Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Connecticut’s The Human Fund. Together we discussed Seinfeld, influences, NFTS, their upcoming tour, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have The Human Fund join them at Music Shelf. How is everyone doing?
Zach Fontanez (Drums, co-lead vocals): Livin’ the dream, homie!
Ryan Borowy (Bass, backing vocals): Still here!
David Taylor Coffey (Guitar, co-lead vocals): I’m alright! Keeping myself alive, a little caught up in work and such, but I see a light at the end of it all! Maybe that light is because my head’s caught on fire… But hey! I’m havin’ a blast!
2. You are Connecticut’s #1 pseudo-political two-piece neo-psychedelia indie garage punk orchestra. Can you recall the moment you won this honor?
Z: This may come as a surprise, but the competition among pseudo-political two-piece neo-psychedelia indie garage punk orchestras in Connecticut is actually pretty slim. We put out a thing on Facebook challenging all the other ones to a rumble in the Lowe’s parking lot at midnight to determine who was superior. There wasn’t a whole lotta engagement on the post, but our mamas didn’t raise no marks, so we went out there at the promised time and said “ALRIGHT YOU RAT BASTARDS, COME ON OUT AND FIGHT!!!” And nobody came out, so we kinda won by default.
D: I don’t know if it happened quite that way, but I honestly can’t remember for sure, so I’m taking Zach’s word for it! Of course, we might have to rescind that title now. With Ryan joining the party as our bassist, we’re no longer a two-piece, at least not all the time. But hey, we’re probably still Connecticut’s #1 pseudo-political three-piece neo-psychedelia indie garage punk orchestra!
3. Your name references a fake charity from popular human television show Seinfeld. How did George Constanza inspire the band?
D: For those unfamiliar, “The Human Fund” was a charity that George created in the episode, “The Strike.” so he could get out of giving people gifts for the holidays. Instead of presents, he gave people cards that said, “a donation has been made in your name to the Human Fund.”
In Seinfeld, The Human Fund Charity was a scam designed to look like a legitimate organization. We try to expose similar scams and nonsense with our songwriting and our imagery. I think it’s very evident with our use of anthropomorphic animals in suits and the general pseudo-professionalism we try to espouse. Politicians, CEOs, or other public figures, they’re not some holier-than-thou gods among men-so to speak. They’re humans, and humans are just animals; just evolved primates. It’s even a reference to ourselves-we may look like professionals, but we’re just monkeys in business suits up there on the stage.
4. What is everyone’s favorite episode of Seinfeld?
Z: I’m actually a huge poser, most of my experience with the show is through Seinfeld Power Hours, which are clip compilations on YouTube used as a drinking game. But if I had to put it together based on the clips, I’d say I’m partial to the one where Kramer just kinda pretends to work at that office, and he’s there for like a week or two before anyone catches on. That’s how I’m tryna be.
R: The one where Kramer fills a washing machine with cement. That’s my type of madness.
D: Oh God that’s a hard one… I could take the easy way out and say, “The Contest,” but there are a lot of classics-most of which have aged pretty well! The holiday episode where we got our name, “The Strike,” is also a classic. “The Marine Biologist” is also phenomenal and I probably quote George’s speech about the whale more than anything else from the show.
5. Mustard has observed that humans love origin stories. When did The Human Fund officially form?
It’s difficult to say for sure when “The Human Fund” became “official.” We started playing together as a duo around October of 2019. Dave had been playing solo and wanted to put together a band for a Halloween show. Having been familiar with Zach’s prowess as a drummer, he reached out to him about getting together to make music. Ahead of our Halloween set-which we played as The White Stripes-we realized that we had a very natural chemistry and decided to go forward with making it a real band, writing our own music and performing out more regularly. Zach’s other band at the time wasn’t terribly busy, so he jumped on board. We played one show as “The Arlecchinos” before deciding on the name, “The Human Fund” by December of that year.
6. Who (or what) influences The Human Fund?
Z: We always describe ourselves as Bass Drum of Death meets Circle Jerks. We’re very influenced by the garage rock revival of the 2000s and 2010s, with a healthy dose of old-school hardcore punk, your Minor Threats and Black Flags and Dead Kennedys of the world. Personally I draw a lot of influence from the Northwest Indiana scene, all the like, egg punk/devocore stuff that was coming outta there for a good few years. I found out about that stuff a couple years ago and haven’t shut up about it since. I’m hoping to work some sonic cues from that into the new stuff we’re working on.
D: What Zach said. I’m also going to throw in some other names such as The White Stripes, The Cramps, Ty Segall, and all the classic garage rock and proto-punk bands like The Sonics and Death. We use a lot of punk and garage rock techniques and sensibilities to communicate about the other-often negative-things that inspire us. These include late stage capitalism, humanity’s hubris, and the importance of prioritizing your mental health.
