feed to each other and pass between their mouths as the camera

hovers inches from their sweaty faces.

The video shoot, which began earlier in the day with the band running

around in red jumpsuits and silver face and body paint, may be their

first and last if Talbott has his way. "It's weird," he says with a

grimace, running his hand over the red convertible in his garage, "I

have some real aesthetic problems with video in general, especially

since I'm not directing it, or we're not directing it. It's somebody

else's interpretation of a song and I can tell you right now the way

it's being interpreted is not what the song means to me. It's not even

close." Bassist Jeff Dimpsey comes over to assuage and compliment

Talbott on his smokin' velveteen coat of a thousand colors, given to

him by the wardrobe woman. He gingerly thanks him for letting them use

the house. Ever the gracious host, Talbott says it was no big deal,

except that they made him drive a nail in the wall to hang up an

oversized clock, for "mood." Barely suppressing his disgust, he

mutters, "You know how much time I spent on this fucking house, we

painted those walls by hand with towels."