Indie rock band Hummingbird Horizon emerges from UNI

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Sofia Legaspi, Staff Writer

An up-and-coming indie band that calls itself “Hummingbird Horizon” found its start at UNI.

Describing its music as “savory, delicious, tasty indie rock that is absolutely scrumptious,” the group experiments with a wide range of styles and influences ranging from folk to psychedelic.

“We’re dabbling in a lot of different sounds, and we’re really just trying to find our unique sound, our central voice,” said band member Brandon Lynch, a senior studying philosophy and digital media production at UNI.

Hummingbird Horizon (often shortened to “HH”) includes four members, all of whom are current or former UNI students and based in Cedar Falls. Founding members Lynch and Harry Schoening — both guitarists and vocalists who have known each other since high school — made their debut under the name “Leather Jackets” during a lunchtime Maucker Union Live performance in February 2018.

“We got that name because we both came back from winter break that year, and we had both gotten new leather jackets for Christmas,” said Schoening, a junior marketing major who described their first performance as “awful.”

“We didn’t sound great, no,” Lynch added. “But it was our first show. Also, people were there to do homework, eat lunch, chat with friends; they weren’t really trying to listen to some dudes play crappy rock music.”

The duo had signed up to serenade the Maucker Union audience in preparation for a bigger gig they had booked the following April at Octopus on College Hill.

“I think we got off that mini-stage with a good amount of confidence just because we had finally gotten that first show off our backs,” Lynch said. “So it was definitely a valuable experience.”

After their first performance, they discovered their band’s name had already been taken by another group and began brainstorming a replacement.

Schoenig recalled sitting in Rod Library experimenting with alliteration. The options had come down to “Hummingbird Hand Grenade” and “Hummingbird Horizon,” but Lynch made an appeal for the latter.

“It had something to do with, like, hummingbirds flap their wings 80 times a second, and they don’t live very long lives, so they do a lot in a short amount of time,” Lynch said. “Death’s on the horizon, so do as much as you can — something like that.”

The newly-named band added a drummer in October of 2018. John Chambers, who graduated from UNI with a business administration degree in 2015, was walking out of local music store Bob’s Guitars when he saw a poster advertising the need and contacted Brandon.

We corresponded and met up and jammed, and then we started doing writing and stuff and have just kind of been stuck with me since then,” Chambers said.

Hummingbird Horizon was completed a few months later when they connected with their fourth member — bassist and former UNI student Erick Hill — on the website Bandmix.com.

While all four bandmates share a passion for music, each traveled down a unique path to find it. Hill first got into music when his best friend introduced him to the band Blink-182 in high school.

“I fell in love,” he said. “That was, like, the only band I listened to for three years.”

He started learning their songs on guitar and writing his own music. Later on, he discovered his favorite band at the time was looking for a bassist.

“I’d never played bass before,” he said. “I was like, ‘I’ll do it. I’ll learn bass, I don’t care.’”

Like Hill, Lynch is largely self-taught on the guitar; he picked it up about six years ago, heavily influenced by singer-songwriters like John Mayer, Vance Joy and Ed Sheeran. Schoening, on the other hand, has been playing the instrument for almost his entire life.

“I picked up my dad’s grandpa’s guitar when I was five and played with a bottle cap because I didn’t have a pick,” Schoenig said. His parents gave him an acoustic guitar the next year.

“It had, like, flames on it. It was red. It was sick,” he said.

Schoenig took guitar lessons until his instructor had nothing left to teach him. He continued learning on his own, citing the song that most struck his interest as Santana’s rendition of “Black Magic Woman,” which influences his musicianship today.

For Chambers, who has been playing guitar and drums and writing music for about 14 years, music is cathartic.

“I’m not a painter or a writer or any of these kinds of things, and I think that I like music because I’m able to create something that comes from my own mind,” he said. “I like that feeling of being able to outlet some of that creativity.”

It’s an outlet that is often better when shared with others, and for Hummingbird Horizon, the trope claiming “the more the merrier” has rung true.

“I realized that playing in a band is way more fun than being on stage by yourself, just having that cameradarie and creating a bigger sound with other people,” Lynch said.

Some of the band members’ favorite memories include their performances together. Their first tour as a group — the Summer ‘19 Tour — stopped at local venues in Iowa and Minneapolis where, according to Lynch, they played a crowd of “nobody” aside from the sound guy, the bartender and one friend.

Nonetheless, the band has also played to larger and more enthusiastic crowds. Lynch recalled one show in Des Moines where audience members sang along to their first single, “The List.”

“It was like, ‘This shouldn’t be happening; we’re a brand-new band,’” Lynch said. “That really showed me the potential that we have to create more songs like that in the future and connect with people in the audience, no matter how small it is. So that was really an empowering time.”

Since its four members came together, Hummingbird Horizon performances have comprised solely original songs. Their debut EP titled “Meta” is available on SoundCloud and Bandcamp, and “The List” can be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music.

While “The List” is a crowd favorite, Schoenig said his personal favorite song from their EP is “Avalanche,” an intricate track that exudes indie rock nostalgia.

“It was such a hard song to learn for us and it took us months to perfect,” he said.

“As a cohesive unit, it made us better,” agreed Chambers, who wrote most of the song. “When we finally got to the point where we could play it well, it felt good because it took us so long.”

The group was in the studio working on their first full album before COVID-19 hit. Although social distancing guidelines have slowed the process, they have found ways to collaborate virtually and continue to share recordings and song ideas with each other.

Originally planned to release as early as late 2020, the album’s completion is now anticipated in early or mid-2021.

“We’re taking this seriously. We want to be taken for real,” Lynch said. “So we are going to come out with a kick-ass album and then after that, book a ton of shows — it’ll probably be like a tour. So just be ready for some HH because it’s coming your way whether you like it or not.”

Hummingbird Horizon can be found on Facebook, Instagram and most music streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and SoundCloud. They can also be contacted through [email protected]