To understand the somewhat indefinable musical entity Human Host, let frontman and co-founder Mike Apichella explain the group’s name. It comes from an obscure 1967 U.K. psychedelic rock album by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, Featuring the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids, on which it’s not clear who or what the “Human Host” is.
Human Host co-founder Cory Davolos was a fan of that album. But Apichella likes the name for a different reason.
“It reminded me of the little wafer people get in church for Communion,” he said. “You’re ingesting the body of Christ, and Christ represents everlasting life, so you’re cannibalizing someone who’s never dying. Every Sunday super-religious Christians take part in that ritual, that mysticism, and don’t see the pagan element right in front of them.”
What does this musing about Communion have to do with music? For Apichella, it’s everything — and has nothing to do with religion. He likes questioning and deconstructing what we think we know and becoming a “human host” for any ideas that flow in, including musical inspiration.
“It’s this idea of letting art come into you, as opposed to you controlling it, letting it do whatever it wants, letting all the ideas come from everywhere,” he said.
Human Host — which performs in Ventura at Sandbox Coffeehouse on Dec. 9 and in Ojai at Greater Goods on Dec. 13 — far more than most groups that are difficult to slot into one genre, really does come from everywhere.
It’s not a band but rather a “collective, entity or group,” Apichella said. And it has many musical influences: noise, heavy thrash punk, crunch, ’60s distorted guitar, country, classic rock, jazz, folk, outsider garage rock, atonal.
“I try to mix as many influences as I can all at once, because I’m thinking about a lot of things at one time,” he said.
The best way to describe Human Host’s sound, Apichella said, is “instrumental electronic music, or experimental pop. But put an asterisk next to all that, because unlike 21st-century electronic music, what I play is live, not working with loops like a rap producer. I also call it ambient folk music. It mainly addresses feelings and emotions that can’t be easily described.”
Apichella formed Human Host in 2002 with a few other musicians from his 1990s teenage days playing in a similar avant-garde creative crowd called Towson-Glen Arm, named after areas north of Baltimore where the members lived. Along with music, the group engaged in performance art, poetry and activism, both serious and silly.
Human Host’s website says the group includes Apichella, who now lives in a rural area east of New York City, and “a rotating ensemble of diverse collaborators and figments of your imagination.” The touring version of Human Host features just Apichella on keyboards and harmonica.
Human Host, Apichella said, “is not avoiding genres to be different. We just feel different, and there aren’t preexisting types of music that address those feelings.”
Human Host’s music, he believes, builds bridges in this fog of unaddressed emotion.
“Having a lack of understanding leads to creating more understanding, on a very emotional level,” he said. “I’m not out to teach a lesson. My goal is to make a connection to other people and feelings, and the world around me, through a connection to the unknown.”
Apichella said his performances include “a lot of improvisation — melodic improvisation similar to jazz rock or blues, but I also do things with rhythms, texture, ambient stuff.”
Don’t expect an atonal mish-mash of sounds.
“It’s all woven together,” Apichella said. “I won’t have just one weird droning section; you also get more normal keys and chords and pitches. I don’t enjoy trying to force weirdness down people’s throats. I like normal music.”
Apichella loves the Beatles and Sun Ra. The first record he bought was by the Beach Boys. He is, however, attracted to “the unusual.”
“I don’t feel too comfortable on any beaten path,” he said. “But there are plenty of imaginary paths I’m willing to walk on.”
Human Host performs on Sunday, Dec. 9, noon-3 p.m. at Sandbox Coffeehouse, 204 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura, 805-641-1025 or www.sandboxcoffeehouse.com; and on Thursday, Dec. 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Greater Goods, 145 W. El Roblar Drive, Ojai, www.greatergoodsojai.org. For more information, visit humanhost.bandcamp.com.