By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Patience and persistence aren't exactly the first words that come to mind when describing most rock bands, but in the case of Hunting Club they couldn't be more apt. The local quintet's guitar-driven post rock is intricately layered and carefully arranged, the hallmarks of diligent craftsmanship and a willingness to let their ideas unfold at a measured pace. The band's new self-titled album, their first full-length, took more than a year to complete, but their attention to detail reaps benefits that are immediately apparent in the record's 11 songs.
"The album took us a long time to record," admits bassist Nate Dykstra, who joined the band last summer shortly after recording began on Hunting Club. A lot of time was spent tinkering with and revising tracks at former Houston frontman Jeff Halland's Vaudeville Studios in St. Paul. "There's a lot of different things you can do rather than just riff-rocking the whole time, playing as loud as you can. We like to make things like a big piece, like a classical piece of music almost, lots of intricate parts going on rather than just loud, loud, loud [where] you can't hear everything that's going on."
There's much less emphasis on formal structure in Hunting Club than there is on exploring dynamics, the band molding its moody, complex buildups into a series of subtly shifting instrumental textures. The results are both melodic and droning, with frequent interplay between loud and soft interludes, an effect that has garnered the band plenty of references to shoegaze. Yet they're equally evocative of Doug Martsch in their two- and sometimes three-guitar attack and even in Eric Pasi's vocals.
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A lot of the band's music gets its start with Kyle and Justin Steen—two brothers who, together with bandmate Bob DuBois, grew up in rural Wisconsin and trade off on guitar and drum duties—but the rest of the band collaborates in fleshing out the sketches into fully formed compositions. Says Dykstra, "When we're practicing, we're always talking about dynamics, you know, like this part needs to be quiet, let's build up at this point and then we'll get loud at this part and come back down and keep it quiet here. Or let's keep the guitars low here so you can hear what's going on with the drums or the bass at this point in the song.
"We go back and forth on a lot of things when we're writing, like, 'That doesn't sound good, you need to do something different,'" he continues. "And we're open enough to tell people, [but] we don't take anything personal. If what someone is playing isn't what everyone wants, then you tell them and they'll change."
Indeed, there's an almost democratic sensibility to the way the band's music showcases the individual members, with parts receding in and out of the background to allow others to come forward. The ability to keep those parts reigned in means that, despite building on a sprawling template, the songs remain concise and compact, with the album itself running just over 35 minutes.
Pasi's lyrics show similar restraint, their seeming simplicity and repeated phrases blending in with the rest of band while disguising a deeper playfulness and love for double-entendre as he plays on the band's name in "Gold Wheat" or satirizes bloggers in "Saucy Banana." Such a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, while not easily recognizable in their music, is nonetheless present in much of the band's personality, as they happily appear in promo photos sporting antlers or work deer images into their album artwork.
"We definitely try not to take ourselves too seriously," Dykstra says. "Some people have said we're dark, and the music may be dark, but we're not those dudes who are, like, depressed; we like to have a good time. [At] a practice of ours we laugh a lot, between songs we say stupid stuff to each other and have a good time about it, but then when we're playing and writing it's serious."
That sense of camaraderie, balanced with their dedication to their work, has seen Hunting Club develop quickly since they released Pretty/Ugly, their first EP, in November 2008. The new album demonstrates considerably more maturity, cohesiveness, and purpose, a fact that isn't lost on Dykstra despite being the band's newest member.
"Obviously they were new and just learning how to write together," he says of when he joined the band. "And then they kind of took a step there, I think, when they were like, 'All right, we're done with this EP, let's make new music.'
"Even just writing and recording I think we grew as a band together," he adds. "[Hunting Club] ended up taking longer than we hoped it would, but in the long run it was probably a good thing because we got it how we wanted it to sound."
HUNTING CLUB play a CD-release show with These Modern Socks, Speed's the Name, and Satellite Voices on FRIDAY, JUNE 4, at SAUCE SPIRITS & SOUNDBAR; 612.822.6000