Harley And The Hummingbirds Archive
Los Angeles 2017-20

It was September 2017 and I was once again in Los Angeles. I had always planned to come back when my Japanese visa ran out and though it was sad to leave after such a special year it was a relief to be back in an English speaking country again. It was also a relief to be reunited with the bulk of my home studio having shipped it from to Amsterdam a year earlier to my Mum’s house in Los Feliz. The minimal Tokyo setup had served its purpose but I was feeling the limitations when it came to recording some of the new material. I had only one concrete plan upon arrival, a Lemon Twigs show in mid-October, but I was ready to explore what else was on offer. Most of my contemporaries and even heroes were in LA so I was keen to meet them and hopefully climb the social ladder. It’s an unfortunate reality and one in which I thankfully no longer have to partake but the most effective way of getting somewhere in music is not through the writing of excellent songs but by knowing the right people. I wasn’t approaching it in a cynical way so I suppose it’s not completely vulgur, at the heart of it I just wanted to play with the musicians I admired, who wouldn’t want that?
Love, Love, Love live at Basic Flowers
I approached things much in the same way I did in Tokyo, I had a list of of artists I wanted to go see but in addition I was keeping an eye on venue listings, if a band had a good name then that was enough for me to go and watch them. Even if there was only a ten percent chance of going to the ‘right’ show I wanted to make sure I was there. The scenes proved a little more impenetrable than their equivalents in Tokyo but that was to be expected, an Englishman in LA naturally has less clout than a foreigner in Japan. I met up with Eli soon after arriving - much as I had done in 2011 - although we wouldn’t be forming a band this time. We had kept in touch and he’d even come out to Tokyo for a week whilst I was there. It turned out he was putting on a show in mid-October and offered me an opening spot. I couldn’t say no, I may not have had a band but there’s no better catalyst than a gig if you want to get things done. I advertised for members on Instagram and was contacted by Evan DiPietro, a fellow Wildwood student who was a few years younger me. He’d always been supportive of the band and was familiar with the songs, he even had a studio/rehearsal space that we could use. I went round there to run through the set bringing along my trusty Roland TR-66 since finding a drummer was proving tricky. This arrangement sufficed for the more up-tempo numbers but it was clear that the Roland wasn’t quite the comprehensive answer to rhythm that I had hoped and a fair bit of the set would suffer for lack of a real drummer. We enlisted Evan’s friend, Walker Kelly, who graciously agreed to drum for the show. I think we only rehearsed once with him but that was all he needed, Americans tend to be more proficient musicians than the English or the Japanese and that was certainly the case here.
Viva Pomona with The Pantones • La Habra Bowl • Madeline and me at The Smell • Jazzcats Studio
The show was at Basic Flowers and I’m being kind when I say the organisation left a lot to be desired. I may have arrived an artist but I left that night an audio technician, not a successful one mind you, the other bands suffered greatly due to my incompetence as a mixing engineer and stagehand. We were the first band on and my main memory is being unable to hear both the drum machine and my singing which made things a little bit tricky to say the least. Basic Flowers was an impressive venue (in a Da-Da/Folksy way) but it certainly wasn’t geared towards live sound, although I had seen Gary Wilson there two weeks prior and he was marvellous so some of the blame must lie with me. Evan and Walker took it in their stride though and held the whole thing down. Followup gigs proved hard to get so I devoted the next few months to recording some of the material I had prepared in Tokyo. I suppose I was retreating back into the studio. The LA music scene was more formidable than I had expected, granted I was hovering around a lot of Post Punk bands which may not have been the smartest move considering the style of music I was writing, but once you see a band like Cat Scan or Red Channel or The Mad Walls do their thing on stage everything else kind of pales in comparison.
Tape machine show at Bridgetown DIY
It was around this time that I went to the eagerly anticipated Lemon Twigs show at Teragram Ballroom. As far as fateful days go this was the big one, not just for myself but for many others as I would later find out. Relationships were made, relationships were broken, bands were formed, bands fragmented and it all seemed to centre on this event. I met Madeline, who would go on to be my girlfriend, at the show and even managed to sneak backstage where much to my embarrassment Michael recognised me from my failed drum audition video. Through Madeline and her band, The Pantones, I was introduced to the less intimidating San Gabriel Valley scene. She was playing DIY shows and though it felt very ‘small town’ it was more authentic than LA. I certainly felt more at home in the suburbs than trying to look cool at some bar in Silverlake. My desire to spend more time in this area unfortunately made the band lineup untenable given the distance from Santa Monica so a new approach had to be found. Hummingbirds Mk III ultimately only lasted one show and whilst it may not have been the grand entry into America that I had hoped it gave me a starting point.
