It’s important for musicians to have mythology. Especially in a time where the Internet, for better or for worse (and often for both), has allowed for an overwhelming proliferation of bands, all vying for a little piece of your heart. The way to your heart, of course, is through your ears, but if a band uploads their album to Bandcamp and no one hears it, does it make a sound (apologies to the tree)? In this forest of garage sameness, New York fuzz-punkers Hunters are building their very own myth.
There are several different accounts of how Izzy Almeida and Derek Watson met, but the best one, the myth, is that the pair met while both working for a Muzak company in New York City (how beautiful, the irony) in 2009. The two built a bond over their love of similar music (Hawkwind, The Melvins, Karp) and hatred of the work (“turning Nickleback into Nicklebach”) but it wasn’t until Watson found himself with an extra ticket to the Pentagram reunion show that fate intervened and pushed the burgeoning friendship to the next level, musically at least (kismet, of course, being crucial to any myth).
The pair formed Hunters (named for Tab Hunter, the actor who played Todd Tomorrow in the John Waters film Polyester) and spent a year having fun with the band: messing around, refining their sound, hanging out 24/7, and eventually (mythologically!) falling in love.
Somewhere in between having the best time and finding lasting and meaningful romance, Almeida and Watson decided to start playing some shows, recruiting bassist Thomas Martin and drummer Greg Giuffre. One of their first shows was a raucous set at a New Year’s Eve party at a warehouse space in downtown NYC. The show got pretty wild (Watson was pelted in the face with a flying champagne bottle, playing the entire show pouring blood out of his face) and the newly formed band made a lasting impression on the party guests, one of which happened to be former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha. Hunters had so bewitched him with their hypnotic sludge-punk that Iha quickly got in touch wanting to work with the band, and ended up producing three tracks on their debut 2011 EP Hands On Fire.
The band put in time touring with The Kills and JEFF the Brotherhood before recording their debut album HUNTERS with Greg Norman at Steve Albini’s famed Electrical Audio studios in Chicago this past fall (the record was released via Mom + Pop in April of 2013). While Almeida likens their creative process to hip-hop (“I feel almost like a rapper, and Derek comes up with the beat”), they aren’t fans of describing their own sound (when prompted, they offer the highly technical term “loud rock”). In truth, Hunters sound like a lot of things: there are elements of punk and noise and garage in their music, swirled up into a soufflé that is made extra tasty by the addition Watson’s ear-bending guitar riffs and the pair’s intermingling vocals. In fact, it’s the interplay between Almeida and Watson that makes Hunters’ music so arresting; there is an intensity in their interaction that oscillates between sensual and scary. This dynamic is most evident than when the band performs live, with Watson holding down the stage while Almeida commands it, lunging at and around him, and writhing around on the floor, mic cord noosed around her pretty neck.
Everybody loves a good romance, but a cute couple alone is not the stuff of lore. It’s that intangible element, the stuff of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, of John Doe and Exene Cervenka, that creates the kind of sound that tells its own tale. Not coincidentally, they have drawn comparisons to both Sonic Youth and X, but Hunters is starting to reveal their own story, one song at a time.