When Dan Messé was forming a band in Brooklyn, in 1999, the New York City borough had yet to become an epicenter of hipster rock. Their origins are quaintly analog: Messé placed an ad in the newspaper seeking a lead singer, and Sally Ellyson gave him a cassette tape on which she had recorded a lullaby. That vocal became the first track on the band's debut album, Rabbit Songs. "When I heard Dan's music I was so moved," Ellyson tells Kurt Andersen. "I thought this is exactly what I would want to be singing."
Hem's hushed, country-inflected music predated the current wave of indie folk, but won the band critical acclaim and a strong fan base. In the studio with Kurt, Hem played two songs from their new album Departure and Farewell, including "Tourniquet," a melancholy ode to the Brooklyn these musicians knew before it was cool.
Video: Hem, "Walking Past the Graveyard, Not Breathing"