The Midnight Man
I Wonder
Left In Line
In January 2018 I booked myself a solo gig at one of the aforementioned DIY venues, Bridgetown DIY. This was to be a tape machine show, just me and the Revox. As an avid Paul Millar (Slugbug) fan I had long wanted to do this sort of thing and now seemed like the right time, there was no band option and stage fright was no longer an issue. Owing to my antiquated recording methods very few of my songs had vocal-free backing tracks so I had to re-record most of the material explicitly for this show. I made life easy for myself and did it over a couple of nights on Garageband. A couple of these recordings would serve as backing tracks on the Drugged Me EP so you heard it here first, there are two digitally recorded songs in the catalogue! The audience was small but with Madeline’s support (and dance moves) it was a fun night of Karaoke.
Photoshoot for the Hummingbirds t-shirt, the first and only bit of band merchandise
Remarkably I still viewed the band as a commercial prospect even though I was living with my Mum and by most metrics was failing miserably. I was aware of the need to kick things into gear and The Pantones were inspiring me to do so. They were promotional machines, making small fortunes off of merchandise sales and effectively creating their own world which could then be marketed at a profit. T-Shirts were a must, digital sales too, and a strong presence on social media wouldn’t hurt. This side of band life was never something I had concerned myself with, I was quite happy to give everything away for free but I was starting to make inroads into the world of marketing. In all honesty though I didn't have much of plan when it came to a career. I had decided - whether consciously or subconsciously - not to concern myself with the future. I was well aware that T-shirt sales and digital downloads were unlikely to pay the bills but I just assumed that everything would work itself out. I began playing with other bands, most notably Boa Constrictors who I will talk about more in the next section, and Veneer who were one of the few Glam Rock outfits on the circuit. I would 'make it' somehow whether it was with my project or with someone else's, of that I was convinced.
Veneer live at Lot 1
In the meantime however my financial situation wasn't looking too hot. I may have had the luxury of a rent-free existence but the few expenses I did have were draining my bank account. I would sporadically look for work throughout 2018 and 2019. Naturally a job in some sort of music adjacent field would've been ideal but after getting rejected from Jonathan Rado's studio, Lollipop Records and a few repair workshops I swallowed my pride and applied for a job at Petco. It turned out that even Petco wouldn't even have me so I spent these years broke, jobless and surviving off the odd T-shirt sale and paid gig. My second and final solo event - it can’t be called a show - was an open-mic at Sam Ash a month after the Bridgetown one. The suburban Sam Ash open mics are notoriously bizarre and I can attest to this. Never in my life did I think I’d be in an audience watching a retired Chinese couple sing oriental opera followed by a 20 year old Mexican playing an instrumental War Pigs without breaking eye contact with me for the entire seven minutes. I may have been living in Los Feliz but this was surely my spiritual home.
Mo Dotti live at Sam Ash
Never Gonna Get Love
Drugged Me
Drugged Me, as its title implies, is a continuation of the previous EP. The songs are broadly similar in vein and are a continuation of the move towards Power Pop. I was still in the same frame of mind as when I was in Tokyo, wanting to write songs that could be played live, although now surrounded by my old gear I could realise them more fully as recordings. The first two songs are holdovers from Japan. The Midnight Man was the number that started almost every show and would continue to do so. I had recorded it once before but wasn’t happy with the outcome. Recording in a small Tokyo apartment was often quite difficult, vocals and acoustic instruments had to be kept to a minimum volume and certain recordings suffered as a result. I re-attempted it in Los Angeles and was able to get it closer to how I thought it should sound. Lies was another one like this, having featured in every show but with an acceptable recorded version remaining elusive. It took two attempts to record the final version. The riffs call for subtle speed deviations and it was agonising trying to get the basic rhythm track with the primitive drum machine speed control. I owe a lot to Kii, Takuto and Oli for this song, although I wrote it myself it was shaped on stage and a fair bit of what they did live would end up on this recording. Mo Dotti was both written and recorded in LA and was partly inspired by the band of the same name. I remember waking up in the middle of the night with the chorus stuck in my head and an idea of a superhero character called Mo Dotti. I grabbed my phone, recorded a mumbled version so that I wouldn’t forget it and went back to sleep. The song came surprisingly quickly, usually they take me a little while to finish but it only took a few hours of writing to have the chords, melody and lyrics done. I started recording it a week or two later whilst in the middle of a dreadful cold. I got the backing track down on tape and recorded a guide vocal to see roughly how it would sound. My throat was killing me and I was singing extremely quietly into my cheap Akai microphone with far too much echo but I played it back and to my surprise it worked. I rewound the tape, did a proper take and left it at that.
