Spotlight: Jana Hunter

11PM, Tambaleo

Spotlight: Jana Hunter

Jana Hunter showed up to our AM interview with guitar and suitcase in tow. She was catching a bus to Houston later and had gotten off a plane from Europe, where she was on tour with Castanets, hours earlier. Her face, framed in thick black glasses and wet auburn hair, seemed at once sleepy and wise as she took drags from a cigarette.

"I'll be riding my bike or folding my laundry and I'll start singing something," says Hunter of her music. "I'm constantly singing to myself."

It's a simple declaration, but the music's more; the way vocals curl around her tongue and chords are plucked clean like bones, Hunter's music is damn haunting. The 27-year-old Texas native grew up playing violin, something she says still inhabits the way she writes.

"The songs are really basic, and I think anyone who grows up around classical music has a hard time improvising," Hunter shrugs. She also grew up listening to Neil Diamond, ABBA, and, most importantly, the Smiths: "I've always been drawn to kind of melancholy stuff."

At a show three years ago, hairy fairy Devendra Banhart approached Hunter for CDs. Last year, when starting up his Gnomonsong label with bandmate Andy Cabic, he asked her to be on it. Thus, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, her debut, was born from 10 years of home recordings. Its decadelong reach imbues the album with a certain nostalgia and depth, from the bucolic chime of "Farm CA" to the dread-filled thump of "The New Sane Scramble."

The lyrics come from personal experiences, but the way the album was recorded was more accidental (i.e. using a "bad reverb pedal" and mutilated Sprite bottle as a mic). Hunter's voice travels alone, heavy and amber-hued over sparse noise. So does she.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
Wednesday Interview
Wednesday Interview
Delta Spirit

Jim Caligiuri, March 20, 2015

Wednesday Picks & Sleepers
Wednesday Picks & Sleepers
First night SXSW Music recommendations and hints

March 20, 2015

More by Audra Schroeder
SXSW Interactive Conference Quick Cuts
The Signal & the Noise
Statistician Nate Silver on more data, more problems

March 15, 2013

SXSW Film
SXSW Film Reviews: 'Kiss of the Damned'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

March 15, 2013

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Jana Hunter, Castanets, Devendra Banhart, Gnomonsong, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle