The Internet doesn’t have a ton to say about the young band Human People yet, but their own words, hiding in the “About” section of their Facebook page, suffice as context for music that requires little context. Four women living in New York, they call their genre “powerpuff,” warn to “hide yr dadz” in their description, and, in a bio as crisp as it is funny, they call themselves, “Four punk princesses taking the highway to riff town.”
At first, the contrast between the humor of their self-ascribed identity and the serious grit of their music, plus the psychological angst it captures, is jarring. Led by Hayley Livingston’s voice, which ranges from perfectly apathetic to a mild snarl, and backed by the dense fuzziness of simple guitar parts, Human People’s EP Veronica seems straightforwardly punk. As flippant as their self-description is, though, it offers a useful hint about the band’s music: Nothing is quite as it seems.
Take the opening song, for example. “Cancer,” following a recognizable chord progression on a distorted guitar, presents as a rock song steeped in equal amounts of bubbly pop and disinterested punk. And that combination of genres works as a descriptor too; singing “I’m sorry sometimes I get emotional” and “Sorry I’m a cancer to you and everyone,” the band captures the self-pitying spirit of pop-punk. In the last section, though, a joke reveals itself when Livingston sings, “You wouldn’t know / You’re a Capricorn.” Incompatible astrological signs might be an irreconcilable difference for some, but it is certainly has a lightening effect on the singer’s claim that she is toxic to those around her.
The second track, “I Don’t Want To Go Outside” takes a similar turn, though with a weightier outcome. With just a crackling guitar and Livingston’s voice, the song starts with descriptions of anxiety, saying, “I don’t want to go your apartment / And have to walk back alone.” At first, the nature of the worry is obscured, and it seems like irrational fear. Then, the second verse uncovers more, imagining a “straight white man just shooting me up… / He wants my fucking head mounted on his wall.” The anxiety is pointed and politically loaded, examining the (gendered) strains of living in a world that threatens your ability to be alone on the street at night or comfortable in your own home. The song ends powerfully, enacting a sustained wail with the screeching of a guitar solo.
The final song, “Permanent Vacation,” talks about loneliness in a melody so upbeat it has echoes of Best Coast. But it also has an unhinged quality, exemplifying Human People’s tendency to stray from the beat a bit—a controlled breed of sloppiness that lends to their music a more visceral experience, as if it were live. They’re prolific and magnetic performers, which no doubt comes from the chemistry and fun reflected in the way they talk about themselves and the balance of lightheartedness and gravity with which they approach their music. And they’ve managed to capture all this in the three simple songs on Veronica.