The Hummingbirds were one of the most highly touted outfits to emerge from Sydney's inner-city scene during the late 1980s. Yet, unlike The Lime Spiders and The Celibate Rifles for example, the band steered clear of Detroit-inspired garage rock, opting instead for vocal harmonies and classic guitar-pop melodies. The band's stated aim was to be the `ultimate pop band'. In their quest for the perfect pop song, however, the musicians were not afraid to make their sound a little rough around the edges (somewhere between The Velvet Underground, R.E.M., The Buzzcocks and Big Star).
After a few months of initial rehearsal as a three-piece, Alannah Russack (guitar, vocals) joined. In early 1987, John Boyce left to be replaced by Robyn St Clair. The band signed to independent label Phantom and issued four impressive singles, `Alimony'/`Three in the Morning' (July 1987), `Everything You Said'/`Get on Down' (January 1988), `Swim to Shore'/`Be Careful' (July) and `Hindsight'/`Dragged Over the Coals' (November). In October, the band appeared on a rare gig giveaway album Assorted Desecrations and Magnificent Mutations, as part of Phantom's tenth anniversary celebrations. The Hummingbirds covered songs by former Phantom bands Le Hoodoo Gurus (`Leilani') and The Flaming Hands (`It's Just that I Miss You').
The Hummingbirds contributed `Hindsight' to the fledgling rooArt label's inaugural Youngblood compilation (September 1988), alongside material from The Trilobites, Martha's Vineyard, Crash Politics, Hipslingers, Tall Tales & True, Violet Town and others. That led to a full recording contract with rooArt, which the band signed in a blaze of publicity at the start of 1989. The Hummingbirds recorded their debut album with American producer Mitch Easter (noted for his work with bands like R.E.M. and Game Theory, plus his own outfit Let's Active).
The 14-track loveBUZZ album (March 1990) yielded the singles `Blush'/`Let Her Down Gently' (August 1989) and `Word Gets Around'/`Today of All Days' (November). All the media attention afforded the band was vindicated when `Blush' not only reached #1 on the alternative chart, but also peaked at #25 on the national mainstream list. The band's first single for 1990 was a new version of `Alimony' (March).
In early 1990, St Clair collaborated with The Plunderers' Nic Dalton on the studio project Love Positions, which yielded the album Billiebeebup (on Dalton's Half a Cow label). Dalton also deputised on tour for St Clair, who was taken ill and admitted to hospital in May. Meanwhile, `Blush' had come out as a single in the UK where Melody Maker listed it as Single of the Week. A year later, The Hummingbirds issued a second album, va va voom (April 1991). If loveBUZZ revelled in its naive enthusiasm, va va voom was a more mature, complex work. The punchy, keyboard-driven `If a Vow' (March) and `2 Weeks with a Good Man in Niagara Falls'/`Don't Fall Down' (July) appeared as singles. Both showed the band's growth and willingness to move onwards. The Hummingbirds spent most of the early months of 1991 on tour across Australia, Europe and North America.
In early 1992, Dalton once again deputised for St Clair. The Holmes/Russack/Temple/Dalton line-up recorded the CD EP You Just Gotta Know My Mind, which appeared in May. The EP featured a remodelling of Donovan's `Know My Mind'. Later in the year, Shane Melder replaced the long-serving Temple on drums. The band also split from rooArt, issuing two final CD EPs, Gone (February 1993) and Tail (July 1993), independently before calling it a day.
Holmes moved into production work (The Fauves) and formed ambient outfit Coloursound with Drop City's Matt Tow. In 1995 he joined forces with Wayne Connolly (guitar, vocals, ex-Welcome Mat, Knievel), Shane Melder (then in Sidewinder) and Martin Craft (bass; also from Sidewinder) as studio band Fragile. The Half a Cow label issued Fragile's album Airbrushed Perfection (March 1996), which ran the gamut of sounds from jangly pop (`Dream Come True') to noisy Hüsker Dü-inspired rockers (`She Really Means that Much to Me', `Resolving Conflict Situations').
In 1994, Temple switched to guitar and vocals, and formed Growl with Paula Bray (bass, vocals) and Pete Bennett (drums; ex-Welcome Mat). Growl played noisy, low-fi guitar pop, as displayed on the band's debut 7-inch vinyl single `Seems'/`Deserve' (May 1995). The band's next release, the five-track CD EP Feel This Way (March 1996), was more of the same.