Recording Take Me Away From You (HQ Link)
Take Me Away From You was written in early 2018 for Madeline when she was going through a rough patch. For about two weeks I only had the first verse and didn’t know what to do for the rest. I continued to work on it, getting a little further each day until after maybe six weeks I had something approaching a song. I wanted a feel approximating Surf’s Up era Beach Boys which meant having to agonise over the bass and tambourine parts. Music nerds can probably pick up on the patterns/motifs I lifted, just little things like bass on the off-beats, chromatic runs, tambourine in the distance, the chord change in the middle 8th which I’m sure I stole from something off the Smile record. The vocals almost drove me half-mad, the song probably would’ve benefited from a strong singer but in the end I did the best that I could and settled. Both the music and the lyrics are unashamedly ‘Soft Rock’ but it is heartfelt.
Gibson SG Junior • Epiphone Frontier • Danelectro Longhorn Bass • Philicorda Organ • Roland TR-66 • Percussion • Tonebender • Colorsound Wah • Revox A77 • Revox B77 • DBX 118 • Hammond Reverb • Yamaha E1005 • Akai ADM-14 • Sony C38B
Hummingbirds Mk IV

When I moved back to LA one of the first things I did was go and see Boa Constrictors. I’d heard the Lemon Twigs mentioning them in interviews and after listening to the music I knew I had to get involved somehow. Classic Pop songwriters were few and far between and even fewer approached this level of quality. I went to a show in Long Beach and was shocked by the low turnout, I thought I’d found the ‘next big thing’ but few people were taking notice. It’s no slight on the band, quality and recognition very often run inverse to one another and anyway, it didn’t stop me joining them. I ended up as a bonus-member of Boas for a few shows, playing anything that needed playing whether that was drums, organ, even tambourine. The drive to rehearsals was awful, Joe (the frontman and songwriter) was out in Buena Park and my car seemed on the precipice of failure most of the time. It would eventually turn out to be a bad oxygen sensor, not catastrophic in itself, but the constant stalling out made the long freeway drives rather distressing. During one rehearsal I told Joe about my aspirations with the Hummingbirds and to my surprise he offered to play with me, not only that but his brother James - also in Boas - did the same. As you can imagine I was over the moon that my contemporaries whom I held in the highest regard were willing to play my songs. We went on to play six shows at various places in Orange County and the San Gabriel Valley, and though it began well the realities of the suburban music scene took its toll with low audience turnouts and the overall impression of being at odds with the climate of the time. We were both writing songs that were destined for another era, I suppose that makes us good candidates for Netflix specials in a decade or two. The shows may have been underwhelming but Hummingbirds Mk IV was my all-American band experience, suburbia at its finest with rehearsals in the garage, long drives, weird audiences and even weirder bands. Our Beatnik Bandito show was recorded in its entirety and serves as a snapshot of the lineup. It was the only time we attempted Take Me Away From You which I butchered and immediately removed from the set, this after spending hours driving Joe mad teaching him the convoluted bass line. Joe moved to Arizona shortly after but a year later we’d be at it again, touring as Boa Constrictors with the very band that introduced me to him, but that’s a whoooole other story…
Cover Photo: Joe Astle and me at Fourth Street Vine • I Wonder live at Fourth Street Vine
Rather than write about it all in the abstract it’s perhaps better to include a diary entry from the time to give more of a feel as to what was going on. Thursday 3rd May 2018: "I woke up at around midday having gone to bed late. I freaked out a little bit because in my semi-unconscious state I thought that today might be a street cleaning day and I’d get a ticket on the car, fortunately it wasn’t. I got up, got ready and was out of the door by 2pm. I brought the small Peavey amp today, I didn’t feel like lifting the heavy one and I wasn’t too impressed with the sound of it anyway judging by the footage of the Beatnik Bandito show. It was a long drive, over an hour, and I was watching the tachometer like a hawk, checking for the dips of impending doom. Once I relaxed a bit I started singing various things to pass the time. I got to Joe’s at around 3:15pm and called James to let me in. Their cat was lying completely flat, legs out, on the floor. It looked very cute and fluffy. We went into the garage and Joe arrived a little later. I like the moments with James before Joe arrives, he’s very shy and