While naming their band Human Resources is something drummer Matt Zutell, guitarist/vocalist Dries Vandenberg, bassist/vocalist Aaron Utterback, and keyboardist Paul Chelmis has had some fun with — like using Facebook posts as office memos and addressing their fans as their co-workers, for example — there's always the certain danger of being both unGoogleable and having some pretty boring action come your way, too. "Yeah, that has been an issue," explains Zutell. "We get hit up by departments of corporations, and they send us these messages, like, 'Just wanna let y'all know about the retreat or the seminar this week.' It happens to us all the time. We respond like, 'Rock and roll, see you there,' and they're like, 'Oh crap, we thought you were something else.' So we kind of shot our selves in the foot, but at the same time, it kind of works, too."
Though the band has been making new-wave rock sounds as Human Resources for about a year now, the lineup has been together since they were juniors in college at Appalachian State. Back then, they were Donnie Dies, a band whose music was a far cry from the electro-indie sound that has established them in Charleston. They were, believe it or not, a jam band. "That's good for that market up there, but we grew out of just wanting to be a jam band playing infinite solos and 20-minute songs and stuff," Zutell says. "So, Human Resources became a project where we actually wrote songs and everyone had parts, and it was more of a product. It's about the songs and actual catchy things and not just making songs half an hour long."
Coming from someone who says he's mostly influenced by artists like the Cure, Radiohead, Pheonix, and the Strokes, the band's evolution into Human Resources definitely makes more sense — as is evidenced on their debut record, En Route. From the hooky, radio-ready lead-off track "Queen" to the early '80s synth sounds of "Settled In" and the dance-rock and vocoder vocals of "Restart," En Route reflects the band's natural-born personality.
But Zutell was born to be more than a member of a band. After pursuing internships at Ocean Industries and producer Mark Bryan's Chucktown Music Group, he founded local recording agency and label Coast Records. "I've been recording music ever since I was a little kid with a karaoke machine, tape, and a single mic," he says.
From his middle school bands to Human Resources, Zutell has been at the helm. And the next project in store for Coast is a brand new EP from Human Resources. Though it's only been six months since their debut record, Zutell and company are already six songs into a new collection that's less upbeat and more ethereal than En Route.
"This stuff kind of has more air and space and breeze,' he says. "It has a little more ambience, a little like Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse — indie-rock stuff."
But there are also moments on the new EP that Zutell compares to Mars Volta, Prince, and even Katy Perry. "So it's a little more eclectic," he says. "But it's a lot more conducive to our market now."