THE HUMANS are an innovative, contemporary rock band comprising Toyah Willcox, Bill Rieflin, Chris Wong and Igor Abuladze. The group brings together four lifetimes of musical experience, experimentation and craftsmanship. The band are the brainchild of renowned and celebrated performer and songwriter Toyah Willcox.
THE HUMANS were formed in 2007 after Toyah was invited by the Estonian ambassador to tour Estonia. Highly experimental, the band reflects the distinctly different musical backgrounds and life experiences of its members. This creative formation marked a radical departure for Toyah who comments: “The songs are deconstructed down to the bones of raw experience, exposing human nature and irony”. Dispensing with the conventional rock band line-up, the DNA of The Humans consists of the voice (taking much more of a role as instrument) flanked by two bass players, with no designated drummer or guitarist. Although recorded and live work can include programmed drumming, beats or guest guitar, the intention is to allow space for the vocal to sit above and alongside the soundscape rather than compete with the noise of a rock band.
Before they had ever set foot into a recording studio, The Humans premiered their material in 2008 with a sell-out series of concerts in Estonia attended by the Estonian president. These songs then formed the basis of their debut album We Are The Humans, which was recorded in Bill Rieflin’s homeground of Seattle. Produced by Rieflin, the 10-song album was mixed by Don Gunn & Rieflin and mastered by Simon Heyworth (Tubular Bells, Brian Eno). It was released in May 2009 to coincide with the band's return to Estonia to headline at ‘Tartufest’. Album highlights include the eerily, ambient Quicksilver, the majestic, Demigod and the live band-groove of Icarus. The Humans quickly carved out their sound as European experimental meets West Coast American grunge with overarching avant-garde and filmic qualities.
The album received its UK digital release in September 2009 along with the band’s first single, These Boots Are Made For Walkin’, a provocative, 21st century twist on the Nancy Sinatra classic, featuring guest guitar from Robert Fripp. This track was recently used by the BBC on their television coverage of the World Cup football final matches, reaching a substantial audience of worldwide viewers and listeners.
The Humans marked their first ever live UK appearances with a series of warm-up concerts in the very intimate and beautiful surroundings of St. Michael's & All Angels' Church and St. Anne's Church, Worcester. These were followed up by dates across the UK, featuring special guest Robert Fripp playing live with the band.
They also appeared on the bill of acts invited to perform at The Roundhouse for the Helping Haiti fundraiser concert. The Humans tour culminated in a headline date at London’s Scala, yielding a 4-star, review from the Financial Times who concluded it was an “intriguing, often terrific, show” with “programmed beats, sinewy, rumbling rhythms, a kind of twisted funk”. Their set included a presentation of the entire debut album, newly written songs and their unique interpretations of These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ alongside the Hendrix classic, Purple Haze.
THE HUMANS dedicated three years to establishing their sound, songs and performance. Crystallizing what is at the core of The Humans' manifesto, their second album Sugar Rush bears a cinematic density with stirring moments of exhilarating energy (Sugar Rush) tender contemplation (Love In A Different Way) and brooding soundscapes (Sea Of Size). The album also features guest guitar on all tracks from Robert Fripp. Sugar Rush garnering acclaimed reviews both stateside and in the UK, drawing conclusions that it sounded like "that record we might have gotten if Tori Amos & Trent Reznor had ever come together for a full album".
Fellow Seattle-based, musician Igor Abuladze joined the Humans in 2011 as they embarked on an international tour in support of Sugar Rush. Taking up the drums and percussion, Igor performed with The Humans on live concert dates on the east of America and UK including their rapturously received show at London's Bush Hall. Abuladze has now officially become the fourth Human and will re-group with Willcox, Rieflin and Wong to record the material for their third long-playing record.
The Humans will take to the stage once again for a short run of intimate live UK dates in the summer of 2012 before recording their third album. The Humans enjoy writing and recording but are even more at home on stage. They are keen to perform their audio fairy tales for adults to other humans in cinemas, theatres, churches and other unusual spaces alongside traditional rock venues. If you get a chance to catch this unique hybrid of haunting and sweet, it might just make you look differently at the human race.
The last words about the band go to a music journalist who encapsulated the band and their recordings as "the musical equivalent of a drive through a part of town you've never seen, and just when you think you've got the area figured out, you pass a sign welcoming you to the nearby town with restaurants of a different vibe, and even the sky looks a bit different. But don't consider driving back now, because you're on a one-way and the scenery stays intriguing."