“A song is an opportunity to make four minutes of perfection or four minutes of noise. That's exactly how you want to be. To me that requires an enormous amount of effort to make it exactly right – as far as I want it to be, anyway.”
Behind loveBUZZ’s bright girl-boy harmonies, chiming melodies and joyously noisy guitars was a strongly defined songwriting work ethic, as The Hummingbirds Simon Holmes articulated in the 1989 rooArt interview disc.
Between the pomp and parading of the hair metal, soft rock and pop divas that dominated the 80s, and the explosion of alternative music in Australia in the 90s, there was The Hummingbirds. The Sydney band delivered a vital breath of fresh, fuzzy power pop, with a debut album that still reverberates with an infectious urgency. It was recorded with Mitch Easter, known for having made some key albums for R.E.M. “I was ready to make it,” Holmes recalled in 2010 on Mess + Noise. “I had done my homework, and by the time we started making it, I knew what we wanted to do.”
‘Blush’ is a perfect summation of what follows across loveBUZZ’s 14 tracks. From the moment the guitars crash in and the bell tolls thrice, the layers of sound and harmonies pile on thick and fast. Holmes explained: “We wanted to have noise and melody at the same time and we don't know whether we succeeded or not, but it would appear that some people seem to think that we did. [It’s] an uncomplicated, relatively tried and true formula for writing a pop song. Then we like to throw real noise on top, if we can get away with it, because we just like songs with noisy guitars. I wrote it as a really 60s beat kind of song, in terms of the chords that are actually used, and then I decided that [it] was too boring, because I don't like guitars without distortion. So, I decided we’ll throw some blatant noise terror on top and see if it works.”
There were further attempts by the band to challenge themselves through limitation. Regarding ‘She Knows,’ Holmes said: ‘‘I wanted to have a song with three chords in it and see how long I could get us all to play for on three chords, and not bore everyone tremendously. It's an example of trying to do as much as possible with as little as possible.”
Another album highlight, ‘Word Gets Around’, charges out of the gates with rowdy enthusiasm. “[It’s] our attempt to write a Bushwackers type folk hoedown song, the kind of song which you go to a bush dance and jump around to and then you drink white wine and you wear cheese cloth dresses and then you go home feeling really refreshed afterwards,” Holmes explained in 1989. “But it's also a really stupid song about how people talk too much about all kinds of things and they shouldn't say anything because they don't know what they’re talking about in the first place. But it’s got a guitar solo and that's one of my favourite songs on the album.”
With songwriting and vocal contributions from bassist Robyn St Clare and guitarist Alannah Russack, perhaps loveBUZZ’s most distinguishing feature lies in the breezy contrast of girl/boy harmonies that give so many of its tracks an enduring charm. Recalling the time of the band’s formation, Russack told Myf Warhurst of how she had clear ambitions of wanting to move to Sydney, go to art school and play in a band. She met drummer Mark Temple at a gig and was invited to jam with the band, joining up on the day. Having grown up on a farm, loving playing music, she was accustomed to harmonizing with her brother. It was apparent immediately to singer Simon Holmes that their voices were “a natural fit”.
They followed up with 1991’s Va Va Voom before breaking up a few years later. In 2011, The Hummingbirds reunited for the Big Day Out and additional dates. Playing on 2SER’s Live at the Loft that year, Simon Holmes talked about how time had shifted his appreciation of the band’s songs.
“Some songs,you play them again and you go, ‘Oh that’s pretty good’. The ones that I didn’t rate so highly, I rate a little more highly than I did previously … I think that when I write a song I either think it’s got some meaning or it might be a bit of a throw away and the ones that I thought were throwaway seem to have more meaning and depth to them than I thought at the time.”
Listening to loveBUZZ today, at maximum permissible volume, there’s not much that’s changed in our appreciation of these songs. They still sparkle and inspire us to connect with that youthful brashness and exuberance, and sing along loudly and without restraint. And for that loveBUZZ will always occupy a special place in our lives.