Jana Hunter: ‘I spent most of my life hiding from myself’

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Jana Hunter: 'I spent most of my life hiding from myself'

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In November of 2005, Jana Hunter launched a set of songs recorded virtually completely alone over a decade, titled Clean Unstaring Heirs of Doom. It was Hunter’s first solo album after years of collaborating with the 2000s freak-folk mainstay Devendra Banhart. The album contained brief songs (largely hovering across the two-minute mark) that have been haunting and wistful, with muddled vocals and warped instrumentation, and earned Hunter glowing critiques and a correct spot within the then blossoming world of blog-approved indie music.

Clean Unstaring Heirs of Doom ends with an exclamation level, a shocking stylistic shift within the type of a pop music referred to as Okay, which is predicated round a video game-like digital loop, interwoven with ghostly vocal “ahs” and twangs of guitar. The lyrics are a mix of mundane lightness and hints at darkness: “I’d like to see you Saturday afternoon / I’d spin you out and present you what you’re value / I’d love to carry your spine in my palms / I’d be your favourite cartoon.” The music now feels prescient, a glimpse of the themes and sounds that permeate The Competitors, the fourth album from Decrease Dens, Hunter’s band with drummer Nate Nelson, which shaped in 2009.
Whereas on the floor, Hunter’s early songs might look like extra intimate and confessional by nature of their style’s styling, he says the pop songs on The Competitors are his most trustworthy but. “I spent most of my life hiding from myself,” mentioned Hunter, on the telephone from Los Angeles, the place he moved from Baltimore on Thanksgiving day in 2018 (although he nonetheless spends a whole lot of time there). “I’ve tried to restrict myself” with previous albums, Hunter mentioned. I wished to push myself to write down songs that felt rather less restrictive.”
Hunter is extra nervous about releasing this album than he ever has been with something earlier than. “I wished to threat extra vulnerability. I really feel like I bought to that place.”

Hunter within the video for the music I Drive. {Photograph}: Torso
Hunter was assigned feminine at delivery. In a 2015 essay for Cosmopolitan, he described telling his mother and father he was a boy when he was three or 4 years previous, the fifth baby in a household of eight children, and their dismissal of it: “It wasn’t till I used to be an grownup that I noticed there was extra to that dialog than my infantile fancy.” He identifies as transmasculine, which he explains as figuring out extra as a person on some days and extra as a lady on others. “It’s no more towards one aspect of the binary or the opposite.”
The Competitors was largely written over a interval of three years, in bursts of inspiration and creativity that have been bordered by troublesome intervals that necessitated breaks from music to deal with psychological well being points. For him, transitioning was certain up in these points. “Once I was a child I did specific my gender id and it didn’t go over very effectively,” Hunter mentioned. “That stuff has coloured my complete life.”
The album additionally interweaves his private experiences with politics. (The press launch calls it “a pop album that’s politically pressing”.) Hunter says writing the primary single, Younger Republicans, “felt politically dangerous”. Within the video for the music, directed by Raul Gonzo, Hunter acts as a narrator, singing in a glittering black bomber jacket as a bleak, Twin Peaks-esque montage performs out. A blond lady suns herself whereas obtrusive at detectives investigating against the law. A person in a white tennis outfit glares at a lady repairing his tv. The entire thing ends with a bunch of preppy individuals in crimson fits pledging to the American flag earlier than feasting on Hunter, who’s mendacity face-up on a eating desk along with his torso sliced open. He used to comply with the information carefully however needed to take a break within the Trump period, so he follows journalists he respects as a substitute: “And I fear that they’re simply shedding their minds.”

The video for Younger Republicans, a music Hunter mentioned ‘felt politically dangerous’.
The music feels like a crisp 80s dance pop hit, with all of the requisite digital synths, bleeps and bloops, however with an eeriness that’s unsettling, lyrics about individuals who “simply don’t slot in” and a world that’s burning. Stylistically, the entire album is a huge leap away from the Heirs of Doom period (except for Okay), and from the primary Decrease Dens album, 2010’s Twin-Hand Motion (NPR described Decrease Dens on the time as “a blissful swarm of suggestions”). As a baby, Hunter listened to mini-cassettes by way of headphones with a Fisher-Worth Pocket Rocker, escaping into pop songs and a world the place he imagined something was attainable. For this album, he says, he wished to recreate that feeling: “I wished to write down songs which may have the potential to try this.” He says the perfect technique to hearken to it will be with headphones, to get the sensation of not being in a bodily house (whereas his older, extra lo-fi recordings might be described as all about bodily house, with the echoes and reverb of wherever they have been recorded ingrained within the songs).
Hunter has experimented with a development of musical kinds over the past 14 years, and The Competitors is the newest iteration of that, however fortunately the core components of his singular songwriting are nonetheless all the time current – the bizarre chord shifts, the serene vocals, the way in which Hunter invitations listeners to settle right into a music and turn into transfixed by it (one of the best instance of this is likely to be the attractive music Brains, from their 2012 album Nootropics), the sense of hopefulness that’s all the time current, even when it’s almost imperceptible.
“I really like the textures they use of their manufacturing and the songwriting is all the time heartfelt,” mentioned :3LON (Elon Battle), a Baltimore digital musician who seems on 4 songs on The Competitors. “I really like working with artists that push the boundaries of societal norms.” :3LON lends a vocal complexity to I Drive, a music Hunter says is about feeling rejected by his household, “abandoning obligations to individuals who don’t love or care about you, being with and about individuals who do. It’s a sense so robust it’s driving me. That’s the driving I’m doing.”
Whereas Hunter views The Competitors as an escape, on the identical time he hopes its deeply confessional nature may function a beacon for others scuffling with their very own realities: “Anguish is how we begin on the lookout for different individuals to connect with.”

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