he reminds me of myself when I was younger, the conversation is always a little stilted but I can tell he thinks about a lot of things. Joe came in, flustered as usual so I gave him an hour or so to unwind. He says himself he doesn’t really do anything at work but I know how tiring doing nothing professionally can be. I played guitar and ate a packed lunch that Mum bought me while he did various things. We then started practicing the set, running through the songs a couple of times. He always forgets the parts at first but then they come back to him, James needs a bit of time to warm up but he gets going after a few songs. That ending on Midnight Man though, I don’t think he’ll ever get that right, I don’t know how he doesn’t hear it, oh well I can’t speak, I can’t sing Take Me Away From You properly, I suppose we all have our weaknesses. Once we finished we played Days (The Kinks) and a little bit of Strutter (Kiss) with the half-hearted intent to include a cover in the set. It didn’t really work out. We finished and played Tetris and Mario Kart for a couple of hours while James worked on his essay. I was lucky with the Tetris at first but Joe clearly had the experience. Mario Kart was a little more evenly matched, I spent many hours on that game when I was younger."
Beatnik Bandito Complete Show: The Midnight Man • I Wonder • Mo Dotti • That Girl • High Class Fun • Lies • Take Me Away From You
"It got to around 8:15pm so I left to catch the end of the first band's set. I got there to find an old punk-rocker/50s throwback on the little corner stage playing acoustic guitar and singing his heart out to a selection of earnest punk songs. It was a bit sad to watch seeing as there were so few people in the audience but I’ve always had a soft spot for the troubadour types. There’s a certain honesty, playing music in that way. The place was dead though, Joe said it would be a shit gig and it certainly was. I spoke to a member of Break Up Hospital for a bit and then the second act went on. This guy was clearly out of his mind but he had a certain charm. He was an old boy again, with psychedelic folk aspirations but with a lot of beer added to the equation. There was a little bit of magic underneath the unfortunate exterior but there was no hiding the damage. We were all in quite desperate circumstances I suppose. The Doll Hut is a proper dive, completely out of the way, literally next to a freeway with nothing else around it. To top it off there was a $5 charge at the door, no wonder there was nobody there. Next up was Johnny Kahn, it was shit. After that was Break Up Hospital and in came the Marshall stacks. It was ludicrous. There must have been three people in that bar and they played it like a theatre gig. Talking to an imaginary audience, volume up to ten. Professionalism is one thing, I understand that, but there are times when you just have to face reality. The music wasn’t to my taste but they shouldn’t have been playing in a place like that, I’m sure they’ll find an audience, just not in Anaheim. Perhaps I’m biased though, maybe they are just shit but they were the only act that spoke to me and they also stayed for our show. Joe and James arrived during their show so I went outside towards the end of their set. I felt so guilty, that’s how few people were there. I talked with them outside a bit, wondering if we should just bail, the promoter hadn’t even turned up but Joe said it would just be for fun, a bit of a practice. He was right, we were there, we might as well play to each other. Jeff arrived around this time, thank god there’d be someone to see us. We loaded the gear in and once the stacks came off the stage our more modest set-up went on. We played through the first song, not the best version but it didn’t really matter, couldn’t really hear my vocals, again, didn’t really matter. I was grumpy but then I looked at Joe and James and thought how nice it was to be playing with them. They’re lovely people and we’re all failures really, trying to play old fashioned pop music in a world that doesn’t really want it. With this in mind I did the rest of the set just enjoying playing some songs with two of my friends. We finished up and they left. I stayed to see the last band for a bit but it was just so loud and heavy. I left about half way through. Jeff and the guys from Break Up Hospital did too. I drove home at around midnight and got home an hour later. Found some parking on the good side of the street so I wouldn’t have to wake up early to move the car (street cleaning day). Had some food when I got in, post-gig food is so nice, especially since you usually haven’t eaten since breakfast due to nerves. Messaged Joe and James to say how nice it was to play with them. Eventually got to bed at around 3 or 4am. It was a nothing gig but it was a revealing day, I don’t regret it."
