Interview conducted by our favourite four-to-the-floor expert, The Insider.
Jim Colby and Rosie Clements are Hormone – an ace experimental outfit, who currently call Austin,Texas, home. Citing artists as diverse as Laurie Anderson and Hiroshi Satoh as influences they make music that moves between cute Balearic boogie and avant, arty, poetry-powered dream pop. Having self-released a few things, Hormone now make their debut on San Franciscan electronic music institution, Dream Chimney, with an excellent, eccentric E.P. entitled, Smoothsayer. Here, I have a little chat with the delightfully refreshing desert duo.
Hi guys, what are you up to?
This evening we’re making salmon, rice, and salad for dinner. It’s going to be a hot and humid night here in Austin. We’ll probably watch some Seinfeld later. It’s a pretty standard weeknight. Already we’re not doing a very good job of making ourselves sound like mysterious underground musicians.
How would you introduce yourselves?
We are Jim and Rosie, the mysterious underground musicians behind Hormone!
What parts do you both play in Hormone?
We both write and arrange the music collaboratively, in Ableton, argue about what parts are good, and then Rosie blesses the tracks with her trademark evocative vocals that make it all make sense.
Where are you from originally?
Rosie is from Phoenix, Arizona. Jim is from Rochester, New York. So, the “southwest” and the “midwest of the northeast” of the “USA.”
You’re based in Austin Texas now. What can you tell us about the Austin scene?
Amazing food, lots of public swimming pools, great record stores, and so much music. We just got here, so honestly, we are figuring this out for ourselves. Austin is pretty famous for being an indie rock and Americana-rootsy-style music hub, but we were surprised when we got here to also find a pretty sick electronic music scene bubbling up, based around some cool DJ crews and venues.
What are the main live venues in Austin?
Like I said, we’re pretty new to the city, but some big more “traditional” ones that we’ve been visiting are Mohawk, Emo’s, Broken Spoke, and Antone’s. For dancing, Club Eternal and My Oh My have been booking some world-class DJs from all parts of the dance spectrum.
My Oh My
How long have you guys known each other and where did you meet?
We’ve known each other for about 5 years. We met in Tucson, Arizona, where we started collaborating on a few different projects. Jim started Hormone in 2016, before we met each other. It wasn’t until this past year that we started making music together under this particular name.
How did you know you wanted to make music together?
Rosie said so, and what she says goes, so it was a pretty easy decision to make. We’d also been involved in other music projects at the time that were more “band-bands”. At any given time in Tucson we were each involved with 2-5 bands, from sparse post-punk outfits to full Cumbia ensembles, and going to band practice a lot. We both realized that we wanted to make something more production focused and sonically sculpted.
Are you involved in other musical projects outside of Hormone now?
Rosie is currently still playing bass in a super funky no-wave outfit called Thanks Again – who have a release forthcoming – and also recently wrote a bunch of indie-prog slow core bangers for her group Full Heal.
Jim plays bass, for a group of power pop punkers called Class, as well attempting to invent a hybrid acid-dub-cumbia genre with his project Cucumberman.
How would you describe the sound of Hormone?
For lovers of Marie Davidson, Laurie Anderson, Leroy Burgess, Rhucle, Legowelt, Westerman, Hiroshi Satoh, Voice Actor, X.Y.R.
What’s the story on the band name? I’d love to know the conversation that led to that.
Hormones are pretty fascinating. They are these chemicals that can completely change how you feel depending on these really specific ratios of their concentrations in your brain, and how they rise and fall. Music ultimately is also just specific ratios of oscillating air pressure that can also be used to manipulate your emotional state, so there’s some direct connection there between the two, maybe? Its also is a cool word. Does that answer the question?
Your E.P., Smoothsayer, conjures feelings and images of the `80s. Is that era part of your musical spirit?
Yeah, it’s hard to get away from `80s music’s influence when you’re making sequenced music that heavily features synthesizers and drum machines. The `80s is when those technologies became really mainstream and readily available, and when people really figured out all these sick techniques that still work every time! No matter what you do, if you have a song with sparkling square wave arpeggios over a basic drum beat with a little digital reverb, it’s going to be “80s”.
Who are the artists from that time that you love?
All the big synth lords, Steve Arrington, YMO, Chris & Cosey, Kashif productions, anything on the Minimal Wave or Disco Not Disco comps.
Are you DJs too?
We are almost exclusively house party DJs, but what you would hear is an extremely open format set, from AOR edits to FANIA boogaloo to UK bass wubblers. We even beatmatch sometimes!
Is Hormone a live act?
Unfortunately Hormone is a studio-only deal. We find we can remain much more mysterious this way.
Your self-titled debut came out in 2017. Can you tell us a little about that project?
This was before Rosie joined the group, and Jim had recently become obsessed with early `80s disco and boogie funk, leading him to start trying to teach himself how to produce music on a computer and recruit some friends as vocalists. It’s hard to judge your old music fairly, but the couple dozen or so people that heard it seemed to like it!
What do you feel has been your most notable release to date?
Probably this one, as Dream Chimney is putting it out and it’s not just us putting up a Bandcamp link!
Who do you think is making great music at the moment?
Today we are super into people like ML BUCH, Discovery Zone, and Westerman, who are seamlessly weaving some more “vintage” sounds with modern ones, and creating really cool, perfect pop experiments that you can listen to over and over again. The DEEK label roster is a good example of other artists in this realm. Also anything put out by labels like Wisdom Teeth, Hessle Audio, Timedance, and AD 93, is consistently blowing our minds – tracks that sound totally avant garde but also murder dancefloors.
How did you hook up with Dream Chimney?
Yeah! Ryan from DC had included a track from the first Hormone release on a mix, and after that we basically bugged him via email when we made some new music, and to our surprise he asked if he could release it! Don’t be afraid to send labels and DJs you like your music!
Can you talk us through the E.P. Smoothsayer a little bit?
It’s a short E.P. that has two tracks which are more “song-mode” – Smoothsayer and Wallfacer – where we specifically tried to squeeze ourselves into pop and dance constraints. We use a lot of classic analog synth sounds and Linndrum snares and claps – it’s crazy how well those old sounds still cut through a mix. The other two tracks, Glass Frog and Lo-Sun Season, are much harder for us to define. They’re kind of ambient music, but kind of pop? Much more floaty feeling, and a new direction for us. We hope to push forward further into both pop and weirdo territory with future releases.
Strong move bringing Sorcerer in for the remix. Were you thrilled with the result?
Oh yeah, he freaked it into something else entirely. We especially love the breakbeats underneath Rosie’s vocals – makes you wanna slap on the bucket hat and wiggle around a sunshine-y field.
What are your next plans for the band?
All our favourite musicians have an identifiable sonic world that they live in, sometimes it’s a big world and sometimes it’s extremely focused. We feel like Hormone has just opened the portal into our sonic world, and we’re very excited to just keep writing and putting out music that expands on it.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about you?
We both have boring day jobs. We always like reading interviews where artists cop to holding down a day job while still making cool tunes, so we just want to let the people know it’s very possible and that’s the reality for a lot of us! You don’t have to make a living off of music in order for it to be a big and rewarding part of your life, and you don’t have to work at the world’s coolest record store, or a label, or club, or whatever, in order to get people to hear your music!
Rosie, Jim, that’s such a wonderful piece of advice. Thank you!!!
Hormone’s Smoothsayer E.P. is out now, on Dream Chimney.