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Interview: Jana Hunter Of Lower Dens

Interview by Robert B. Ker

Jana Hunter began her career last decade with an acoustic guitar in her hand and two terrific albums of the “freak folk” variety — including the first album on Andy Cabic (of Vetiver) and Devendra Banhart’s Gnomonsong label. With the public interest for such music dwindling a tad from its heights of six years ago, and perhaps finding herself at a creative crossroads, Hunter resurfaced this year as the frontwoman for rock ensemble Lower Dens.

OK, so it wasn’t like Dylan going electric in 1965, but it was still a calculated career risk that paid off admirably: Twin-Hand Movement is one of the best indie-rock records of the year so far, a sultry blend of dizzying shoegaze and drony dream-pop, one that will remind listeners of random stuff like early Cat Power, Mazzy Star, and Joy Division, and contains long instrumental passages that are emotional and evocative as any folk music, freaky or otherwise.

Lower Dens performs at The Apohadion at 7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 9, along with touring partner Inoculist (feauting Jana’s brother John), a reunion set by Ian Paige’s White Light (featuring Jeremy and Jerusha Robinson of South China – was the last time we saw them really during last year’s OFFStage series?), and Jakob Battick & Friends (who was recently featured on this site). This event is a unique collaboration between SPACE Gallery (who are presenting the event) and DIY space The Apohadion. I exchanged a brief email interview with Hunter about Lower Dens the week prior.

The first question is the obvious one: what led you to get Lower Dens together?

I put together a band for a tour of my solo music, and found Geoff Graham and Abe Sanders through mutual friends. When the tour was over, I’d found I really liked working with them and asked if they’d consider working on new material. We were about halfway through the writing process when Will Adams joined. He’s an old friend that wasn’t finding work on Nova Scotia farms. I convinced him this was a better deal.



How did Devendra react when you told him this is what you wanted to do? Does your relationship even dictate that you need to run these kinds of decisions by him?

I’m not even sure that he knows about it. I’m kidding, but, no.

Starting a rock band from scratch, with a record deal and an established career in place, you had a great freedom to choose what kind of direction to take it in. What led you to this specific sound?

For my own part, I got a cheap chorus pedal at a local record store and happened to be listening to a lot of Wire and Joy Division. I can’t speak for the rest of them.

What bands and/or albums were you drawing inspiration from?

Well, Wire and Joy Division were the big two, and Velvet Underground, Television. Mostly pretty seminal works from a very specific time period (excepting VU). Something about that time.

As far as logistics goes, how has it been taking a rock band on the road after doing the acoustic folk thing for so long?

Logistically? We have a higher overhead, more stuff, more mouths. More fun. Touring as a “folk” musician was often a little precious, uncomfortably straddling real intimacy and total apathy. “Rock” music seems more comfortable there. Logistically, that figures into how much fun tour is.

Can you discuss one benefit or positive thing about playing a rock gig that you don’t get with a folk gig?

Dancing. Fuck yes.

Can you talk about future plans at all? Do you plan to keep Lower Dens going beyond this album

We will. Not sure what future plans will look like yet, but we very much enjoyed making this record and we’ll make another, for sure.

Thanks!

You bet.

If you’re not in Portland, check them out on any of these upcoming tour dates:

8.6 Northampton, MA – Iron Horse*
8.7 Brookline, MA – BATV*
8.8 Winooski, VT – The Monkey House*
8.9 Portland, ME – The Apohadion*
8.10 Montreal, QC – Casa Del Popolo*
8.11 Toronto, ON – Kapisanan Cultural Center*
8.12 Detroit, MI – Majestic Cafe*
8.13 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Tavern*
8.14 Chicago, IL – Hideout*
8.17 Madison, WI – Project Lodge
8.18 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club
8.20 Iowa City, IA – The Mill
8.22 Lawrence, KS – The Jackpot Saloon
8.23 Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge
8.24 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
8.25 Nampa, ID – Flying M Coffee
8.26 Seattle, WA – Sunset Tavern
8.27 Vancouver, BC – Media Club
8.28 Olympia, WA – Northern
8.29 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
8.30 Sacramento, CA – The Fungarden
8.31 San Francisco, CA – Hotel Utah
9.2 Santa Cruz, CA – Crepe Place
9.3 San Diego, CA – Tin Can Alehouse
9.4 Los Angeles, CA – FYF Fest
9.5 Pioneertown, CA – Pappy and Harriets
9.6 Phoenix, AZ – Trunk Space
9.9 Frisco, TX – Lochranns
9.10 Austin, TX – Mohawk
9.11 Houston, TX – Mango’s
9.13 New Orleans – Circle Bar
9.14 Tallahassee, FL – Club Downunder
9.15 Atlanta, GA – 529
9.16 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506

* w/ Inoculist