A dark pop musician hailing originally from northern Texas, Jana Hunter has been writing and recording, if not releasing, songs, for the past 16 years. Hunter’s songs, usually featuring many overlapped tracks of her own voice, acoustic and electric guitars, and Hunter’s first instrument, the violin, were recorded on tape machines for the better part of 10 years.
Growing up and on in suburbia, Jana Hunter avoided a life of casual but terrifying uniformity partly through constant bedroom recording. The “spooky, twee harmonic weirdness” (Noah Berlatsky; Chicago Reader; 1.29.09) found throughout the sparse, hissing 4-track recordings that Hunter made during that time does its due diligence in reporting on the creepiness of smalltown hiveminds, an autonomous wunderkind maturing secretly in Texas’ midst, and the resultant teenage and/or cultural conflict. Hunter, intensely private, raised in a large, religious family, and an orchestral violinist from an early age, followed melodic obsessions and a gift for striking listener’s as being near-“haunted” (Chas Bowie, The Portland Mercury, 2.9.06), developing a signature sonic topography.
These elements and a “quietly radiant voice with its own strange, feverish luster” (Matthew Murphy, Pitchfork Media, 11.16, 05) caught the rapt attention of critics and the enthusiastic endorsement of many of the day’s most respected musicians upon the 2005 releases of a split LP 12″ with Devendra Banhart and Hunter’s solo debut, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom. She followed with 2007’s There’s No Home full-length and and EP bearing the title Carrion, disciplined works that showcased “Hunter’s ability to write and compose. Perhaps her next step is to expand upon the talent laden throughout this impressive second effort.” (Eric Fitzgerald, Prefix Magazine, 5.18.07)
Hunter’s newest work (a full-length due out in 2009) is still at times bleak, even grim, but more often rapturous, lush, and resplendent, and a marked refinement of her already considerable melodicism and sensitivity. On record and on stage, with or without her band, it’s these things as well as Hunter’s Cheshire-cat charisma, imperturbability, and classic-eras way with song that continue to make her a looming specter on the horizon.
“Jana Hunter is…making stark and mysterious songs full of a weird will, as if they’re writing themselves.” (Ben Ratliff, New York Times, 4.29, 07)
“Don’t be mistaken: this album moves. More than a few songs are open road, inspire getting on. But on this journey, inspired by both nostalgia and expectation, the hearth fires burn wherever the singer and her harmonizers go, with the unmistakable presence and comfort of the moment…Songs start and leave quickly, but stick sweetly, like the snippet memories of a peyote-fueled campfire all-nighter. They make you rock, in the to-and-fro way, in the ghostly, introspective-but-communal-wanting ways that [Will] Oldham, [Mick] Turner and Windsor [For the Derby] can do so well.” (Joel Minor, Daytrotter, 7.12.2007)
Although Hunter’s early work was largely influenced by Western pop music (she names Beck’s One Foot In the Grave, the Velvet Underground’s …& Nico as two notable influences), because of her association with Banhart and other friend musicians, Hunter’s records were and have largely remained classified as that of a western folk musician. Hunter herself has said that she “didn’t know shit about folk until I was well into my 20’s” and that her music not only has little to do with folk, but also in large part (with the exception of some pieces on the split record) doesn’t even so much as merit an association with folk music.
Hunter began an extensive touring schedule in 2005, and has to date played around the United States, Canada, and western and northern Europe multiple times. Hunter is currently based in Baltimore, Maryland.