“Holy shit…so fuckin’ bad!” These are the choice words Hunting Grounds’ lead singer, Micheal Belsar, uses to describe the band’s soiree into music. “It was pitiful, the first bands we (were in) were called Power of the Zookeepers, and Sound Rape.” At this pointanother member of the boisterous six pipes up,“ I wouldn’t call it music!” And with that, the group (now including myself) explodes into wild cackles of laughter.
When I first meet Hunting Grounds at a bustling Sydney café, there is an immediate problem – where on earth to sit? Space at the dainty, whitewashed tables is limited and overcrowded, and already, three of said tables have been combined just to accommodate the complete Hunting Grounds posse.
I find a small opening and seat myself. It then suddenly hits me in the face like the moist mane of a drunken mosh-er… I am nestled amongst SIX boys – young men of all shapes and heights, each prattling on to each other in an animated, devilish fashion. This is a friendly bunch, and these down-to-earth larrikins are a refreshing break from the echelons of bands too cool to barely make eye contact.
But I should probably direct myself back to music for a moment. Since winning Triple J Unearthed in 2009 (under the name Howl), the raucous sextet have been grooming their musical identity.
“Evolution is a good word. We spent one-year writing and it’s been about two years since we recorded something. When we won Triple J Unearthed, we got thrown into it, we didn’t really discover who we were as a band.”
The passing of time, a changed moniker, and a welcome creative injection by producer Paul ‘Woody’ Annison (Children Collide, Black Cab, Young Revelry), have brought about a slightly new direction for Hunting Grounds. “There was a lot of input from Woody Annison, and from a late 80’s shoegaze-type sound. The song ‘Flaws’ was originally a boring rock song, and he had this idea of making it a really tripped out pop song. So his influence was just as much as ours.”
Naming Radiohead as another key muse, it’s clear to see why the band’s debut, ’In Hindsight‘, is gently tickled with reflective, reverb-y lyrics, and a hypnotic, synth-rock sound.
The first single, ‘Flaws’, features contemplative, stream-of-consciousness-type lyrics that open with the bewitching line ‘my dreams have always been my flaws’.
“The song is about accepting what’s wrong and bettering yourself and your problems. The verse is me, and the chorus is the other me. I’m having a conversation with myself”, says lead singer Michael Belsar. It’s insights like this that reveal an imaginative depth slightly startling for their age and provides a stark contrast to Hunting Grounds mischievous boyish-ness.
Being a band of six, and comprising of several songwriters, and three vocalists, one would be forgiven for assuming Hunting Ground’s onstage presence would be an assault on the senses. However, cohesive collaboration comes naturally, and the guys are ordained masters of their own intrinsic musical system. “We all swap around, play some drums, so it’s energetic, and fun, with some chill out time too”.
When asked what their upcoming national tour in August will be like, the group banter together,“energetic, sassy….”, before someone yells, “note-bath”! “I’m sorry, a WHAT?” I ask, desperate for an expansion of this oddball analogy. “A big bathtub, we’re washing ourselves…(it’s) a crucible of music, we’re all mixing together”.
The vibrant earnestness of these seeming jokesters reveals poignant observations about themselves and their music that is sure to win friends and influence people. Mingle this endearing quality with ruthless talent, and raw creative passion and you start to get a detailed portrait of the multi-dimensional Hunting Grounds.
But of course, always loving their fun, the pranksters frantically tell me one last story as I say my goodbyes.
“Some crazy lady at the show last night was like what’s your name and we said Duran Duran, and she said… if you lie to me I will slap you into the ground and piss on you!” Naturally, an uproar of laughter followed. “We were like.. it’s a joke.”
‘In Hindsight’ is out now.