El Club in Southwest Detroit is littered with glow sticks, blow-up palm trees, and balloons. A pair of DJs with skipper hats on are warming up the room with tech-house jams. A few people are already dancing. Unaware this was a themed party, I've got a tiny umbrella in my gin and tonic.
The vibes are warm and fresh, and for a minute, I forget we're in the middle of a Detroit winter. My friend picks up a balloon to volley across the room. The balloon says "Humons." We smile to each other and watch it bounce from human to human until it finds an empty, human-less zone. Both of us track its slow and graceful surrender to the floor while activity whirls around us. So far this is what the night is — observing, human-watching — girls dressed in smart '90s rave garb, and boys in sweaters, Hawaiian leis, and knit caps.
Washed in a zig-zagging row of bright white lights, two figures emerge onstage. My focus locks on the mic where the man behind the music stands in a royal blue bomber jacket, accompanied by a drummer, who wears a neon green cap on top of a mess of long curly hair. Starting from their single, "Underneath," the show progresses seamlessly, and by the end I'm elbowing my friend, going, "Who knew this would turn into a house show!"
Humons is the creation of Ardalan Sedghi aka Ardi. He's unassuming, with an honest face and an effortlessness about him. He's not trying to win your affection; he's here the same reason you are, to share something with the community he moves within. There's a feeling it was never his intention to get attention, yet here we are.
"I've been writing music since I was a young lad in middle school... that would be around 2003," Ardi says. "Humons started in 2013 and that is the first time I had set to write and release music with some sort of intention or coherent theme."
His setup is simple: a laptop for some backing tracks, a keyboard, a controller designated to a drum machine, and a small vocal effects box that's locked on the mic stand. Oh yeah, and there's the mic. Humons would be a complete one-man live operation if not for the addition of drummer Mike Higgins, which Ardi says, "definitely stepped the live show up a notch. I'm grateful to have his talent and energy onstage."
An eclectic mix of minimal electronic, pop, and experimental sonic animation — born from a process and method that continues to evolve with each track — Humons draws most of their influence from Detroit. "We are blessed with some of the world's best electronic music be it at Movement or at TV Lounge on any weekend," Ardi says.
At this El Club show, the material Humons is sharing is the recently released Spectra EP — most of which was recorded at Ardi's home studio, "aka my bedroom," he says, "but I did some additional recording at Assemble." The mixing and mastering for Spectra EP were done at Assemble with producer/engineer Jon Zott (Tunde Olaniran, JRJR, BØRNS, ect.). "He is absolutely great to work with," Ardi says of Zott. "He took the EP to the next level with his production prowess."
The album, while pristine in its original form, will be reimagined into a full package of remixes that will come out each week over the next five weeks. The first, a remix of "Underneath" by Detroit-based Mega Powers already dropped at the beginning of the month. Other Detroiters who will join the party are Jon Zott and Monty Luke. Elsewhere, there is Color War from New York and Diamondstein from Los Angeles. "It's a cool project for me," Ardi says, "not only because I'm a fan of what all of them are doing musically, but also because three of the five artists were involved with either Spectra EP itself or were a part of the EP release party."
Having lived in Detroit for the last five years, Ardi is cognizant of the limitations of such a city, as well as the undeniable benefits, which, at times feel like intangible energies rather than citable stats supporting the fact that Detroit is indeed growing from more of an artist "launching pad" to something of a viable "home" — meaning that artists won't have to keep leaving to expand their reach, their creativity, their income. But maybe leaving is also part of a necessary process, an experience that any creative might eventually embark upon. One has to remain open, become cultured, grown in a scope that is not always accessible so far removed from the entertainment capitals of the world. We've all noticed a definite shift, growth, and rebirth in Detroit over the years, but I was curious of Ardi's thoughts on what has changed to alter the struggle. The fan base? Raise the ceiling? I had to ask.
"As with most places there's definitely pros and cons," Ardi says. "It's easy to survive as an artist financially and there is a lot of hidden talent here, but it's hard to grow beyond a certain level because the industry hasn't been around for a while and there simply aren't that many folks living in the city to build a local following."
If that sounds like the same old problems, well they are, but Ardi seems confident that things are gaining important momentum.
"In the past, it's felt a bit isolated in terms of everybody just doing their own thing, but I think that's starting to change, especially with groups like Assemble Sound," he says. "I'm definitely hopeful about the music scene here, as we start building resources and connections — helping our local talent develop into its potential."
That said, Ardi is playing it safe — Humons isn't a full-time gig. "Both from a financial and a personal standpoint, I don't think it's the move for me right now," he says.
Not surprisingly, being able to support yourself as a full-time artist is one of those unicorns of the industry — a fantasy for most, rare way of life for some — those who have talent, luck, dedication, and an amazing work ethic on their side. That said, sometimes that part-time job is fuel too — offers balance. We've always been a working-class city. Maybe that balance of jobby-job and artist is unique to what makes Detroit artists such an impressive breed — as it's a lifestyle that begs respect rather than the opposite.
"I have been putting in more energy and time into it since about last October leading up to the release of Spectra EP," Ardi says. The opportunity was there to keep on keeping on — a natural progression of well-timed successes and good live shows that has allowed Humons the pleasure of riding out that wave.
As for the future, Ardi isn't making any predictions, just figuring out his personal evolution as it goes. "I'm getting more and more interested in dance being a main goal as it relates to live shows," he says. "There is such a great energy that comes with a group of people dancing together."
This interest will likely translate to the next batch of songs he's writing alongside aforementioned co-producer Jon Zott and drummer Michael Higgins. This year they'll all be in the midst of creation, getting heady in the studio, having fun, vetting out ideas, and learning in the process.
"It's a good challenge," Ardi says, "and I think the result will be great with the live drums and synth takes." He hopes to have a new album available by the end of the year.
Other than that, Humons is working on designing some T-shirts. As to his long-term plans, he's keeping it pretty loose. Ardi doesn't imagine a typical music career for himself — atypical is more of his flavor anyway, but his goal maintains a basic simplicity. "I want to keep writing music, getting better, playing live shows, and building an audience so that the music is being heard and enjoyed."
The tracks mentioned in this article can be found at soundcloud.com/humons.