Brought together by chance and a Craigslist ad, The Hunting Party are now endearing friends and a collective of musicians that are making terrific music that blends the roots and folk heritage of America’s deep south and the rock ‘n roll of New York/New Jersey. Formed barely three years ago, the sextet found instant chemistry and a common love for some of America’s great singer-songwriters.
Taking hints from the likes of Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, the band built its sound and approach not around one particular individual but based on their collective talents. Frontwoman Erica Lane‘s voice is powerful yet vulnerable, similar to that of Seattle-based singer-songwriter Shelby Earl. Michael Schnapp (bass) and Daniel Burke (drums) from a great rhythm section, relying on different arrangements to set the mood. David Letchinger stars on keys, whether providing the climatic flourishes or the somber tones on slower tracks. Meanwhile, the one-two duo of guitarists Erik Hamilton and Nick Lerangis sets the tone on each track, but their guitars and banjo are never overbearing but instead perfectly complement the song.
This chemistry and singular approach is highlighted on the band’s sophomore EP, Sirens and Light, which was released on Thursday. The record is one that sways in all directions, emotionally and physically, never leaving the listener restless or distracted. Instead, we’re lulled right in with the catchy and upbeat “To Be Us”. The tune melds ’80s rock sensibilities with jangle pop melodies, and it even includes a Joni Mitchell reference. The nostalgic sound appropriately matches the lyrics of days gone by, recalling one’s youth and the belief that anything and everything was possible. The video above, which is the debut release, also has the feel of yesteryear.
“Impossible to Hold” is a mid-tempo, southern roots-country-rock track, and one that you can hear the Grace Potter influence and even a bit of Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton, and Neko Case with its subtle grit and message of moving on and empowerment. “Blue Star” starts off with the familiarity of an old-fashion folk tune, as one hears Hamilton plucking the banjo and Lane’s voice softly in the foreground. It then builds slowly into a folk-blues-rock track with Letchinger’s piano coming in with bravado during the song’s climax. It is a brilliant homage to the music that so many of us grew up with while at the same time incorporating new elements to put a modern spin.
The closing track, “Chicago”, is a romantic tune reminiscent of the ’80s. And like many of the songs of that time, the song has a remorseful undertone, and you can hear the pain and regret in Lane’s and Lerangis’ voices.
For a relatively new band, The Hunting Party have opted to take an approach that pays respect to the music of the past 40 years. It’s an interesting and refreshing approach given the wave of synth- and electro-pop artists these days. So how did it all begin and how have things changed for the band? Read the Q&A below.
While you read the Q&A, download the EP for free on Soundcloud.
THE Q&A WITH THE HUNTING PARTY
1. How was the band formed and whose idea was it to take an Americana / folk / blues-rock approach?
In 2012, I (Erica) put an ad on Craigslist for musicians. I had only been in NYC for six months so that seemed like the only way to find the people I wanted. I listed bands I liked, described the sort of sound I had in mind. Neko Case, Ryan Adams, Delta Spirit. I don’t know if I would categorize us as blues-rock, but we draw on a lot of roots and folk influence in our songwriting.
2. What are some important lessons and memories you will take from the process in writing and recording your debut EP to the latest one?
For our debut EP, North, we self-produced it, renting a cabin in upstate New York. The songs were already written and we got together and cranked them out, laying down our live parts and recording on our own equipment. We learned that we needed to work with someone outside of the band in order to coax out the best on-record sound.
For this EP, we worked with Jeremy Backofen and recorded at Converse Rubber Tracks in Williamsburg. We mostly livetracked, but Jeremy attended rehearsals and gave us incredible songwriting, arranging, and recording feedback, so we entered the studio prepared and with direction. We really learned, between the two EPs, to be prepared for recording. To edit, think critically about what best serves the song, and know what each one of us will be contributing when the mics are finally on.
3. What one lyric you’ve written would best describe either the band or the band’s experiences?
The themes in “Impossible to Hold” – of time and choosing a path – really portray where we are now. The specific lyric that captures it, for me (Erica), is “caught in your current, can’t fight anymore/ I broke my word and lost sight of the shore” says it all. We are all at points in our lives when you’re expected to choose a destination, pick a career, and stay the course, but we can’t let go of what we’re doing now – making music, writing songs, and playing shows.
4. If you were looking into the crystal ball right now, what would you see?
We’re just here to play football. We can’t make any predictions.
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