Hunters, a noise-garage rock band that formed in the Brooklyn DIY scene, just released their new self-titled album this fall and are heading out on their first US tour.
As I called Hunters’ guitarist Derek Watson for an interview, he asked if he could take a second to phone in singer Isabel Almeida. They’d later make it clear that the band is most definitely not a duo, although they are often portrayed as one.
We began the interview, and the air stirred with sound of chainsaws and branches falling as a giant tree got taken down at the apartment next door to me. Not the ideal environment for a phone interview, but it was a strangely fitting atmosphere that reminded me of the loud, primal sound of Hunters: gritty, feedback-rich guitar riffs, repetitive drums, and noisy back-and-forth vocals between Isabel and Derek that allowed Hunters to capture the elusive, raw energy of a live performance, especially on their new album.
You have already been touring. You played UN Fest and a few shows in Brooklyn recently. What has been the best show so far and what makes for a good show?
Derek: The best show was probably at 285 Kent. I can’t remember what day it was. Thursday, Wednesday?
Isabel: Yeah that was a really good show. Whenever you have a good audience, a good lineup, you know, damage is good. You have a good show I feel. I don’t know. It was just really fun.
This week was kind of crazy—so many of the line-ups for the shows we played were pretty awesome. We were into a lot of the bands we lined up. So it was a best-case scenario.
When you are writing your music do you ever have the performance aspect in mind?
Isabel: Not really, I don’t think we think about that stuff at all. When we write songs it’s more about writing a song and expressing yourself being creative. Then whatever you’re going to do with it on stage just happens when you are playing the show.
The music video for Seizure and Narcissist are both awesome. What inspired the themes of the videos?
Derek: Well it’s funny because the one for the synchronized swimming was something that our friend, Danielle Levitt, previously shot. We were really into the synchronized swimming and rhymic gymnastics and we always wanted to have a weird video that had something like that, but it’s harder to get rhythmic gymnastics that synchronized swimming so that was kind of as much as it was about that one.
Isabel: Yeah, we saw the footage and were just like, ‘dude can we use this for our video?’
Derek: [For the video “Narcissist”] we got Scott Cudmore. He’s a director from Toronto, and we’ve seen a bunch of his stuff and we met him in Toronto when we were on our last tour. We got along and started bouncing off, like, weird ideas and stuff like that. Just the kind of things that we had been interested in, and then it culminated into that over-the-top thing that we did for “Narcissist.”
You are often shown as a duo in other media, but you have a full band. Are they constant as of now and how did you meet them?
Isabel: They are definitely constant now. We are definitely not a duo. Me and Derek do write all the songs, but the guys are definitely really important as well. They are committed. We met Greg at a show a long time ago actually, and umm Tommy was referred to us by a friend. Our other bass player at the time wasn’t really into touring so as soon as we started touring too much he was like ‘Hm, that’s not happening’ so then we had to find someone else.
I only know a few other bands that are doing anything similar to your noise-rock kind of sound. Were there any artists you listened to growing up that inspired you?
Derek: Umm, yeah I mean, I think it’s hard to say. I grew up listening to a lot of different stuff. I grew up listening to everything from Wendy Carlos to metal. So they were pretty far off from each other, and I was also listening to bands like Godhead and stuff like that. So I think it was more about, when I was growing up I was going to see predominately house shows at first and I think most of the times I saw bands [at house-shows] it seemed way more chaotic even if it was just because of the sound or being right in front of a band that close. It just seem to be way more intense. Even if you see a band that’s not as crazy on a record it still has much more of an impact [live], especially when you are first seeing shows.
What area were the house shows in?
