There's a frenzied tension scorching through “Hands On Fire,” the five-song debut EP by the four-piece Brooklyn rock band Hunters. And, rather than dissipating, it reaches its peak on the final song, “Acid Head,” as vocalist Isabel Almeida and vocalist-guitarist Derek Watson engage in a war of contradictory commands and expressions.
“I'm tearing it down,” sings Watson.
“I'm pushing it up,” counters Almeida.
“I'm pushing away,” declares Watson.
“I want you to stay,” sings Almeida.
It seems like the two are mortal enemies, but this tension is the natural fuel that powers Watson and Almeida's creativity.
“That's how our interactions are on a daily basis,” says Watson. “We're not constantly fighting or anything, but we do spend a lot of time together. You know, like when people are around each other a lot they can complete the other person's sentences, but it's like we're saying the opposite just to push each other's buttons and get a creative reaction.”
Watson and Almeida first met in 2009 when they were both working at a video game arcade in New York City's Chinatown district. “Most arcades kick kids out during the day because they're clearly skipping school, but this one didn't,” says Watson, who at the time was in an improvised-noise band called Realms.
“Every day at work we'd just listen to music and talk about music,” remembers Almeida. “I've had these imaginary bands since I was a little kid. They'd perform in my head, and I imagined cover art and videos, but it didn't solidify until I met Derek.”
Amidst truants clicking buttons on Tekken and dreams of starting a rock band, Hunters was born. Within one year the band caught a pretty big break while playing a New Year's Eve party in a New York basement.
“I got hit in the face with a champagne bottle,” says Watson about the wild night. “There was blood all over me, and my face instantly swelled up but I was able to keep playing.”
“It was a mess, we all got super wasted” recalls Almeida. “But James Iha just happened to be there. He came up to us after the show and said he wanted to work with us, and none of us really believed him.”
They were wrong. Iha called soon after, and the former Smashing Pumpkins and current A Perfect Circle guitarist ended up producing three tracks on “Hands On Fire.” The album was mixed by Nick Zinner of indie-rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and recorded at Python Patrol studio in Brooklyn with Ben Greenberg of the bands Zs, Pygmy Shrews and Hubble.
Iha is also producing Hunters' debut full-length album, which they plan to release early next year. The first new song, “Street Trash,” thrives on the same lyrical tug-of-war that animates “Acid Head.” Above fuzzed-out walls of guitar reminiscent of early Sonic Youth and Mudhoney, the two violently push and pull. “I know what you want, I don't know,” admits Almeida in a moment of aggravated confusion.
“A lot of our songs reflect how we normally communicate with each other, so it's very organic,” says Almeida about the lyrical hostility. “It seems like there's a tension between us, but it's a very positive outlet for us. We think it's a very healthy way to express our frustrations.”
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