The title of Human Resources’ new album is Champagne, and it’s probably the most on-the-nose description in one word there could be. The album is light and bubbly at first, but the more of its luminous contents the listener consumes, the more pain is found fluttering through its pastel exterior.
And there are plenty of opportunities to feel that way because Champagne is considerably longer than other Human Resources releases, sitting at 11 songs. “This is our biggest body of work,” says drummer Matt Zutell. “This is definitely the most complete body of work I think we’ve collectively put out.”
The album’s sound lies somewhere between the sunny flair of electro-pop and the guitar-synth combo of electro-rock. It feels unfair to call it either/or in this situation. “Deals” dances between the two. The hook is bright, catchy, and based in the vocals, like any good pop song, but the instruments have a warm depth and crunch to them.
The same goes for second single “Amigos.” The descending riff springs around as the basis for words like “This face is just a side-effect of old age/ When all the expectations fade away/ and I’m left here wondering who to blame.” There’s even a little bit of Random Access Memories thrown in during the keyboard solo.
Human Resources also use their connections to bring on some local favorites from the scene. “There’s little bits of our friends in there,” says Zutell. Keon Masters from Brave Baby stops by on “Sri Lanka” to indulge in a bit of ’80s sonic nostalgia. The track has a post-punk revival aesthetic, but replaces the second guitar with a synth and trades the gritty vocals of early Strokes for the clean vocals of late Strokes.
SUSTO frontman Justin Osborne joins the party on “Atlanta.” Osborne and Human Resources put heavy imagery into song. “I told my lover in Atlanta I’m leaving/ I took her heart and left a scar,” they sing. The song is an audible goodbye in more than just the lyrics. Musically, it’s a melancholic trip into the narrator’s unknown future.
“We typically do everything ourselves, internally,” says Zutell. “But for this particular album, we did two of the songs with a guy named Taylor Locke out in Los Angeles.” Locke was a founding member of alt-rock band Rooney. In their time at Locke’s studio, Human Resources recorded lead single “Sylvia” and “Caught Up.”
The band is absolutely excited with the way the album turned out. “To me, I think it’s the best one yet,” says Zutell. “It’s kind of the accumulation of everything we’ve been doing put into one album.” The band’s influences are present (The Strokes, Daft Punk, Phoenix), but it’s got a life of its own. Champagne doesn’t lean too heavily on its forefathers, carving out its own place.
The album is the product of a year of demos. “We’ve been working on the album off-and-on over the past year,” says Zutell. Recording for Champagne actually started in Zutell and Aaron Utterback’s house, when they were living together. The band then finished tracking the album in Coast Records’ new downtown studio. It’s only fitting that Zutell, the creator of Coast Records, was able to use his new location to finish his band’s album.
For a lot of reasons, the stop-and-start method was the only way to get material written for the band. Human Resources’ guitarist is Dries Vandenberg, who also plays in SUSTO. “He’s on the road with them quite a bit. They play like 250 days a year,” says Zutell. “We kind of get together and do the band around his touring schedule.”
In addition, Zutell is usually busy running Coast Records. “We’re all personally involved in other things,” he says. For the band, though, it makes the work a little more special when it does happen. “It’s sort of our personal artistic passion project,” says Zutell.
But, the guys in the band are happy existing largely on the internet. Good things still happen to them with a strong web presence. “To make this band work for us at this point, we’re doing it in a way just makes sense for everybody,” says Zutell. “Friday night we played for Bleachers at the Georgia Theatre, which was a sold-out show.”