To hear guitarist/vocalist Derek Watson and vocalist Isabel Almeida talk about their band Hunters, you'd think the whole thing — the widespread acclaim of their first EP, their growing notoriety as one of the most visceral, driving live acts to come out of the Brooklyn indie scene, and their success in making a scuzzy band from Brooklyn cool again — all came about completely naturally. No serious thinking required.
"If I start thinking too much, then I'm gonna fuck up," Watson says with a laugh
In a sense, that's part of the band's brilliance. In spite of their growing success and acclaim, the pair — joined by Thomas Martin on bass and Gregg Giuffre on drums — remain as dedicated as ever to shutting out the nonsense and delivering the type of straightforward fuzz-rock that tears through pretense with ease. While some bands toil for months on their first full-lengths, Hunters came into Chicago right off the road and ripped through the recording process for their self-titled LP in just under a week.
"I think it was rushed," Almeida says of the genesis of the band's newest project. "But we wanted rushed."
For a band as precocious and rapidly emerging as Hunters, the impatience isn't shocking. The band formedin 2009 when Watson and Almeida, after running into each other while working in various odd jobs around New York City, bonded over their mutual musical interests, including Melvins, Sonic Youth, Pixies and lesser-known acts like Slant 6 and Carb. Early on, the two realized that their particular style — often characterized by rapid shifts between even-keel verses and choruses that burst up like unexpected landmines — made perfect fodder for performances.
"The music that we create just lends itself well to moving," said Watson.
After finding chemistry both within and outside of their musical work (the two began dating shortly after forming Hunters), the band began to draw attention the old-fashioned way: shaking rickety venues to their foundations when they took the stage. In 2010, these havoc-wreaking shows drew the attention of Smashing Pumpkins founder James Iha, who saw real musical chops peeking out from beneath the powerful performance.
With the help of Iha, Hunters compiled the 2011 EP Hands on Fire, a collection of five tracks over which the band wore its early-'90s influences on its sleeve, in the best way possible. Even for those who hadn't seen the band's often reckless live performances, the vitality is palpable. Watson and Almeida's vocal back-and-forth — equal parts abstract and melodic, sometimes ferocious but always measured — meshes seamlessly (and sometimes darkly) with relentless, sludgy guitars.
Their self-titled LP bares elements of this early-'90s style, but the album's content is more varied and a touch less predictable. "It's a continuation [of] Hands on Fire," Almeid says. The songs are longer, which allows them to develop and shift — a slow-going beginning might give way to a frenzied finish, or vice versa. On a number of tracks, the band's approach is less forceful, and at times — such as on "She's So," the album's second track — even downright relaxed. It might indicate a band on the verge of outgrowing its influences and stepping into its own a little.
"I feel like the mellow songs are the last songs we wrote for the record. It could be a new direction." Almeida says.