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.