Safe in the center

Humilitarian band
Philly’s Humilitarian, like so many, had its plans disrupted by the pandemic. But now the group is prepping new music to be released in a couple of months. | Image: Sidra Droese

Philly band Humilitarian, like most artists, had its life disrupted by the pandemic. But the timing was especially bad for this group.

In February, Humilitarian released its self-titled EP and had a stacked schedule of shows, including a second visit to Original 13 Ciderworks in Kensington, which was about to explode as an all-ages and small-touring-band-friendly venue. Following that, they were set to take the stage at the Upstairs at the Khyber Pass Pub – a legendary space that has housed artists like Iggy Pop and The Strokes, and Ortlieb’s, a Philly favorite across genres. Finally, their very first show in New York City at the Hart Bar in Brooklyn was quickly shut down during the first wave of “small gatherings” limitations implemented when COVID took over. 

But the band, which formed in February 2019 after all five members met in the Temple area by attending or performing at basement shows in the area, found ways to keep going by building on the success of “Humilitarian,” which included the first four songs they ever wrote together during those dusty basement days.

Half of the band are roommates, which led them to trying to collaborate on music over Zoom and through texting or email. It wasn’t perfect, but the roommates were able to livestream instrumental versions of their songs at two livestream “festivals” hosted by guitarist Brendan Clarke and their music-scene-planner/manager-extrodinaire Ellie Farissi.

The group worked on new songs that were recorded in the home studio owned and operated by guitarist Noah Wise at his residence. They hope to have a five- to six- track EP ready to release around November.

Humilitarian’s sound is drawn from jam-band psychedelia and crunchy alt-rock, laced with touches of funk, jazz, and indie rock.

In addition to guitarists Wise and Clarke, the band consists of Elijah Glovas-Kurtz on drums, Tucker Pendleton on bass and Kira Cappello on vocals.

Philadelphia Weekly recently caught up with the band to talk about its music and career. 

So all of you met when you were part of the Temple music scene. How did you know you’d be a good fit? Did everything click from the beginning, or did it take awhile for all of the pieces to fall into place?

While there was definitely an adjustment period while we adapted to each other’s styles, some of us had already known each other from school, the scene or a general friend group, so it wasn’t too tough for the pieces to fall into place. In the first two months as a band, we finished five songs, so it was a great period of rapid output. Those songs became the material for our earliest sets in basement shows, and eventually, our first EP.

We never planned to be a band, most of us got together to help out our guitar player, Noah, with a recording project (Euclid’s Wake), and based on that song we got offered a gig. We weren’t really a “band,” but we decided to do it, quickly picked a name and wrote some new songs. We had such a great time with our first ever gig that we decided to keep doing this together.  

Eli: Some of us had been in the same friend group for a time and had jammed before, but it wasn’t until Noah approached all of us individually to join together for a show on a Saturday night and basically play as a jam band which then evolved into us joining together as Humilitarian. 

Your self-titled album came out this February. What’s been the reaction of your fans? How can people hear it?

We were met with such enthusiastic responses from friends, family, our peers in the scene, and people we met along the way who’d seen us play, which was so reaffirming because we were very proud of the EP! It was also super cool to have our songs “Safe in the Center” and “Hold My Breath” played on WXPN (88.5-FM) and WSTW (93.7-FM), respectively. The EP is available wherever you stream music, including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, BandCamp, etc. 

What’s the Philly music scene like these days? Do you think the city has had an influence on your music? Are there any local acts that you like to listen to/perform with?

Kira: I’m not sure if the city necessarily influences our music sonically, but I can’t imagine playing anywhere else, as in, we’re so lucky to live in a city with a vibrant and involved scene.

I don’t know if Philly has a particular sound that has influenced us, but the environment in which we play is so diverse musically and very accepting. The vast majority of our interactions with other bands, venues and people at our shows has always been friendly and encouraging, which really inspires us to keep doing what we are doing. 

Humilitarian hasn’t let the COVID shutdowns derail its career. Despite losing a bunch of gigs, the group has found ways to keep going and now has plans to release new music soon. | Image: Sidra Droese

Some of our favorite local acts that we have a mutual friendship and support with include Faucet, Carly Cosgrove, Agent Honey, Twin Beds, and Mandala (CT). We’ve played so many killer shows with these bands, and they were among the first to hype up our EP at its release, and we try to always do the same for them, because we genuinely love their music and want to see them have a lot of success.

You’re now back in a home studio working on a batch of new songs. How’s that coming along? Will the compilation have a different sound than “Humilitarian?” Do you still think it will be released sometime around November?

We’re really looking forward to putting out this next EP. We’ll also need to decide on a title for it! This EP definitely draws on our strengths and favorite influences, but we think it has a more cohesive feel as we’ve settled into ourselves as a group over the last year or so. Our first EP was just that, our very first, and we feel we’re coming to distill our sound that has a lot of different influences and moods. 

Our strengths include writing our music as a group. Everyone is contributing their own part and we always find a way to make each individual mesh with what everyone else is doing. Release is set for November or early December.

These days, it’s tough to look too far into the future, but what do you think is on the horizon for Humilitarian? Where would you like to be five years from now?

Like every performer right now, we’re not sure what comes next in terms of what we can do safely and successfully. The health and safety of our country has to come first, so in the meantime, we’ll continue writing, recording, and livestreaming. In an ideal, COVID-free world, though, we’d have loved to spend this summer touring through the Northeast with a group of our band-friends. Five years down the line, we hope that the venues and small businesses that have been so harshly affected by COVID-19 will stand a chance at thriving again, and through touring and playing shows, we’d love to be a part of supporting such places.

Brendan: It is our dream to travel this country, and hopefully others, through music. To get to see new places and meet new people and experience the music of other cultures, while also sharing ours, is hopefully something we will get to be doing in five years.

What are the best ways for people to keep up with you, hear your music, etc.?

We will be hosting a live stream this fall to preview some of the new tracks from the upcoming EP, as well as revisit some old favorites. We encourage our listeners to keep up with us on social media for all details, date and time of the live stream! For now, our music is available everywhere, just search Humilitarian. Our socials include Instagram: @humilitarian_phl and Facebook: @humilitarian.phl.

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.

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