The Doll Hut in Anaheim • Meowmeowz in Pasadena
Future Superstar

By now I had released four EPs but no significant pieces of work. Even in the MMO days I knew that one of the main goals would be to eventually have my own 'Tommy' and I was reaching a point where I felt that it may be possible. I had planned to upgrade to a Tascam eight track Portastudio but the one I ordered arrived broken and upon second receipt - after sending it back for repair - the package was stolen from the front porch. I took this as a sign to continue with the existing recording method. It wasn’t going to be easy, I was intent on keeping the whole thing analogue which meant using the two stereo Revox machines and employing sound-on-sound recording, that is recording to track one, copying that onto the second track whilst recording the overdub, then repeat until every instrument and vocal is recorded. It was the way I had done it throughout the Hummingbirds but to employ that methodology for a whole album and maintain the desired standard was a tall order. The Future Superstar project didn’t explicitly start as an album, I first began writing the concept and material with a view to making it into a live show, I suppose Ziggy is the natural template for this sort of thing and it would be dishonest if I neglected to mention the influence of Bowie. I was aware that my gigs lacked ‘event status’, there was nothing larger than life about them and I was seeking to remedy that. I wanted a Synth player, a violinist, a light show and all the wonderful eccentricities one finds in 70s Glam or Prog Rock but that idea quickly fell apart when suitable members proved impossible to come by. Perhaps it’s for the best, I’m not a natural frontman so the ideas in my head would very likely have fallen flat on stage.
Cover Photo: Original artwork for the Future Superstar Demos • Recording the demos for Prelude, Goodbye and Out Of Time
Future Superstar Demos 2018
The songwriting process took the better part of 2018 (with the exception of Emily which was written in Tokyo) and very little of it came easily. Yes there were a couple of bits that popped into my head - I’m thinking of the "Oh my god, oh my god" chorus on the title track which came about whilst I was eating lunch and Goodbye which somehow got finished in about 15 minutes - but a great deal of it was agonising to write. I was spending hours and hours every day at the organ coming up with songs through sheer will and determination. I wouldn’t say I was uninspired but I really had to work for it. I decided to demo the album in its entirety for two reasons, one to create a guide of sorts for the final product and the other to provide a release that could be advertised with the hope that someone, upon hearing it, would allow me use of their studio/rehearsal space to record the drums for the final version. I was broke and since begging was out of the question this was the only way I could see the record getting finished. The demos were recorded somewhat haphazardly, little attention was paid to fidelity but the key elements were all there. I can’t have spent more than a couple of weeks recording it all. Once it was done and I had finished some sort of artwork I released it to the world. In some ways it’s a shame that the surprise of the final album was ruined and that people’s first impression of the music was this roughly recorded version. To be honest though, I didn’t have the clout for a big release, I needed to get people interested, gather momentum and for that purpose it worked wonderfully. Evan, by this point the official saviour of the Hummingbirds, offered his studio space for the drum recordings and a number people were expressing interest in the project. There was no time to lose and even though I was a bit anxious to begin recording with actual drums nothing gets you motivated quite like anticipation from others. As far as the actual demos go, most are fairly faithful to the finished product minus drums of course. My Darling and parts of Stop still had a fair bit of sprucing up to be done but the bare bones are there. Everything was recorded in typical Hummingbirds fashion although from the get-go I wanted it to be keyboard heavy, far more-so than my previous two releases which had eschewed lavish production for more a more energetic guitar rock sound. This was going to be my album of 70s excess and it needed the kitchen sink thrown at it, I was after all attempting to fulfill a decade long ambition.
