For those who think NYC is getting a little too complacent in its imperishable reverence for grunge, surf, and doo-wop, quartet Humeysha should help clear the decks. Their self-titled debut integrates Indian influences and western pop in ways that would make George Harrison proud. Opener “For Love, from the Law” is sung in Hindi and marries the immovable sitar to minimal chillwave percussion. It is blissful pop counterfeiting as Eastern music (still kind of a nineties conceit). “Burma Between You and Me” employs an archaic loop that yields further razzmatazz. “Mahalli” eschews the psychedelic Indian sound for one closer to Dead Can Dance. Either way, it’s fresh oxygen.
Were are you all hailing from and how did you end up in NYC?
Zain Alam (ZA): Though I was born here in New York—Flushing, Queens specifically—I grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia, and my family origins are in India and Pakistan. Dylan Bostick is originally from “Burma” is a love song inspired by devotional Sufi poetry, especially the image of wayfarers traveling the world in search of their lover, only to find them once they stop and look deeper into themselves.
“Burma” is a love song inspired by devotional Sufi poetry, especially the image of wayfarers traveling the world in search of their lover, only to find them once they stop and look deeper into themselves.
Darn… no “real” immigrants then? We were looking forward to a (terrible) Trump inspired joke about sending you guys back to your bloody country… What is the song “For Love, From the Law” about?
ZA: I wrote the song after observing commonalities in the migration stories I heard from both my immediate family while growing up and the elderly I interviewed in India and Pakistan while researching the Partition of 1947. Before having visited the subcontinent I expected that the arc of most migration stories—if not all of them—would end in tragedy, given what befell both sides of the border in 1947. I was surprised and pleased to be proven wrong when I encountered women who knew they would’ve made nothing of their lives in the conservative tribal regions of Pakistan or Urdu speakers who were excited to escape their minority status in India. These success stories were closer to what we like to idealize in America, with the immigrant story focusing on the promise of self-making and rebirth. But we also know it can end just as badly as it can end well. The verses alternate between Hindi-Urdu and English, and try to capture the best and the worst of what is promised versus what actually happens during migration. Take a look at my recent annotations of the song at Genius for a closer look at the lyrics!
The guitar sounds on the record are pretty effected, what are the pedals you used the most while recording?
Dylan Bostick (DB): We used a lot of effects in creating the guitar tones, including most prominently a Roland Space Echo. Now that we play live, I’ve wanted to recreate and expand on the effects and sounds we made in the studio. My favorite pedals on my board are probably the EarthQuaker Devices Grand Orbiter V2 Phaser, Boss VB-2 Vibrato, MXR Carbon Copy (for short delays) and a broken Ibanez DE7 (for long delays).
What DAW, interface, mics and preamps did you use to record this album? What did you use for the samples and loops? Did you use any synths?
DB: We had a multi-staged recording process— since Zain originally recorded all the songs with no real intention of releasing them and a limited set-up, all of the original demos were very lo-fi. He recorded everything in Ableton and primarily used a $100 guitar, lo-fi drum loops and sang into an Apogee One.
After Zain showed me his demos and we decided that we should really pursue this project, we began re-recording every part he had written, writing new parts, completely restructuring and expanding songs, etc. We rerecorded everything in Logic Pro, primarily using the Neumann TLM 103, Audio Technica AT4050 & AT4033A, and Shure SM57 microphones through an Apogee Duet for vocals/guitars/percussion.
For drums, we recorded live percussion and used drum machines/sampled instruments— my favorite sounds came from the LinnDrum LM-2, Roland TR-808, and the EastWest/Quantum Leap “The Dark Side” and “Fab Four” drums.
There are obviously a lot of samples in your self titled debut album – did you use any original Eastern instrument when recording it?
ZA: There are quite a few sampled instruments and sounds, most made from recordings I gathered in India— of faraway trains, creaky furniture, temperamental rickshaws, and even my fist banging on a desk to create a rhythmic “kick”. Initially I used a lot of those sounds out of necessity due to the limitations I had while recording on the move in India, but many of them were preserved in the final mixes—it just wasn’t the same without them. I often used meditation bells on the album, though I’m not sure you could call those “Eastern instruments” either.
Did you check the meaning of “Burma” in the Urban Dictionary? Is that the meaning in single ‘Burma Between You and Me”?
ZA: I was definitely referring to the actual place, now known as Myanmar. I’d never seen that meaning for the word until now. That’s… interesting. “Burma” is a love song inspired by devotional Sufi poetry, especially the image of wayfarers traveling the world in search of their lover, only to find them once they stop and look deeper into themselves. I guess it would still be a love song even with that definition, albeit a very different one.