Last month I was highly impressed by the debut EP ‘Early Trauma’ from Sydney band Johnny Hunter – it’s a new new wave for our times. So impressed was I that I had to find out more from the band – about how they got together, their influences, their favourite songs and their striking image.

Interview – Johnny Hunter

First of all, congratulations on Early Trauma – quite a musical breath of fresh air.

Thank you thank you – we’re very happy to finally have our first EP release out there & we’re all very proud of it. We tried to make each track cover a bit of different ground both sonically & lyrically to make sure there was something in there for everyone. We’re thrilled to hear people are enjoying it.

How are you coping with the pandemic – are you being more creative or, like me, devolving into to alcohol and inertia?

To say it’s been a turbulent year in the world would be an understatement, we’re all just very happy we’ve been able to release some music in the interim. It seems it’s been a bit up and down for everyone, some splashes of creativity here and some wine-fuelled dry spells there. If the pandemic has done anything it’s forced us to listen to more music and creatively explore different sounds & themes in writing. There’s a silver lining.

How long have you guys been together and how did you meet?

Long story.

Hutty & Xander met down in Wollongong in around 2015. Stumbling back to his room late one night, Hutty heard someone playing guitar. That person turned out to be Xander (Bret). With his drunken confidence in tow, Hutty went in to the room and asked if Bret would be willing to play guitar over some of his poetry. That’s where it all began. Soon enough the quest for a drummer began, and Gez was found via a musos Facebook group. It took him just a few practice sessions with the guys before he cemented his place as the can man. Then one fateful night at a 21st, a mutual friend brought Hutty & Cerone together to have a match off of Boston accents. After the show was over and the gathered crowd dissipated, they got talking about music. And here we are.

What’s the story with the band name?

Johnny Hunter isn’t a singular person, it’s an idea. It’s the collection of the minds & experiences of all members who make up the band & who all share a similar trajectory.

Where abouts are the band members from – how important is your background to your sound?

Gez & Bret both now live in the Inner West (Sydney), but both hail from the South Coast. Cerone will never not tell you he lives in Oatley, and Hutty comes from North Sydney, previously hailing from Perth. Our background doesn’t necessarily define our music, but all of us have unique backgrounds in musical taste because of it. Having a big smelting pot of influences has helped us to define our sound. We’re all still learning things from each other.

You have quite a distinct and unique appearance: how did this evolve and how important is general theatricality to the music?

We always wanted people to remember us. Putting on a show is a part of playing music, music needs theatricality & cabaret. It began when Hutty started to wear eyeliner & lipstick at our first show as Johnny Hunter. Soon the whole band aesthetic began to come together and it’s now become an integral part of our show.

Have the last couple of years influenced your work and lyrics – politics, environment, disease and pestilence?

A lot of our work so far has been a commentary or a story-telling of our own experiences. Early Trauma is an ode to wasted youth – a cry for something better after realising opportunities were pushed aside in favour of short & temporary experiences. Obviously with everything that’s happened in 2020 it’s definitely had an impact on all of our creative processes. In the coming months we’ll see how this year has played its part as the catalyst of change in our work and lyrics.

What is your song writing process?

It’s different for everyone. Sometimes there’s a complete song brought to practice one day and all the parts are finalised and written, other times it’s just an idea brought in and we try and collectively work out where to take it. One of the tracks from the EP, ‘Innocence Interrupted’ actually started as two chords brought to the table by Bret. For some unknown reason Cerone was on the drums & Gez was on the bass, and as we started playing it all kind of came together. You realise in those experiences that it’s really important to try different things when it comes to song writing, even if it means your bassist playing drums horribly out of time for an hour or so.

What are your major musical influences?

Take your pick: PJ Harvey, The Cure, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Radiohead, Kylie Minogue, SWANS, Kate Bush, Murder Capital, Echo & the Bunnymen, Bowie. It’s important to listen to a lot of different music. Orville Peck’s album ‘Pony’ has been on Hutty & Cerone’s high rotation for months.

What’s your favourite venue to play in Sydney? Do you think live music is dead?

The Lansdowne <3 I think if this entire pandemic has showed us anything it’s that live music is far from dead. Even with every single live music venue shut down (and most still are) and no festivals on the horizon, live music has still found a way to cut through the noise and stay afloat with live streams, pre-recorded shows and more. We were fortunate enough to have performed a live stream show with Create or Die in June & at The Lansdowne for their Empty Room Sessions last month. Working with all the people involved in both those shows just showed that people in the industry will work tooth & nail to keep live music alive. It’s a beautiful thing.

What are some other local bands/musicians you think we should check out?

Add all these Sydney artists & songs to your playlists IMMEDIATELY:

What’s next for Johnny Hunter?

New music, a full-length LP and a national tour across all 6 states of the country will forever be on the hit-list, but thanks to 2020 we can’t be sure when any of that can happen. For now, we’re taking it step by step and trying to enjoy the ride. More song writing and some collaborating will be a priority in the meantime.

Finally, tell us are your top ten favourite tracks, and what’s so good about them?

Lullaby- The Cure

The Cure are a massive influence on us particularly their album Disintegration. Lullaby has it all, a song that boasts true gothic pop through the use of haunting strings and whispers from Robert Smith that make your hair stand on end.

Teen Age Riot- Sonic Youth

Unorthodox guitar works and percussive drumming a formula we hold very dearly to the Johnny Hunter way of song writing

Green Light- Lorde

Pop is so important to this band and Lorde truly is a pop genius, she can transport you straight to the bar that she’s ordering different drinks from and immerse you in her anthemic hooks to make you feel everything that she is feeling.  

Shame- Dust on Trial

Modern Post punk guitar shimmers and colossal drums are sounds that we aspire to everyday   

Running Up That Hill- Kate Bush

A collective favourite from the band. A prog synth masterpiece that touches upon universal themes of equality and progression. Fun fact it was written and recorded whilst Bush was residing in the English country side something we are yet to do but have wanted to do for some time now.

Vienna- Ultravox

Another prog synth song, operatic vocals and soaring heights that we hope to achieve someday. There are a few nods to this song in Early Trauma.

Where the wild Roses grow- Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue

An effortless duet with our all-time Kylie Minogue. Visual storytelling at its finest.

Float-PJ Harvey

One of my favourite songs that I’ve been listening to throughout Isolation one I feel built the pop production foundations of the early 2000’s. The chorus “We float, Take life as it comes” is something I really live my life by.

For Everything- The Murder Capital

The Murder Capital along with Fontaines DC are the epitome of the Irish music renaissance happening over in Europe right now. There’s so much to this band, their album “When I Have Fears” is an ode to a friend they sadly lost to suicide. The emotional depth they deliver through their Irish style poetry and haunting post punk musicality is never ending. This song in particular is just incredible the change it gives towards the end is a testament to their amazing song writing ability

Loverose – Triple One

Our oldest friends are just about to release their debut album to a fandom that will turn the Australian music scene into pandemonium. Here’s to you lads, hopefully COVID will cease to exist and we can venture to Australian cities and paint the towns red again.

You can get ‘Early Trauma’ here and catch Johnny Hunter on tour:

Saturday, October 31st Barbara Brisbane Tickets
with Perve Endings, Fragile Animals
 
Friday, November 6th The Lansdowne Sydney Tickets
with Baby Beef, Enclave
 
Friday, November 13th Crown & Anchor Adelaide  Tickets
with Don’t Bring Stacey, Seabass
 
Saturday, November 14th The Grace Darling Melbourne Tickets
with Destrends, Badgers
 
Saturday, November 21st Lalalas Wollongong Tickets
with Droves, Enclave