Gibson SG Junior • Epiphone Frontier • Danelectro Longhorn Bass • Micromoog • Philicorda Organ • Tonebender • Peavey Bandit • Revox B77 • DBX 118 • Yamaha E1005 • Akai ADM-14 • Sony C38B
Recording the drums in Evan Di Pietro's studio space
I arranged to record the drums over the course of two days in mid-January at Evan and Walker’s studio space. I arrived in the morning, set up the gear, chatted with them for a bit and got started. I had brought my Revox A77 for the recording and was using the demos as a guide. In the past I've recorded drum tracks without a guide or metronome but this time I didn’t want to risk it, I was out of practice and all I could do as a means of preparation was play an imaginary kit along to the music (the real thing would have been far too loud). The day got off to a rocky start and deteriorated from there. It took hours to get a decent sound with the one microphone and once I did eventually begin it all seemed wrong. The drum parts weren’t fitting in and my playing left a great deal to be desired, add to that a developing headache due to the vast quantities of Diet Coke I was drinking and you get an idea of the dire straits I found myself in. Before I knew it night had fallen and I’d accomplished nothing. I drove home with the tape hoping that at least some of it was redeemable when listened to in a more familiar environment... It wasn’t, but it didn't sound quite as bad as I had thought. When listened to with a clear head I could pick out which parts were good, which parts weren’t and come up with a plan of action for the next day. I woke up early and made the journey to Santa Monica once again, this was my last day here and I had an album’s worth of drum tracks to record. I had supplemented my Diet Coke supply with a few Nutrigrain bars so I was better equipped for a long day’s work, and it was indeed a long day’s work. I ended up playing for nine hours straight and by the end of it I was in a very unusual state, part starving, part exhausted and partly hypnotised by both the pitter-patter of rain on the roof and extended exposure to excessively loud sound. The recordings may not have been as crisp and well-played as I had hoped but they worked with the songs and there was no chance I’d be putting myself through that again, the drums were done.
Flying in backing vocals and mixing My Darling (HQ Link)
I got started on the remaining tracks immediately, utilising the sound-on-sound method although this time paying more attention to the fidelity than I otherwise would. I had invested in an EQ unit especially for the project and more specifically for the drums. As the first track to be recorded they would likely undergo six or seven bounces by the end with each bounce reducing the sound quality somewhat, without some anticipatory equalising it's likely they would have disappeared in the mix. More care was taken with the other instruments as well, microphone positioning became a major consideration, as did tuning (both guitars and synthesiser) and in general I allowed my inner-perfectionist to take the reigns. The album also involved extensive tape editing and ‘flying in’ to achieve the results I wanted. I hadn’t done too much editing prior to this, it is after all a little nerve-racking physically chopping up your music with no undo button, but in this case it was vital. Take a track like Emily, were it recorded in the usual fashion each instrument and vocal would have to be played all the way through without stopping and each overdub would mean a generation lost and thus a diminishing of sound quality. By recording sections separately and editing them together or flying pre-recorded sections in I could avoid unnecessary generation loss and record in smaller chunks, the stress of trying to sing some of these songs all the way through would have been too much. The backing tracks went down fairly easily with only one hiccough, the first attempt of Out Of Time came out too polished and robotic so it needed redoing in a more laissez-faire fashion. The vocals were naturally a little more time consuming but what really killed me were the final overdubs. My bedroom was full of loose tape cuttings ready to be edited into place and what had up till this point been a musical endeavor started to feel like a logistical one. Little things like the slight speed difference at the beginning and end of a reel or the magnetisation of the cutting blade could throw a massive spanner into the works, not to mention the cutting and taping itself. If that wasn’t enough the counter on one of the tape machines literally shattered into pieces so finding the right spot on the tape (essential for editing and flying in) went from being an inconvenience to almost impossible. I soldiered on but the last week of recording more or less melted my mind. By March the record was complete and I released it to the world. I was proud of the work I did, it was my grand statement, certainly grander than anything I had done before and in some ways it was the only piece of work that would have lived up to the expectations of 18 year old me. I had come full circle and that Future Superstar would end up being my last major musical statement seems fitting in the grand scheme of things.
Future Superstar promo video (HQ Link)
The Concept
Overture - Roger, unsatisfied with his life, is presented with a choice to remain in the present day with Emily or chase fame and fortune by becoming becoming a novelty act 100 years in the future. The promises of those in the time travel company and his lust for success get the better of him.
Future Superstar - Roger contemplates his decision and Emily expresses her worries that he won’t return. Roger, knowing that there would be no going back tells Emily to take the same trip when she is ready. She’s heartbroken that he would make the decision to leave her.
… Of You At Night - Emily, upon Roger’s departure, tries to come to terms with his reasons for leaving and tells herself that she too will join him when she builds up the courage to leave.
