“Like a lot of bands, we were initially a pack of friends before even playing one note together,” says Dennis Crommett, guitarist and vocalist for Spanish For Hitchhiking. “Max Germer [bass], Dave Hower [drums] and I started playing my songs under the name The Hart Cranes very briefly in about 2001, at the Bay State. Dave Chalfant and Pete Weiss were each the fourth man for a spell, until Brian Akey became our guitar ace.”
Now a bona fide four-piece whose members split their time with other Valley projects like Fawns, School for the Dead and Winterpills, Crommett and company have hit stages in and around Northampton for over a decade. And SFH has even released a full-length album called The Starling, and contributed to a track-by-track recreation of the Repo Man soundtrack by teaming up with fellow Paradise City resident Black Francis (aka Frank Black) for a cover of The Plugz’ “El Clavo Y La Cruz.”
But if it wasn’t for an off-the-cuff translation made by one of the bandmember’s wives, the group might not have come by its distinctive moniker.
Crommett says, “In the fall of 2000, an amazing person now married to one of the members of the band came up with that name. Actually, she came up with ‘Autoestop,’ which she said was Spanish for ‘hitchhiking.’ We liked that better. And we also like the alternate way you can think of the name—Spanish one might learn when planning to hitchhike in a Spanish-speaking country.”
Such thinking is indicative of SFH’s approach to writing and performing. For example, while some tracks on The Starling approach running times of nearly seven minutes and seem to revel in languid beats and chord progressions, other songs like “Lovestar” and “Yellow Yellow” are short blasts of catchy pop that wouldn’t be out of place on an AM radio station playlist from the late ’60s.
“At the center of our music is the kind of melodic rock we’re all steeped in, but we have all played and listened to so much different music, there are countless elements unconsciously in there,” Crommett says. “I’m grateful for the chemistry we have developed over the years that has led us to be able to improvise and communicate within everything from a three-minute pop song to an eight-minute atmospheric slow burn.”
As a live act, SFH often showcases its improvisational chops by putting energy and emotion into every performance. And if future plans are anything to go by, fans may soon get to hear such material in recorded form.
Crommett says, “We have a record that’s nearly finished and we hope to get out soon. [Also] we often toss around the idea of making a live EP or something, just because I feel like that’s where SFH really comes alive, just like Frampton.”•