Jeremy Hunter might not be a familiar name, but if you’ve been following the Triple J hitlist at all you will have heard him harmonising with the Inland Sea. The band itself was garnering a fair amount of critical success themselves, so the thing I was most curious about when I interviewed him was why he had taken leave from them to record a solo EP. It turns out that it’s not the ever-feared blue between band members that has led him to turn away. For some reason, I could only ever picture him smiling genuinely throughout our chat: “What happened is we kind of just called it an indefinite hiatus. We went to the UK and we played some awesome shows and it felt like the peak of our career because we all felt really good about it but we came back and it was kind of like, we’ve got to get back on the road, We’ve got to record another thing and just because of the way, I don’t know, how small the music industry is in Australia and like, how big the band was, it just wasn’t financially viable, and it just took so much energy …” Hunter makes it clear to me that he’s still in love with the band and giving that up was, in his words, “quite sad”.
So it’s on to new stuff, and this time Hunter’s been taking it all on himself in the recording studios. After having played in numerous bands, it’s all him playing the keys, drums, and various guitars on his latest venture. “I’ve always written too many songs for whatever band I’m in. There’s always songs that don’t fit … and it was just kind of an opportune time [now that Inland Sea had reached its hiatus] to have a crack at that.” So he tells me that he’s let go of the reins in a large way, but it’s still cohesive. Having developed as an artist with Inland Sea and influenced by a mass of other great music out there, I was curious as to whether he was wary of these influences carrying over from these areas. “I wasn’t intentionally trying to divorce my sound from Inland Sea. If anything, like, the three years or so in Inland Sea just kind of taught me a whole bunch of awesome tricks when you’re writing songs, when you’re arranging songs, you know, like when you’re sitting there with ten people trying to figure out where the violin part fits in and the cello part fits in, you know, how complex you can make other parts and just try to hold it all together … you learn a couple of things. So I kind of just took what I learned from Inland Sea and put it into this new thing.”
As a result, his EP is a bit bluesy, a bit more rock, and still a bit folksy. Still he tells me that he’s not really conscious of influences when he writes. “If you write something and you really really fucking love it, and then someone goes, ‘Oh, you know that melody sounds like a Pearl Jam song’, it’s just like, do you really want to give up this thing that you love just because someone’s done it before? Because you’re doing it your way and your way is completely unique even though it might share some similarities with something.” Creative control has been an important thing that Hunter’s been able to grasp in his solitary efforts. “That was a conscious thing in making the solo project. It’s like, alright, finally I’m going to do this and it’s going to be mine, and I’m just gonna tell people what I want from them, and you know, just don’t be a dickhead about it. You just be nice and diplomatic and you get the sound that you want and you feel good about it at the end.”
As he’s a budding solo artist, I had to ask about image control as well. This was met with an instant, but uncondescending laugh. Still, I felt the need to defend the question before he could answer. It is important to a lot of bands, and is unfortunately a bit of a weakness in Australia; the Aussies tend to be rather laid back or contemptuous about their band image. I know it’s about the music, but Britain seems to have it really well set up, where they come up with the music and then they go, ‘Alright, now we’ve got to pay attention to the kind of image we want.’ It’s not exactly about fitting into a mode, but more about having an exact presence. It turns out that Hunter could identify with this. “That’s one of the things I like to think about a lot, but I still haven’t come up with the answer to it because it’s really complex, cos there’s that whole idea of authenticity. There’s this interview online with Jack White and Conan O’Brien which is really interesting. At one point they address it and Jack White says, ‘Authenticity is a trap’, you know, because you’ve got to put an image out there and no matter what the image is, people are going to have an image of you and you might as well make it the way you want to be portrayed … I guess I’m still trying to work out the whole image thing …” For now, it’s restricted to a monotone-blue image of him smiling on his album cover. It’s kind of refreshing to see someone smiling on a cover again. It feels like it’s been a while.