Venus Hum

[This piece originally appeared in the Rage. Because I’d just written a longer piece on VH for another magazine and had my text butchered, I “recycled” much of it for this piece.]

Venus Hum – the electro-pop trio of Kip Kubin, Tony Miracle and Annette Strean – may very well be Nashville’s ambassadors of goodwill. At once, they defy expectations of what a “Nashville” band would sound like and also represent all the great things about our town’s music scene.

If you haven’t heard them, then you’ve missed out on some wonderful music. Miracle and Kubin provide Venus Hum’s beats and blips but Annette provides the pulse. Her agile voice soars over the music with an almost off-the-cuff feeling, as if the words and tune just came to her. Yet she sings so assuredly, that is impossible.

Venus Hum’s sound owes a lot to groups from the recent past – Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, The Cure – much like bands in the New York-based “electroclash” genre. Yet despite their drum machines and apparent 80s jones, Venus Hum sidestep the gloom and confusion of the electroclashers and instead favor bright keyboards and joyous vocals.

Did coming from Nashville affect their sound in that way? “The Nashville thing probably hasn’t affected it that much,” Miracle says. “Or maybe it has on an unconscious level. Nashville’s such a songwriters kind of place – that may be one area it kind of influenced us.” Clearly, trying to define their music isn’t something over which they lose sleep. Miracle adds, “We just want to make honest music. We don’t think about it that much. We just kind of do what we do and let it happen naturally. I’ve become a firm believer in that. It’s really hard to try to force anything when you’re making music.”

Still, it’s evident that having Nashville as their band’s birthplace and home has affected their attitude and outlook. When the group made it to England’s shores last year, they found an enthusiastic and receptive audience. They also found a music press fascinated that such a cool band had emerged from the rhinestone capital of the world.

The Nashville stigma may embarrass other pop bands, but not Venus Hum. Kubin explains, “Our whole method of working is: if we didn’t like Nashville, we would just move. We like being there. We like it being our home base. And yeah, it really has helped because I guess because we were so bold in that. When people ask us, we’re like, ‘yeah, we’re from Nashville.'”

For their first major label record, Big Beautiful Sky released last month, Venus Hum re-recorded some songs from their self-released debut and packaged them with brand new songs. The result is a bigger, bolder vision of what the trio is capable of accomplishing. “Montana,” “Hummingbirds,” and “Soul Sloshing” begin the album and set the bar high. For the remainder of the record, Venus Hum exceed expectations not only with more individually exciting tracks – the haunting “Alice;” the synth-goth “Lumberjacks” — but also with a stunningly coherent album greater than the sum of its parts.

Maybe it’s unbelievable to some that this wonderful un-country music came out of Nashville, but to Nashvillians, and indeed, to Venus Hum themselves, it’s testament to our city’s musical strengths. Nashville, says Kubin, is “a wonderful place to make music… It has great clubs and good places to play and good fans. And fans that are kind of critical and are really good at showing you their appreciation or their disdain for what you’re doing.”

Venus Hum wrap up a tour with the Blue Man Group this week and return to Nashville for a homecoming show. Excited, Tony says, “We’re really looking forward to it. ‘Cause we haven’t played there in so long and we consider our friends in Nashville to be such a big part of our success. So, we’re really looking forward to it… It’s going to be like a big party, basically.”