q&a: Homme, Macie Stewart & Sima Cunningham
Written by Madeline Happold
Girls who rock are cool. Two girls who rock together in perfect harmony are even cooler.
That's the basic makeup of Chicago-based rock duo Homme, the latest project of Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham. The two find complexity in simplicity: the pair describe themselves as "an experiment of voice, guitar, and sound." Homme may just be two girls and their guitars, but their music suggests much more.
The duo released their first album, self-titled Homme, in November 2015, and it sounds promising. The album bursts with beautiful harmonies, killer guitar riffs and fierce attitude. Macie and Sima recently sat down with Shredded after their performance at Pitchfork Music Festival to discuss their Chicago upbringing, signature sound, and upcoming tour.
Shredded: So I know you guys are Chicago natives, I wanted to know how long you’ve been in the Chicago music “scene” and some of the previous projects you’ve done.
MS: We both started in the Chicago “scene” around high school. Sima’s a few years older than me and she had a really cool band that I really liked called The Audience and I thought she was really cool, so I kinda knew about her from there and I think thats really how she got into the “scene” and doing her own solo music and playing around places like The Hideout. I was in the school musical in high school and she was a senior and I was like a sophomore or a freshman and her brother was starting a band and she heard me sing and was like, “Liam, you should really get Macie to be in your band.” So, I joined his band and that’s really how I knew all these people and got introduced into the music scene. We’ve just been going since then, played in a bunch of different projects, lot of the free-jazz “scene” recently.
Shredded: So you guys went to school together? How long have you known each other?
MS: About eight years?
SC: Yeah, about eight years, but we had only sang together about two years ago.
Shredded: I know that you’ve sang with Chance the Rapper and then Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, so how did you get into that hip-hop scene?
MS: Well, the band that I was in in high school was called Kids these Days and Chance’s first tour was with us in high school. We’ve just known all of them from being in Chicago public high schools, which there is a really great community of people there. I mean, this music scene, I feel like it’s so unique. Everybody is really tight-knit and really open to new music and seeing everyone else’s bands and working on everyone else’s projects. It’s really great. We’ve just known them for a really long time, since high school.
Shredded: And your music really differs from that, it’s very much more improvisational with beautiful harmonies, not only with your voices but with the two guitars, would you be able to walk me through your songwriting process?
MS: Yeah, sometimes I’ll bring in a fully fledged song, or Sima will bring in a full song, and we will kinda work on it together to figure out the arrangement, but recently we have really been trying to bring in ideas, or fragments of ideas and kinda shed those in our basement and work on those, playing them through, and then come up with arrangements from that. It’s a lot of just improvising in our basement and then recording it so we can listen back and see if we made anything that sounded good or had any potential and work from there. I feel like we’ve got a good connection going, it’s almost telepathic sometimes. We can figure out where one of us wants to go with something and it helps a lot when we’re just improvising together.
Shredded: Where do you get your inspiration, then, for that sound?
MS: Just listening to a bunch of different music. We really love Kate Bush, she’s got some really crazy vocal techniques that we are constantly impressed by whenever we listen to any of her records. We like Dirty Projectors, they do that hocketing thing that we do. It’s cool to hear them do it because they have three people doing it sometimes and it makes it really intricate. We love people like Neko Case. Anyone else you can think of?
SC: (pauses) Kurt Cobain.
MS: Oh yeah, we got some Nirvana vibes going on.
Shredded: So how was it to play Pitchfork today, which is a pretty big Chicago music festival?
MS: Oh man, when we finished playing it was like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. We were really fucking excited for it. It’s one of those things where you prepare to play for it for so long, well, I mean we were kinda added last minute so it was like, “AH” (excited screams) we were really going for it. Yeah, it was awesome, we go to this festival every year and it’s a great festival and a staple part of Chicago culture. It was really great to play, especially after Sun Ra, because we’ve been listening to those guys since we were really little and they’re definitely an inspiration to us.
Shredded: So how long have you been coming to Pitchfork would you say?
MS: For me like 4.
SC: Coming to Pitchfork, I’ve been here I think for 9 years.
Shredded: Wow, and it’s only been going on for, like, 11 years. So, what do you hope listeners, and maybe female listeners specifically, take away from your music?
MS: That they should just fucking go for it. There’s no reason that anyone shouldn’t be able to do whatever they want. As long as it’s not, like, hurting someone then I think everyone should just be able to go for it and be unafraid because fuck anyone who doesn’t let you do that.
Shredded: I know you guys have a show coming up recently in Millennium Park, what else do you have planned for the future?
MS: Yeah, the Millennium Park show we are excited about because it’s opening for Tortoise which is another one of our idols in Chicago, and Jeff Parker actually played on our album as well. We are planning on going to Europe in the fall, just a little tiny tour.
Shredded: Oh, awesome!
MS: Yeah, be on the lookout for some dates. Then we have two projects in the works. One’s a collaboration project with this awesome band from Asheville called the Ahleuchatistas, and then we are working on our own solo project sometime in the fall as well. Got a busy year coming up.
Check out the music video for their single "Woman" below:
Homme will be playing at the Jay Prtitzker Pavillion in Millennium Park on Thursday, Aug. 25. The show is free and open to the public. For more information about Homme, visit their website, or follow the band on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Photos courtesy of Madeline Happold. Contact Madeline at email@example.com, or follow her on Instagram.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Maren Celest.