Music & clubs

Five questions for… Jana Hunter of Lower Dens

Baltimore quartet Lower Dens routinely dazzles the critics with tight-knit tunes and an unfettered originality. Hunter and band bring this year’s Escape from Evil to Bi Nuu on Nov 10.

Image for Five questions for... Jana Hunter of Lower Dens

Reluctant to shackle their guitar-driven sound to any specific genre, the Baltimore quartet routinely dazzles the critics with tight-knit tunes and an unfettered originality. Hunter and band bring this year’s Escape from Evil (Ribbon Music) to Bi Nuu on Tue, Nov 10.

Why did you decide to found Lower Dens after having made a name as a solo artist?

I always did solo stuff reluctantly. Eventually I gave up and decided to quit music. But before I did, I hired a band for a tour and really enjoyed playing with them. When I wrote music as a solo artist without the intention of playing with or for people, I wrote a very different kind of music. It was more intimate, I was writing things for myself as a kind of therapeutic exercise. When I wrote things for the band, it became possible for me to share that kind of music with others.

On each of your albums, you can hear a range of different influences.

It just mimics my own processes with music. I spend a lot of time with a particular genre or era of music and try to get deeper into it. A lot of the time I wish I acted more instinctively and didn’t feel the need to have concepts and themes. I’m always drifting from one intellectual viewpoint to another. Lately it’s modern dance music. There’s a ton of really amazing things happening production-wise and rhythmically that are really interesting. I think in terms of production, I’m learning things I can incorporate into the next record.

How do you feel about being categorised as “dreampop”?

I hate that shit. [Laughs] In this day and age, names like that serve more of a destructive purpose. If you have a preconceived notion of shoegaze, you already have an idea of what a band’s music means. Then you’re already applying those preconceptions to the music from the time you start listening. A band might be doing something completely unique that’s completely glossed over because they’re termed as a “post-punk band”. If people ask me what kind of band I play in, I say we’re writing about some of life’s paradoxes. That might sound horribly pretentious, but I don’t think it’s inaccurate.

You’ve been quite candid about your idea of gender fluidity.

For a long time I knew that I was something other than what people were telling me I was. I was always aware of it but didn’t think about it because of this latent shame. In the last couple of years it’s been easier. There’ve been so many more trans people who’ve stood up and identified themselves to purposefully make it easier for individuals who find themselves outside the normal boundaries. I eventually decided to say something publicly about it. When people are raised within societal institutions, it becomes very difficult to identify with a minority unless you’re able to make a direct connection with them. It’s very important that we’re visible.

Was there ever a point when you just wanted to just fit in to the ‘straight world’?

Sure, I grew up in a Catholic family in small-town Texas. I wanted to fit in for a long time, it was horrible. I don’t feel that need now. There are still days when I’ve got so much work to do, I have to vacillate between being a person with a very normal life where I work a lot, and trying to see my friends and my partner. When I’m on stage, I would rather not have to consider how weird I’m going to feel walking into a public restroom. [Laughs]

LOWER DENS Nov 10, 21:00 | Bi Nuu, im U-Bhf Schlesisches Tor, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Schlesisches Tor

Originally published in issue #143, November 2015.