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Humans Among Us launch project with single

Sweetwater employees find common ground with space rock sound

Humans Among Us, from left, Josh Kattner, Ashe Davidson, Aaron Steele, Carin Steele, and Jason Villarreal, recently released their first single off their upcoming album and are featured in the latest ALT Homegrown Spotlight.


Published March 8, 2023

When you talk about Humans Among Us, I guess you could say they are a little out there.

Formed during the height of the pandemic, the quintet of Carin Steele, Aaron Steele, Jason Villarreal, Ashe Davidson, and Josh Kattner have not played a live show, but have recorded an album, We Come In Peace. And, unlike many city bands, they opted to do it professionally at Sweetwater Studios.

If that’s not enough, this space rock band is coming out of the gate with a sort of concept record.

“This is only the first half of a full album,” Davidson said. “We’re recording it in two stages. We’re going to start with the six tracks we have, then after we play around and build up a little notoriety, so to speak, we’ll go back and record six more and release that as one big album.”

Until the entire project is complete, they’ve gotten themselves on the radio and in ALT 99.5 FM/102.3 FM Homegrown Spotlight.

Parts fit together

While the world was on lockdown, and music venues were far from opening for shows, Aaron Steele was looking for a music project after his previous band, Horizon Arcs, had called it quits. 

“It started in 2020 when I was talking to (my wife) Carin about starting something new, something different, but I wasn’t sure what,” he said. “Carin had been interested in singing, too, so I thought it would be interesting to do something with a female vocalist.”

Working in the marketing department at Sweetwater, he came across Villarreal and inquired about forming a band.

“Jason and I started talking and I asked if he played, and he said, ‘Yeah, but I play weird spacey stuff,’ ” Steele said. “I was like, ‘Hm, tell me more.’ ”

After feeling Villarreal out, he popped the question.

“He approached me, and was like, ‘So, my wife Carin, she sings,’ and I was like, ‘Uh-oh.’ ” Villarreal said.

As it was, Carin Steele is not our run-of-the-mill singer.

“I’ve been singing my whole life: elementary school, junior high, and school choirs,” Carin Steele said. “Then, for high school, I attended LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (in New York City). I was a dual-major in vocal and instrumental.”

“They used to dance in the halls,” quipped her husband.

“We didn’t dance in the halls,” she exclaimed. “Those were the dancers on the eighth floor. We didn’t associate with them. I’ve done off-Broadway musicals, sung at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.”

With that kind of résumé, it was then Villarreal who was uncertain of his abilities.

“At Sweetwater, everyone’s a real good musician, so I’m always like, ‘Yeah, you don’t want to play with me,’ ” he said.

And it was at Sweetwater that they found Davidson (drums) and Kattner (keys) after putting a classified ad on the company’s internal server.

“I figured, well, I just moved and I’m not in a band, so I might as well check it out,” Davidson said of the ad that was seeking a drummer for a space rock band. “I feel like it stuck right away.”

Expansive sound

With the band complete, they began working on their sound, which can really vary.

“At first, I just wanted to play ambient, post-industrial, weird rock stuff,” Villarreal said. “This band is just fun to play with. There’s definitely that core of that weird, ambient noise through there, but I think the cool thing about this band is it’s a, ‘Bring it in, and we’ll find a way to play it’ approach .’ ”

“Definitely more mellow, more chill, but what’s really cool about what we did is, we didn’t want to be confined to a certain sound or genre,” Aaron Steele added. “We feel like it’s a very artsy, spacey sound, but if we wanted to bring a punk song, we could. If wanted to bring a jazz song, we could. If we wanted to bring a (Red Hot) Chili Peppers songs, we could. So, we really want to keep it open.”

And when the band seems to get a little too chill, Davidson is not shy about letting his kit intervene.

“A lot of times, Jason and I tend to lean more towards the slower, droney sound, but then Ashe comes in and says, ‘No, no, no, we’re going to play this a little faster,’ ” Aaron Steele said. “He brings the energy to the song.”

Going professional

The band has produced a chilled, spaced-out sound with some funk that goes perfectly with a bean bag, lava lamp, and blacklight. 

You can get a feel of the band with their single “We Come In Peace,” which was released on streaming services Feb. 28.

And to get their complex sound, the group ponied up for time in the Sweetwater Studios.

“They just got that new Rupert Neve board, which is just amazing,” Aaron Steele said. “Our engineer was Jason Peets, and he had set microphones up all over, so he actually recorded us to be able to mix in Atmos. We’re not going to put it out in Atmos yet, just because it costs a little more, but we like having that option to do so down the road.”

With four of the members working at Sweetwater, using the facility’s state-of-the-art studios was a no-brainer.

“I market the studio, so I tell people they have a Nashville quality or L.A. quality studio right here,” Aaron Steele said. “We’re one of the few that have this major console and Atmos capabilities.”

“Having the opportunity to record there has given us something that will live on,” Villarreal said. “We all kind of want to have that artifact.”

“For me, it’s like, ‘I play guitar, have a bunch of guitars, but what do I have to show people for them to listen to?’ ” he added. “I really wanted something, to not really prove that I’m a guitar player, but to have a creative endeavor, a creative output.”

Eventually, they would like to play live shows, but for now, the focus is on producing more music.

“We recorded the six-song EP because we wanted to get something out there, and I just want to keep writing more,” Aaron Steele said.

“Right now, I’d love to just be able to play around here. I don’t know that we have any lofty goals. We just enjoy playing music and making music, and putting out music that we want to play.”

You can find the band’s music and social links at humansamongus.com

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