Sounds Local: Hammydown a band on the rise

  • Hammydown is a band on the rise. Contributed photo

  • Sheryl Hunter

Published: 7/12/2017 11:49:52 AM

Dishwasher, cashier, waitress, delivery driver, barista, housekeeper, nanny, teddy bear factory worker, ice cream scooper — Abbie Morin is listing some of the jobs she has worked at while she pursues her passion of making music. The list is a long one, and it’s one that most anyone who is trying to make a living in the arts can relate to. But for Morin, who makes music under the moniker Hammydown, her days of pouring coffee and washing floors may soon be over.

Hammydown, which now features bassist Joshua Speers and drummer Jacob Burnstein, have only been working together as a group since early this year, but they are already a band on the rise. The group has amassed a strong local following and played throughout the Northeast. Hammydown will help kick off the Green River Festival on Saturday when they play the Four Rivers Stage at 1 p.m. They will release their debut EP, “Pizzaface,” on Friday, July 21.

Morin, who came to Northampton by way of Burlington, Vt., had previously worked as a solo artist playing acoustic guitar and writing “wistful Americana love songs” as she put it. She, however, soon discovered that she couldn’t get through a show without breaking a string on her acoustic guitar because she was strumming it so hard.

Morin knew that she needed to find a way to harness the new voice she was trying to find within herself, so she set her acoustic guitar aside and picked up an electric. As she learned to play this new instrument, it brought her closer to figuring out who she was as an artist while discovering a new sound.

Morin said that she sometimes uses the phrase “lazy beach loser couch” to describe her music but added that “garage pop” also works. Her music is lyric-driven and, while playful on the surface, if one digs below the surface one will find it conveys deep emotional truths. Morin is an honest writer, but a witty one as well, whose songs express many of the issues that are relevant to her generation.

She draws from her experience of working minimum-wage jobs on the EP’s title track, singing about scrubbing floors and having a debit card declined, all while trying to move past the self-doubt that prevents one from fully committing to their art.

“The past few years, I’ve felt really torn between a life of stability in the full-time work week, and a life of scrappiness and declined cards while trying to put that 40 hours toward true fulfillment,” said Morin. “Pizzface” wrestles with what happens when self doubt takes over and fear turns me into my own biggest bully.”

Morin said she chose “Pizzaface” for the EP’s title track because “it captures both the literal image of customer service and the restaurant- worker lifestyle” that she has lived for the past 12 years of her life. “It is also the self-deprecation that individuals tend to subject themselves to when they don’t feel we’re living up to our true potential,” Morin explained.

The song “Automatic Sweetheart,” is about working in the service industry and the fake smile one is forced to wear when dealing with the public. On the song “People You May Know” Morin explores her frustration with the quality versus quantity aspects of friendship on social media. The song has a charming ragged quality and a simple but memorable guitar line that contributes to this being my favorite track on “Pizzaface.” Apparently many others share my enthusiasm for the tune as it has received close to 75,000 plays on Spotify and the EP hasn’t even been released yet.

“It’s come as a bit of a surprise,” said Morin about the positive response that Hammydown has received. “At the same time, I’ve had a pretty long journey up to this point. I’ve been learning a lot about the dedication, organization, and diligence it takes to make music a career.”

“We’ve been really pleased with the momentum, but are trying to keep the focus on the music and enjoy the ride,” she added.

The ride is about to start moving even faster with the release of “Pizzaface” next Friday. I asked Morin what she hopes listeners will take away from the new experience of the new disc.

“Most of all I hope that people will be able to relate,” Morin said. “I think that society lays out a bunch of benchmarks and expectations about what a successful life looks like, and when reality doesn’t align with that it can be super discouraging.”

Morin said she is aware that many people of her generation share these sentiments.

“There are so many hardworking, talented people out there that don’t feel that they have self-worth because they spend the majority of their week doing something they don’t love,” she said. “And we don’t feel we have a choice — it can be so easy to get swept up in all the monotony and lose touch with ourselves.”

Rock Shop turns 10

Every summer, Matt Kim, owner of the Academy of Rock in Greenfield, presents a week-long training intensive called Rock Shop, where aspiring young rockers work on the technical aspects of playing music, but also learn about playing music with others and being in a band. Rock Shop concludes with the musicians actually forming a band and playing a show in front of an audience.

Rock Shop 2017 kicked off this past Monday and the 14 musicians, ranging in age from 12-18 worked hard all week in preparation of performing in front of an audience. Tomorrow is the big day and Kim’s students are going to take the stage at The Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield where they will be performing in the main ballroom. This is an afternoon show and it will begin at 2:30 p.m. This year’s Rock Shop show is extra special because Rock Shop is celebrating their 10th anniversary, so come on out and rock out with Rock Shop. The show is free.

Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center (formerly the Arts Block), 289 Main St. in Greenfield.

Jamie Kent Homecoming

When Northampton native Jamie Kent returns from his adopted home of Nashville for a show at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Thursday, July 20, at 7 p.m., he promises that it’s going to be a rocking party. Kent, was a staple on the local music scene and founder of the Northampton Summer Concert series before moving to Nashville two years ago. He felt that if he was going to take his career to the next level he needed to make the move to music city and it turned out he was right. Kent’s 2016 album “All American Mutt” debuted at no. 16 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart and was the only independent artist to crack the Top 20. Shortly after that, The Huffington Post called Kent a “must watch artist” and RollingStone.com named the album’s first single one of the Top 25 Country songs of 2016.

Kent is currently out on tour opening for Huey Lewis and the News (Lewis played on “All American Mutt”), but he’s made room in his schedule for this special homecoming show. Singer-songwriter Matthew Szlachetka, whose music has appeared in movies and television, will open the show. He will preview songs from his own upcoming record “Heart of My Hometown.” Tickets are $20 in advance and available at iheg.com, at the Northampton Box Office, or by calling 413-586-8600.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com


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