7. What is The Human Fund’s creative process?
Z: Well what usually happens is something gets on Dave’s nerves and then he tells me about it, oftentimes accompanied by a scrap of information: a riff idea, a song he wants to write a similar song to, or even just a fun idea for a title. Then I write some stuff around it, and we basically bounce it back and forth until we’ve got a song. And lately with Ryan in the mix it’s been yet another brain, bigger than both mine and Dave’s combined, I would argue, to bounce stuff off of. It’s very organic!
D: Basically what Zach said. I’ve sometimes described Zach as a “Human AI” where I’ll give him an idea that I have for a song-and then he goes ahead and writes it. It doesn’t always happen that way, so much of it is a back and forth between us, building on what the other has done-and it’s only continued with Ryan.
8. 2021 saw the release of your single “United Freaks of America.” How soon after Candence Owens tweet did you begin writing this song?
Zach: I had to do some digging on this one. First I found the tweet in question, she posted it on 6/11/20. Then I went back in me and Dave’s chat on Messenger and the first ever demo of the song is actually in there dated 7/13/20. So I imagine it took a minute to get to Dave in the first place because he’s got better things to do than watch G-list conservative pundits on Twitter like a hawk, then it took ME a while to come up with the lyrics and the tune. So I’d say a couple weeks after the initial tweet we headed into the lab!
9. What can humans do to challenge and combat harmful mindsets?
Z: I’d say the war starts at home. You have to recognize harmful mindsets that have been programmed into you by the capitalist system at large, and realize that we are conditioned to perpetuate said system by believing it’s the only system that works, and that in order to survive we have to be in constant competition with each other, rather than in collaboration. Once you understand why these mindsets exist, and who benefits from their propagation, you can get to work on dismantling them.
R: Practice honest and open communication across the board. Seek empathy or at least sympathy in all situations. Embrace the madness within.
D: Be humble, understand that you don’t know everything, and there’s pretty much always more to learn. Ego is one of the biggest catalysts to getting into harmful mindsets. And perhaps it’s not even necessarily ego, but the fact that someone might not understand the complexities of the world. Looking for easy answers or scapegoats in vulnerable communities is a bust; the world is complicated, and what’s making your life more difficult is not drag queens, trans folks, immigrants, people on benefits, “un-manly men,” workers on strike, minorities, or any other marginalized group. There are power structures in this country that have upheld the capitalist system that are ultimately affecting our day-to-day lives in negative ways.
Education, self-awareness, and ultimately unlearning what society has ingrained in you, is a huge stepping stone to undoing these harmful mindsets. There’s more than just that, though, it’s ultimately about building a better world. I believe it all starts with patience, understanding, and mutual aid. Help each other out, be ready to learn and grow, and hopefully we can all be better off because of that.
10. You followed it up with “Rips Off Other Musicians” which is a cover album. What do these songs mean to The Human Fund? How do you decide what to cover?
The album was released for Halloween weekend-it was an idea we had for awhile-wanting to honor the tradition of doing covers for the holiday. All the songs are personal favorites of ours from musicians we love, and quite a few were tunes we had already played a few times live. Of course, being that it was Halloween, we had to throw in some spooky songs; that came out with The Misfit’s “Hybrid Moments” and “Human Fly” by The Cramps. “Kids In America” was something we learned for that album, and was a great way to tap into our not-so-secret love of New Wave music.
11. Mustard wonders what the heck is an NFT? How did they inspire your single “Screenshot The NFTS?”
D: “NFT” stands for “non-fungible token.” It’s basically a digital certificate that says that you’re the legal owner of a piece of digital art. They sell for a lot of money and the amount of electricity and power that goes into sustaining them is horrendous. If any of this is confusing, you’re not alone, they are an asinine development in this late capitalist dystopia we are living in.
“Screenshot The NFTs” was written as a critique of said “non-fungible tokens” and how they only seem to exist to make the ultra-rich feel more superior. At the end of the day, anyone can screenshot or save these pictures, the song is meant to point out just how ridiculous this whole thing is. I think the attitude behind NFTs and just “rich bastard” culture in general all comes together pretty succinctly with the chorus, “I go crazy to prove-I’m better than you.”
12. What can humans do to be no longer hated by The Human Fund? How can they improve their music?
Z: I’d say for us to not hate you, the big bullet points are: Take care of your fellow humans, and walk how you talk. If you can do that, you’re alright in our book! I’m afraid your music’s a lost cause though, as all music is inherently trash.
D: At the end of the day, the most important thing with anyone’s music is that *they* like it. There’s always going to be music that not everyone is going to like. Lord knows there’s plenty of songs that we don’t like-and there’s probably plenty of people who hate the music of The Human Fund. You can’t win ‘em all!
What would the Human Fund like to hear from people’s music? How can it be improved? Authenticity, I suppose-echoing what Zach said, walk like you talk. Music should be done for the sake of music, not for the sake of fitting an image. As a musician, I’ve always been someone who believes in taking your art very seriously, but not taking yourself too seriously. Don’t try to be something you’re not, play your music, stop worrying about what the “cool kids” are doing, and support the other artists in the scene.