Out Of Time - Roger, now in the future, adopts his role and is placed in a band called The Novas. The audiences are captivated by the living history and a glimpse into the freer attitudes of the century prior. Ultimately though he’s just another manufactured act from the past, one of many.
Stop - Roger is addicted to the adoration but in the back of his mind is aware of just how much he sacrificed in order to achieve it. He begins sleeping with his fans as a way to feel some sort of human connection in the absence of a real relationship.
My Darling - The reality overcomes him and though he tries he can no longer delude himself, he may be a star but his life has no meaning. The girls are nothing more than a temporary fix for his misery.
Emily - As the success becomes stale and the impact of his choices become apparent Roger realises that all he wants is Emily. His greed has driven him to sacrifice the most important person in his life.
Prelude - Roger’s fame has faded and as more travellers arrive, all of whom made the same choice he did, he sees the game for what it is.
Goodbye - With nothing left and with no indication that Emily will come Roger slips into madness and resigns himself to a life of waiting for her. He knows however that she will never arrive, he goes to her gravestone and waits for a goodbye.
Future Superstar front cover
Future Superstar back cover
The End Of The Hummingbirds

I was contacted by Michael Collins of Drugdealer in late 2018 to sing on a track for his upcoming album. I’d bumped into him at various venues around LA but had no idea that I was on his radar in that sense. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, I knew that I had to accept the offer but how would I explain to him the strict parameters necessary for someone of my limited vocal ability. This dilemma was made worse when the demo he sent as a reference had Michael D’addario, perhaps the most capable singer of our generation, on vocals. Apparently he had backed out last minute, unsatisfied with his performance, hence the situation I found myself in. A couple of informal rehearsals took place, the melody was sufficiently altered and before long I was at Sunset Sound, terrified out of my mind and face to face with perhaps the most expensive and star-studded (in terms of usage) microphone I had ever seen. I was a long way out of my comfort zone but when opportunities like this arise one would be foolish to let them slip by the wayside. I knew that his album would be coming out early the following year so there were a strict time limit on the completion of the Future Superstar record. It may have been a cynical promotional ploy but I had to make sure it was out before the Drugdealer release in order to capitalise on any attention that might come my way. I was right to do so, as soon as Raw Honey came out I was inundated. I’m not sure why, my vocals sound like Ringo on a bad day and it’s fairly mild-mannered rock but hey, who am I to question it.
Cover Photo: New Mexico during the Boa Constrictors 2019 US tour • Photos from the Drugdealer Fools video shoot at Valentine Studios
The record was followed up with a show at Teragram Ballroom and a video filmed at Valentine Studios in North Hollywood. This was the Indie equivalent of the big time, there was talk of me getting signed to Mexican Summer, the record was being listened to and it felt as though the years of grind were finally paying off. As if that weren’t enough I got a call shortly after this from Joe in Arizona and before I even picked up the phone I knew exactly what he was going to say. I’d heard whispers about a Lemon Twigs summer tour and knowing his proximity to them I knew that a support slot was on the cards. I’ll leave the details for the dedicated Boa Constrictors page but sufficed to say 2019 was turning out to be an eventful year. Prior to the Boas tour I had bought a Fostex 16 track machine and in one of my finest moments of haggling managed to bring the price down from $900 to $180. I felt as though I had taken two track recording to its limit and was scarred by the experience of making the album, I was done proving my point, I wanted to be able to multitrack record. The machine required a complete electrical and mechanical overhaul so I figured I might as well go all out. Inspired by Greg’s Sandbox (gregssandbox.com) I built a 70s IBM style cabinet to house both the machine and the mixer. An immense amount of time was spent repairing the Fostex and constructing the cabinet but ultimately I ended up recording only one song on it.
