Vergangenen Freitag haben wir uns das Konzert von Angela Aux und Lower Dens im Feierwerk angesehen und hatten die Möglichkeit, deren Sängerin Jana Hunter einige Fragen zu stellen. Hier das ungekürzte Gespräch:
Jana Hunter of Lower Dens | Photo © Frank Hamilton
What is your mission?
Jana Hunter: Let's see... My mission is that I just want to be of some purpose to the world - and with everything that I do, I try to figure out what that could mean.
What did you come up with so far?
Jana Hunter: I think part of it involves trying to write good songs that communicate something to people and part of it is trying to have performances that mean something, that are authentic - that hopefully affect people in a way that I was affected by concerts when I was a kid. And it also means writing articles, I've been writing more lately - and during this part of my life it's about trying to write the best album that I can. You know, with each album I'm trying to figure out what didn't work about the last one and trying to make it better and then eventually that'll become something else. I don't think in a long term way about material goals but I think about staying true to something - that's much harder to put into words. I believe in being of service to people and I'm trying to correct myself when I'm not - and that's kind of hard enough anyway.
That sounds like you're a perfectionist
Jana Hunter: I just want to be a good person - I have people in my family that are really good people and they're in much better fields for doing good than I am.
So why did you choose music as your medium?
Jana Hunter: I started playing music when I was really young - when I was 7 or 8 or so - and I was really obsessed with it from the beginning. It was just one of the first things in my life that I was able to give myself to completely. When I was a kid, noone forced me to do it - I would just go home and practice my violin for two hours a day. I don't know why. So it's one of the few things that I'm really skilled at and I feel like there are possibilities with music for helping people - so I'm trying to figure out what those are. What it can be an avenue to. In what way music itself can be useful and how it can provide open doors to find other ways to be useful.
Where did that inspiration come from?
Jana Hunter: Mostly my family. My mother is a really good person, she raised a lot of children and gave us some of her kindness. Most of my older siblings work in some kind of field where they help people, I have a sister that is a nurse and another sister that works with the homeless - they're just good people, my brothers, too. Of course there are a hand full of other people that had an impact on me - but I think it's mostly that I was raised in an environment where there was some important virtue instilled in the children.
How do you write music? How does a song take shape now that you're the head of a band as opposed to back when you worked alone?
Jana Hunter: It changed over the course of the band - when we did our first record, I was still principally writing most things, almost as much as a solo artist. But the more we played together, the more we've become comfortable writing as a union. We meant to write this last record [Escape from Evil] completely collaboratively. We weren't able to because we didn't get to spend the amount of time to get us all into writing. But that's our goal for the next record again - to try to do it completely collaboratively - until we reach the point where we can do that and it feels organic and it's like a natural development.
I've always been interested in that with this group. One of the things about being a solo artist that started to seem most interesting to me was just hearing my own "voice" as a metaphor for my point of view or my idea of music. Now, instead of hearing those reflected at me all the time, I want to hear their ideas, I want to hear the product of the conversation that we have musically. That's more interesting.
Album Artwork for "Escape from Evil"
Here's a pair of keywords for you: Music Industry vs. Feminism
Jana Hunter: There have been some good pieces and interviews about this topic from different artists lately. There's an interview with Björk on Pitchfork for example - Grimes talks a lot about this on her Twitter . And of course a lot of women talk about this. As a musician on tour, it is becoming more possible for that conversation to be held. For women in music it's easyer to take themselves seriously, to not feel like they're going to be taken for granted - it feels more productive than it has in the past.
There's a major German music magazine that asks every artist they talk to why there are so few women in music. What do you think about a question like that?
Jana Hunter: There are a lot of women making music and recording music and producing music and doing sound. They just aren't as awarded - they aren't given opportunities for press and they aren't recognized for their abilities or their talents as much as men. It's just not true that they aren't there. That's just complete bullshit.
We can completely agree on that. What about Capitalism vs. Creativity?
Jana Hunter: Oh. I mean... Those are two opposing forces. I think capitalism is a vampire that feeds on creativity. I can't really think of any more destructive relationship between two non living entities than those two.
The 1980s vs. the 2010s
Jana Hunter: This is funny. This is something we talk about in the band sometimes. We view a lot of things from a perspective of our interactions with music and with the music industry. We've been talking a lot about how people who are in their early twenties now, who were born in the early 90s are kind of fetishizing the 90s in a way that is pretty funny to us. I mean - it's completely legitimate and we're just being assholes in saying that it's funny. But you know... We have a disdain for it because we lived through it. And I remember the same thing when I began fetishizing the 80s people who were older than me being like "What are you talking about, it was a joke!" and I'm like "No there's plenty of good stuff there!"
I think that we're reaching a point where I'm wondering: People who were born in the 2010s - what are they going to fetishize? There have ceased being decades that have their own personalities. Already we're living in a kind of mixture - people like to pull their influences from different decades and from different genres and from different time periods. And that's a good thing I think.
Regarding music and the tendency of people categorizing music by when it was made: There are more interesting things about music than when it was made. Unless you're connecting that to another context that has to do with when it was made. If you talk about music that was made in the 1920s that could be interesting because a lot of things happened in the 1920s. But if you just say "music from the 80s" - what does that mean? If it's just about the sound, that's really boring. Because then you end up with bands who are playing music that just sounds like something and means absolutely nothing - and you can see so much of that right now and it's sooo boring. Maddeningly boring.
One more thing we would ask from you are musical recommendations. What's hot in Baltimore where you are from?
Jana Hunter: From Baltimore there's :3LON, Al Rogers Jr and Abdu Ali. Then there's a woman who has been around for a while. She's a rapper, she's really good, I think she's really underrated - her name is TT The Artist.
I don't really listen to music that sounds like what I make. When I'm listening to music at home it's either those kind of young bands or artists from Baltimore who are making stuff that sounds nothing like mine - some of it's based on traditional Rap and R'n'B and then there's a style of Baltimore music called Baltimore Club and then some of it is like this really crazy futuristic hippie rave R'n'B stuff - i don't know how to describe it but it's cool, it makes you feel very good and is really fun to dance to.
Oh there's another one: :3LON did a song with a guy that goes by the name of jpegmafia - it's called 0 missed calls - I think I'm gonna write about it for a magazine. You should check it out.