Forged from the pools of friendship, artistry and blessed boredom comes the smooth psychedelic sounds of HAMJAM. With vivid synths and the prized flavour of “blissed out sadness”, their psych-rock sound is the spawn of mutual musical flair between local Perth talents Hamish Rahn (Ham, touring member for Methyl Ethel) and James Ireland (aka Jam, touring member for Pond). After racking up a whopping 80,000 plays on Spotify with their track Love, the quirky duo hook into a plethora of entrancing tunes with their debut album a/s/l? Delving into the process that brought the dazzling haze of sounds to life Rahn spoke with SARAH DAY in the lead up to the release of a/s/l?
How are you? Ready to jet off overseas I hear…
Yeah I’m good thank you! I’m at the airport right now, heading to London, Luxemburg, Wales and Amsterdam. I’m playing with Methyl Ethel, so playing some guitar and synth with them.
How would you describe the personal touch you bring to HAMJAM?
I don’t know really, we’re both losers (laughs), so it’s just kind of the thing that we do when we’re not doing anything else. I suppose my own personal touch would be that if I didn’t do anything, well if I didn’t write or try to write then I guess it wouldn’t happen. James and I write the music together, but I guess if I didn’t have that little moment of going like — oh, this is a great idea — and pursuing that then I guess nothing would happen.
Are there any major influences that impact the music you make with James?
James and I both listen to a lot of rap music; I like the way that they work, I think that it’s very inspiring. People like Young Thug and Future, Lil Uzi Vert; just looking at the way that they work makes me want to work harder.
What kinds of music were you brought up on and has that influenced your personal style?
Mum’s really into Australian music so I suppose I was raised on a lot of Paul Kelly, Midnight Oil, stuff like that. Mum was really into that pub-band scene, being 20 in the 80s I guess that’s just the sort of music she really liked. I think it’s just such quality song writing, like you can take away all the fancy production and it’s still a great song, so I suppose that’s what we’re trying to do as well with HAMJAM.
Are there any local Perth acts that you’re really digging at the moment?
Worth a listen are, well, you know, I can’t really bag out Methyl Ethel because they’re sitting right here (laughs) and POND’s pretty good; no that’s just a joke there’s lots of them I really like Eraser they’re cool and Cool Band when they still existed — I was listening to them just the other day actually.
The lyrics in the track Lean off your upcoming EP a/s/l? explores an interesting state of mind, can you tell me what inspired the song?
Having a cocktail of too many downers while I was very sick? See if you can figure out from the rap music influence where that came from – but yeah basically I was very sick and I had had way too many downers and that song came out of it.
Was your health a major hurdle in getting the album together?
Yes well I got very very sick, bed ridden for about six months. I got something called Pilonidal Sinus ‑ you can look it up if you really want to scare yourself – but yeah basically it wasn’t fun and it just took a really long time.
The saxophone is a funky addition to Lean, how did that come to feature in the song?
Well you can add this one to the list of producers that I like, Jack Doepel, he lives in Melbourne now and he plays the saxophone on that track and is also an amazing electronic producer. Initially it was like a synthesiser saxophone, which sounded pretty shit — it’s still on the track actually, just in the background — but then we put the real saxophone over the top to have the two together. Usually with the instruments it’s a fake instrument that I’ve just found for free on the internet and sometimes it’ll sound good or other times we’ll just get the real instrument to do it.
What are your thoughts on the Perth band scene at the moment, are there any venues that you particularly enjoy playing?
I think it’s great, I just don’t really feel like I’m a part of it. In certain circles I guess I do, but with the band scene I don’t really go to many band gigs anymore. I go to lots of DJ’s and I like going to raves and stuff like that but I don’t really follow much of the band stuff. The Bird’s always great, we’re trying to do some more DIY kind of stuff at the moment, trying to book in to play at the bowls club again; we’re trying to set up doing our launch there. I mean we live in Perth, it’s the most beautiful weather so we’re just trying to do more stuff outdoors.
You recently posted on HAMJAM’s Facebook page expressing outrage that Senator Scott Ludlam had to stand down from his position; does politics have much of an influence over your life or creative process?
Well my day-to-day life is very heavily influenced by politics, but not so much HAMJAM; we try to keep the politics out of it. I was very upset to find that out, you know he was someone who actually represented a lot of the feelings that myself and my friends, and hopefully a lot of young people have and it was shocking to see him go that way. Especially when people who have done exactly the same thing still remain in parliament.
Are there any gigs on the horizon for HAMJAM that we can pencil into our calendar?
Well we just had to cancel BIGSOUND unfortunately, just because James isn’t going to be able to make it back in time from his POND tour. We’ll be doing the launch in October, probably at a bowls club and probably at Mojos.
Finally, what’s your favourite achievement as an artist to date?
I’d say just Mum not hating it and thinking I’m a loser (laughs). You know, to have Mum and Dad be like, yeah cool, at least if he can’t do anything else he can write songs.