Derek: They were mostly in Pennsylvania, because that’s where I grew up, so Philadelphia. The house shows were always changing because of purely the fact that there’s always going to be a rotating cast of kids that are throwing shows in their houses and they’ll either move or they’ll get shut down. So it’s constantly changing all the time, which is kind of awesome because you never feel like ‘Oh, I’ve been seeing shows here for a long time.’ I mean it almost seems like forever if a venue has been around for over a year and a half, in term of house shows. I mean regular venues there stick around a lot longer. But when it comes to New York and Brooklyn I feel like you can get away with having more DIY spots and they stick around a lot longer. So I think that’s kind of great. You have like both those things going on where it seems like more movement going around in the [Phillidelphia] scene, and New York has more stability. [In New York] you have Death by Audio and Silent Barn and 285 and places like that, but they have been around for a lot longer.
Isabel: For me it was different because I grew up in Brazil. My parents were always really into music, so I grew up listening to a lot of music such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix. But for me there were a few bands, when I was a teenager, that I found out about and was like “woah, this is awesome.” The bands were L7, PJ Harvey, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and stuff like that. Then once I started listening to music I could relate to it and it made more sense to me and then I decided I wanted to start playing music or writing songs.
Are you both self-taught?
Derek: Yeah, I tried to take lessons when I was younger because all my friends were learning how to play different people’s songs on guitar, and I got a guitar. It was some really shitty, Toy-R-Us one with a speaker built into it and so I didn’t really know how to play. I went to see about lessons and he wouldn’t teach me songs. He was like, “you have to learn these scales,” and I decided that wasn’t happening. Everyone else was already playing songs and I couldn’t keep up… So then I just kind of ended up sitting in my bedroom for hours just figuring out how to play. I guess that’s why I’m not really that great of a guitar player still. But I can make noise a lot.
Isabel: For me, when I was like, I don’t know, twelve or fourteen I remember I wanted singing lessons because my parents gave me a mic when I was younger and I was really excited about it. So I wanted to take singing lessons. Then I went to the class and it was whatever and it was boring. Then the second class I figured I didn’t really want to learn how to sing, I wanted to learn how to scream and not lose my voice, and then the teacher was like ‘that’s impossible!’ And I was like ‘no, it’s not. There are a bunch of band that do it.’ And he said ‘That’s not music.’ So I never went back. And I took a few guitar lessons when I was younger, but I was always super ADD. So whenever I learned the basics, I would just give-up and figure out the rest on my own.
What would be the perfect listening environment for someone to play your new Album?
Derek: Anywhere you could play it loud.
What do you do when you are not working on music?
Derek: Well, I have this really glamorous job at a warehouse. That’s kind of what I do. I hang out with friends, go to see shows, and go to thrift stores and record stores and shop. Pretty much the boring shit that everyone does. Yeah, I feel like we have been so busy touring and playing music stuff like that is all I’ve been doing lately, which is awesome.
Isabel: It’s kind of hard because we still have day jobs so we can’t usually tour that often. You know what I mean? We have to find jobs that are okay with [touring]. So you have to bartend, or be a waitress, or work in a warehouse because those are the only kind of jobs that will be okay with you not having a stable schedule.
Do you have any advice for anyone who is recording their own music or planning to tour?
Isabel: Move out of New York. No, seriously, I love New York and I love Brooklyn, but it’s just too expensive. I feel like it’s really hard to be a band there because it’s expensive to live. You already have to work so much to pay rent, and on top of that you have to pay for practice space and then you have to buy a van to go on tour. You barely have time, because you are really tired and it’s really hard to have money for things. That’s why we moved. We needed a break to just play songs and hangout, but also because it was too expensive in New York and we had to sublet our place every time we left. And then you just have strangers in your house, stuff goes missing, and we are not organized, so we don’t know if we threw it away or if we gave it to someone, or if it disappeared. So, it’s just weird. Then we decided to move to Philly, which I love. It’s great.
Is there anything else you want to add or say to the people who will be seeing your show in San Francisco?
Derek: Um, Hi.
Have you played shows on the West Coast before?
Derek: We have been [to the West Coast], but somehow we have never played shows there before. We have toured with some bands from California. From LA, in particular. So we are looking forward to it.