Sydney’s Johnny Hunter released debut EP Early Trauma last week, a collection of theatrical, propulsive post-punk gems influenced by stalwarts like Joy Division and Sonic Youth along with contemporaries like Royal Headache.
Recorded at A Sharp Studios and mixed by ARIA-winning engineer Adrian Breakspear (Gang of Youths), each track is an ode to wasted youth, an acknowledgement of the energy and time spent on those seemingly unimportant moments, and the realisation that those moments make us who we are.
“It’s our way of reverse-engineering the painful memories we carry from our past decisions, so we can grow, develop and with time ultimately heal those scars,” the band explains.
To celebrate the new EP, Johnny Hunter took us track-by-track through Early Trauma, sharing how each song came to fruition.
Originally written as a poem (what is now the first verse) inspired by the abandonment of true self in exchange for satisfying our hedonistic tendencies. The guitar riff that starts off the song was one that came to us when we were recording our first ever demos for Johnny Hunter. It was one of those riffs that refused to be left alone. Eventually the poem was put in place of a verse and we never looked back. The rest of the song was brought to life in the studio with the help from our producer Adrian Breakspear. I remember at the end of a big day of recording my vocals, we were desperately trying to come up with the ending and we eventually agreed on “I’ll be your Hollow Man”. Adrian made me do that line till my collarbone felt like it had splintered. I eventually landed it strong enough and he then transformed it into this thrilling dystopic announcement, when we isolated the track it sounded straight out of Blade Runner.
Try As You May
My favourite song on the EP and I think it’s been the fan favourite so far. To put it plain and simple, one of the members went through a very emotionally taxing break up and that’s really what the song is all about. It definitely pays homage to some amazing sounds from the late 1970s and early 1980s and it was always our intention to do so. We spent 2018/2019 diving into everything new-wave and post-punk and religiously listened to bands like Ultravox, Tubeway Army, Visage, New Order, The Cure and many more. We’ve always had a keen ear for dance music and since the band’s inception we had always been experimenting with Roland Junos and Microkorgs (when we could get our hands on them). ‘Try As You May’ is definitely the direction we will valiantly follow in.
Pain & Joy
When this track was first brought to rehearsals, everyone immediately couldn’t get enough of it. Every single section had a part of you that just wanted to throw a shoulder forward and back as you were playing along with it. We were wrapped in it for two rehearsals before we actually played it live for the first time. We had been cheered on for an encore at Wollongong’s late and great Rad Bar but had exhausted our entire repertoire. Then we all looked at each other in a way that said “We doin that?”, and we broke out into ‘Pain & Joy’.
We had come to practice one day and Xander had brought some chords with him. I remember Cerone very much so perched on the drums and Gerry on the bass. It was incredibly organic and one of those moments that reminds you of why you spend every Thursday night screaming at your friends in a sweaty room, only to leave with an incessant ringing of the ears and an ungodly headache. A few weeks later I had set off for London where I played the song on repeat each day.
I came up with half a melody and then took it home to workshop with everyone. We were lucky enough to get in a writing room with I Know Leopard’s Luke O’Loughlin where we made some final tweaks to the melody. Winona Ryder’s 1988 movie Heathers was doing the rounds in the band at this point in time and the lyrics are really an ode to the experience of her character Veronica. In production we tried to make the song sound as though it was to be played at the ending credits.
Our most sombre song we’ve released this far started as a melody Cerone started singing to himself on the way to work one day. That then became the bass line, and immediately after that came the lyrics for the first verse that stuck throughout the entire songwriting process. After that everything else just sort of fell into place. The song is a search for an answer that is never completely found or understood, a journey through which a hopeful romantic longs to understand what others describe as love – doubting whether it is ever truly attainable with each passing experience and encounter. The Dreamer is constantly reminded not to dream, to close his eyes and not bother, with one reminder an ode to a Nick Cave lyric from ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’.
Early Trauma is out now. The band recently announced a series of tour dates set to kick off in October – check those out below.
Johnny Hunter 2020 tour dates
Saturday, 31st October
Friday, 6th November
The Lansdowne, Sydney
Friday, 13th November
Crown & Anchor, Adelaide
Saturday, 14th November
The Grace Darling, Melbourne
Saturday, 21st November
La La La’s, Wollongong