Hum never quite broke through to the mainstream with its two ’90s albums, but the group did leave behind the memorable No. 11 Modern Rock chart hit “Stars” before disbanding in 2000.
Now, that distortion-laden, riff-heavy song is experiencing a rebirth thanks to its usage in a Cadillac TV commercial. 29% of its 26,000 digital sales have come since mid-September; the week ending Sept. 16, the cut experienced a 118% increase in weekly sales, followed by an 87% uptick the following week.
Former Hum frontman Matt Talbott is slightly bemused by the new attention to “Stars,” especially considering “people have always said this or that about using our songs in movies or commercials and nothing ever really comes of it.”
In this case, Talbott got an email out of the blue from “some guy at an ad firm asking about using a song for a commercial,” but it didn’t say which song or which potential client. “I said, ‘Yeah, sure, whatever man,'” Talbott recalls, assuming the email was a hoax. “But he wrote back and told me more, and when I knew it was for real and that it sounded like a large campaign, I called my lawyer.”
When it was active, Hum was signed to RCA, which was since absorbed by the Sony BMG merger. The band also still has a publishing deal with BMG Music Publishing (now part of Universal Music Publishing Group). But because Hum never recouped on its RCA deal, “we were probably not entitled to much or any of the money” from the Cadillac ad, Talbott says.
In fact, “Stars” hit the airwaves before Hum’s members were aware that any deal was finalized. “Every year I go play golf with my dad and some friends. We were at a hotel just sitting around and the commercial was playing,” Talbott says. “But we had the sound down. My wife called and said, ‘Everyone is calling our house! What’s going on?'”
However, “The label has been great. We told them we’d like a cut. We’ve been treated very fairly by Sony,” Talbott adds.
Hum has played a handful of reunion shows in the past four years, and three of its four members still live in Champaign, Ill. However, Talbott says there are no plans for the band to play or record again, mainly owing to family and logistical concerns.
“We had some songs that never got recorded. There was a thought that maybe someday we’d go record them,” he says. “And we get offered shows but we almost always have to say no because of logistics, or just a lack of desire. It’s blips here and there, and usually for big occasions. We got a very kind and generous offer from a club in Chicago for New Year’s Eve, but we had to say no. For all I know, Hum may play 6 of 10 more times in my lifetime or we may never play again.”
Group members are aware of the glut of reunited alternative rock bands now back in action at such festivals at Coachella, but Talbott says, “I don’t know if we’re cool enough for that festival. We’re kind of meatheads, when it comes down to it.”