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Central Standard

Kansas City Band HMPH! Shares Recipe For 'Sghetti Sauce'

Local musicians tell the story behind a recent song and explain how it was constructed musically in The Story of a Song, a monthly segment from  KCUR's Central Standard.

Artist: HMPH!

The Song: Sghetti Sauce

Music Career: Guitarist Ryan Lee Toms and drummer Jonathan Thatch created HMPH! in 2012. Thatch earned a degree in percussion from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. Toms, a self-taught guitarist, has been developing is non-conventional style for almost a decade.

The Story: Toms was inspired to write "Sghetti Sauce" based on a strange chord he created by quickly sliding his fingers up the neck of his guitar. He says its harsh tone sounded like, "somebody was probably wrecking their room to the beginning of [the] song." But Toms wanted "Sghetti Sauce" to embody both aggression and peace — he believes, "they both belong in everybody's life at certain parts, otherwise we wouldn't really be alive."

Following his dynamic vision, Toms contrasted the first section of the song with a soothing optimistic midsection melody. A turn of a guitar pedal nob transitions the song from stacked looping melodies to its final movement of reverberating oceanic sound waves.

The Music: HMPH! plays math rock, a genre of experimental rock typically based around rhythmically complex guitar. Toms uses five guitar pedals to give his sound depth and character. The pedals also allow him to play more than one guitar part at once, creating the illusion of a bigger band.

Thatch plays a full drum set, without using any electronics. Fretless bass player Devin McCollum joined HMPH! this month. Though he does not appear on their debut album Headrush, he will play on future records and live shows with HMPH!. A vocalist might appear in future work, but HMPH! remains instrumental only for now.

The Song:

Hannah Copeland is an announcer and contributor at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at hannah@kcur.org and on Twitter, @hannahecopeland.