13. Last August saw the release of your self-titled album. What was it like to put this album together?
The nine songs on the album were either originally written or conceived by Dave without a clear intention on how to use them, or written collectively by the two of us. There were a few songs that didn’t quite make the cut for the album, but what went onto the final product is fairly indicative of what we’d play for a live show. The first few songs were recorded at Psych Shack in Willimantic, CT. The rest of the album was recorded at Blind Moose Studios in Northampton, MA.
Dave had worked with Tommy and Danny Carr at Blind Moose a few times before with other musical projects; they’re good friends and super talented professionals. The guys really put a lot of tender love and care into their operation. We started every song by recording our instruments live, doing our best to capture the feeling of a live performance. After overdubbing vocals and additional instrument tracks, we spent a lot of time sitting between the speakers of the mix station, listening to all the levels, crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s.
The whole experience was a ton of fun. Even when we were dealing with technical issues, we enjoyed ourselves. There was one time we were waiting on some files to be sent over and we ended up jamming out to the Robert Johnson classic, “Sweet Home Chicago.” Danny and Tommy were always there to take care of us with good energy and fresh tea for our throats. They even obliged when Dave asked them to punch him to get the blood pumping for his especially aggressive vocal takes.
14. Mustard loves all the artwork on your releases. Who does the album art for The Human Fund?
Well, it varies, we (Dave and Zach) have both designed a lot of different things for the band. Dave did the monkey in the tie, and Zach did the two cockroaches drinking cocktails with a nuclear bomb. Dave also put together what is now our logo with brochure clippings. Zach drew the single artwork for “I Hate You and Your Music Sucks,” and Dave did the artwork for “Screenshot The NFTs.” In December of 2021, we did a split with The Human Fund from San Angelo, Texas, and that artwork was done by their drummer-also named Zach! Our full-length album was actually designed by our good friend Chelsey Hahn, vocalist and synth player in the renowned local Connecticut band, Perennial! Dave saw her collage work, really admiring the dadaism evident in her artistic vision and decided to commission her to put something together. We spent an evening going through old National Geographic magazines finding landscapes, animals, and other miscellaneous images to be put together in the masterpiece Chelsea created!
15. A human gets invited to see The Human Fund perform. What kind of show can they expect?
Ryan: Riffs. Laughs. Chaos.
Dave: What Ryan said. You can expect your typical punk rock-charged sonic offerings, of course. In addition to music, though, we also try to bring stuff to performances that you can’t get just by listening to an album. For example, our most recent show closed with the three us destroying an old bass drum, smashing it with hammers and pouring beer on it. Zach and I used to open shows with a ritual featuring Richard Nixon masks and switching instruments. Shows are always pretty high energy, Ryan and I will jump into the pit, have lightsaber fights with our guitars, and sometimes stand on Zach’s drum set. Of course, we all crack jokes in between songs and give some biting commentary on the state of the world at large.
Z: Yeah, we like to keep things interesting up there! One thing we always hear after our sets is how much people love our energy. We take great pride in being a real high-energy band; we’ve always been of the mindset that if the band’s not visibly having a good time on stage, ain’t nobody in the audience gonna be convinced to have a good time either. So we like to put our whole ass into it, just really bowl ourselves through our set, sometimes literally. When you see The Human Fund play, you may be awed, you may be disgusted, but you WILL feel something!
16. Do you have any upcoming shows?
We do! We’re about to head off a roughly three-week-long tour across a big chunk of the United States. Check out the dates below and come on out if we’re in your neighborhood!
Tuesday, 5/16 – Cleveland, OH
Wednesday, 5/17 – Ann Arbor, MI
Friday, 5/19 – Chicago, IL
Saturday, 5/20 – St Paul, MN
Sunday, 5/21 – Davenport, IA
Monday, 5/22 – Kansas City, MO
Tuesday, 5/23 – Denver, CO
Thursday, 5/25 – San Angelo, TX
Friday, 5/26 – Houston, TX
Saturday, 5/27 – New Orleans, LA
Monday, 5/29 – Hattiesburg, MS
Tuesday, 5/30 – Birmingham, AL
Wednesday, 5/31 – Murfreesboro, TN
Friday, 6/2 – Charlotte, NC
Saturday, 6/3 – Richmond, VA
Sunday, 6/4 – Harrisburg, PA
And the shows back on the home turf…
Thursday, 6/8 – New Haven, CT
Saturday, 6/17 – Meriden, CT
Saturday, 7/22 – New Haven, CT
17. What is next for The Human Fund?
As mentioned before, we’re going on a fairly ambitious tour across the United States. Unfortunately, Ryan won’t be able to join us for this adventure, but we’ll have her picture on our dashboard. Plus, she’ll be back when we have our homecoming show at Cafe 9 in New Haven on June 8th. We’re also planning on recording some new songs to release in time for this autumn as part of a split we’re working on with our pal, Hippocrisis.
18. Where can readers listen to your music?
You can find our music on all major streaming platforms. We usually direct people to Spotify, but you can also find all of our releases-and more-on our bandcamp! Do a little digging on Instagram, and it won’t take long before you find some videos of us performing live.