My main preoccupations at the time: sewing (home-made jeans) and DIY (the cabinet to house the new Fostex 16 Track)
The building process
I would never have admitted it at the time but I derived more meaning from the repair process than the music. Achieving a long-standing goal is perhaps one of the worst things an individual in a creative field can do but that is exactly what I had done. Future Superstar was the perfect record in that it was a representation and encapsulation of everything I had done in the last ten years. Whether or not it succeeded musically is for each individual to decide and purely a subjective matter but artistically I had reached the pinnacle of what I could hope to achieve. I was playing less and less and pursuing other interests, whether that was learning to sew my own clothes or getting back into Snakes and Reptiles - a childhood pastime I was forced to abandon due to the repeated international moves. The receipt of a dulcimer, a birthday present from Madeline, rekindled my interest somewhat. I had nothing left to say in the Prog/Glam idiom but I had always been an avid fan of the Folk Revival groups, Steeleye Span in particular whom I introduced to Madeline and in doing so rekindled my love affair with their music. I spent the latter part of 2019 devoted to the formation of a new concept, a Folk album that would tell the story of John Kipling, the only son of Rudyard Kipling, who died fighting in the First World War. I agonised for months over it but the songs weren’t coming. I wasn’t prepared to settle for sub-par material, in my mind I was competing with the likes of Tim Hart or Martin Carthy and to produce anything that fell short of these artists in their prime would not only be disappointing but would render the album meaningless, why listen to my work if all that it ends up being is a pale imitation of something else.
Recording the demos for John Kipling and High Command
An unusual bout of the flu in October 2019 (yes I am very much entertaining conspiracy theories) would put an end to this pursuit regardless of how I felt about the thing musically. The initial sickness was nothing out of the ordinary but it left me battling throat issues for two years after. Singing became an impossibility and so with the world seemingly telling me to stop, I did just that. I had a good run, success may have eluded me but 2019 was about as perfect a year as I could have hoped for. I was also about to turn 30 and there are few things less appealing than an old rocker trying to live in defiance of reality. In retrospect I acted with extreme prescience considering that covid was just around the corner and the measures in response would end up destroying what remained of the LA music scene. Whether we liked it or not the baton would be passed on to the next crop of bands... and so that is where the story of Harley And The Hummingbirds ends.
Hanging On
Los Angeles Tapes 2017-20
These recordings mark what I believe is the end of the Hummingbirds. With Madeline I was being far too emotional for my own good but it's an honest piece with a charming baroque chord progression. Tomorrow was the catalyst for Nova Police. I was enamoured by the Post Punk scene in LA at the time and wanted to make something analogous to it. I was listening to Kraftwerk's Radioactivity a great deal along with Ultravox and Gary Numan. This Hummingbirds version has a doubled vocal whereas the Nova Police one doesn't. I'd had the skeleton of Hanging On for months and had I finished it sooner it likely would've ended up on Future Superstar. I worked on it during the Boa Constrictors/Lemon Twigs tour of 2019 and completed it when I got back home. It marks the only Hummingbirds recording done on a multitrack tape machine, the Fostex E16 to be precise. It shows in the increased audio quality but I can't help thinking that the move away from the tried and trusted Revox method signalled the end. I'm proud of the song - even though the chorus is an obvious Cat Stevens rip-off - but I don't think it's the Hummingbirds in spirit. John Kipling and High Command are the only snippets available from my unreleased Folk project. The sound is pure British Folk Revival and the album would have been about the life of John Kipling, son of Rudyard Kipling, who died in 1915 in the First World War. A spell of poor health prevented me from going further with the project, perhaps I'll come back to it one day.
Gibson SG Junior • Epiphone Frontier • Danelectro Longhorn Bass • Micromoog • Philicorda Organ • Dulcimer • Roland TR-66 • Drums • Percussion • Peavey Bandit • Peavey KB100 • Fostex E16 • Revox A77 • Revox B77 • Mackie CR-1604 • DBX 118 • Hammond Reverb • Yamaha E1005 • Akai ACM-100 • Akai ADM-14 • Shure Unidyne • Sony C38B
All songs recorded in Los Feliz, Los Angeles.

Photo and video credits: Angie Hill • Lynn Hirshfield • Jeremy Stilgenbauer • Mikey Ortega • Mikey Ortega • Jeremy Stilgenbauer • H Hill-Richmond • Madeline Doctor • H Hill-Richmond • Madeline Doctor • Megan Tracy • Joanne • Madeline Doctor • Angeline Doctor • Madeline Doctor • Madeline Doctor • Madeline Doctor • H Hill-Richmond • H Hill-Richmond • Amber McCall • Weston Garr • Reginald Doctor • Unknown • Rachael Ann • H Hill-Richmond • H Hill-Richmond • H Hill-Richmond • H Hill-Richmond • H Hill-Richmond • Joe Astle • H Hill-Richmond (till end) • Madeline Doctor