New Fumes emerging at Opolis tonight
By Doug Hill
Daniel Huffman is the lone member of New Fumes. It may seem odd that he’s playing solo because among his past gigs was as guitarist for The Polyphonic Spree that currently has 18 members. New Fumes is bringing a psychedelic rock performance to Opolis tonight.
“I feel like ‘psychedelic’ is a bit of an overused word,” Huffman said. “I try to make it a three-dimensional experience with a colorful visual element if everything works correctly.”
He credits technology for giving him the ability to perform his style of experimental music with the added enhancements of video and other moving imagery during the show.
“I have a computer on stage, a ton of guitar pedals, loops and sequencers,” he said.
Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys, The Doors and the Rolling Stones were among the music Huffman was exposed to in his childhood. He grew up with the pioneers of psychedelic sound. What Huffman does is a 21st century re-imagination of that blast from the 60s and 70s. Newer influences have included Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine.
“It was shoe gaze music with guitars that didn’t sound like normal guitars,” he said. “There was a mystery to me how they made a portal open up and these sounds come out. It was fascinating.”
Huffman’s own psychedelic experience may include the found sounds that any of us hears in daily life.
“People opening doors, letting their dogs out, insects doing their thing, the wind blowing, each element can be part of the symphony,” he said. “It can be a dynamic orchestra.”
“When I was in high school I never took drugs or drank but people thought I did because of the weird pictures I drew of strange characters,” he said. “I’ve always been drawn to other-worldly-sounding music as well like the Flaming Lips.”
The Flaming Lips have been drawn to Huffman, too. It’s a relationship that has developed over 20 years through mutual friendships. Huffman played in a band called Comet with drummer Josh Garza, University of Oklahoma alumnus now with NY-based The Secret Machines. Both men grew up in Mesquite, Texas. Garza was former band mates in Syringe with George Salisbury who has been the long-time visual wizard for the Flaming Lips. They all performed in the Dallas music scene.
“We started going to Oklahoma to see shows by Glue, Syringe, the Chainsaw Kittens and the Flaming Lips,” he said.
Huffman became friends with Wayne Coyne who brought him into the Lips’ fold as a road hand and then playing guitar occasionally on stage.
“I did that one summer on tour but we’ve kept in touch over the years,” he said.
Huffman worked on the Flaming Lips’ 2008 movie “Christmas on Mars.” He poured vinyl for the Heady Fwends collaboration EP releases in 2011 that included a number of other guest artist recordings including himself as New Fumes.
“I’d pour all these different colored vinyl into the machines in Dallas to make the records then deliver them to Oklahoma City,” he said. “Next thing I knew I was recording and playing shows with the Flaming Lips.”
Currently Huffman enjoys the exploratory elements of his art.
“I like finding soundscapes and recording them,” he said. “Technology opens so many doors and it’s really fun all the things you can make.”
Crafting melodies and writing songs has included inspiration from sources some might not expect.
“In the car I’ve mostly been listening to 50s, 60s and 70s soft rock,” Huffman said. “Most of those are love songs and I don’t have many love songs.”
His compositions take a layered approach to lyricism with stories inside stories that certainly receives no cues from AM radio fare of a generation ago. Huffman’s audience are rarely baffled by cryptic lyrics.
Huffman cut his teeth playing live shows with a band called Ghostcar in Dallas. He used to sweat bullets before going on stage but eventually overcame being intimidated. Ghostcar did a lot of improvisation and the key for Huffman was not to over-think and just let the music flow.
“I’ve learned to be braver in my live performances,” Huffman said. “You just have to get up there and do it, there’s no room for letting fear overtake you.”
If You Go
What: New Fumes in concert with Quilted Cherry Podium and Applied Music Program.
Where: Opolis, 113 N. Crawford Ave.
When: 9 p.m. July 26
New Fumes coming to a galaxy near you.