Huntronik
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Huntronik

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
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I’ve got to be honest with you: when I get album review requests, I end up ignoring most of them. It’s not because I don’t think there’s good music out there begging to be reviewed (there’s a lot of good music out there, period), it’s really just more of a timing thing. PR companies typically send out detailed releases with a bunch of links and text that’s usually pretty overwhelming and/or I am at my full-time job so can’t spend endless hours on my gmail, watching YouTube (although that’d be great!). Ever since our new Music Editor Marissa started here at Lip, though, she does all the work for us and organizes the review requests by week, putting in only the most pertinent links and text.

That’s how I was able to quickly and easily spot Huntronik, the Brooklyn-based electronic/rock “power trio”. Their name piqued my curiosity, so I went to listen to their album Huntronik, not really sure what to expect. I am not the biggest electronic music fan, although I do have a special love for Daft Punk. Once through the album, though, and I was hooked. Huntronik’s quirky brand of electronic rock/”math rock” is something I haven’t really seen many bands, local or not, pull off so well.

One of the tags Huntronik uses to describe its music is Krautrock, an umbrella genre of German experimental rock popular during the late 60's and early 70's. The most famous band to come out of that movement, to me at least (probably because of that residency at MoMA they did last year), is Kraftwerk. Take a listen to Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn“, and you see clear influences on the Huntronik album: easy instrumental changes and methodic features, lyrics that don’t take themselves too seriously, and an overall melodic and catchy quality that makes the electronic music much less strange and much more accessible.

At times Huntronik’s electronic-based sound veers more towards psychadelic, at times more pop, at times hard rock, but it’s always catchy. The nine tracks on Huntronik progress quite nicely, and unlike a lot of albums, the music only gets better as it goes on. I enjoyed the middle part of the album the most. My favorite track is “Baldy” because it so accurately reflects all the different aspects of their sound, shows off the excellent production on the album and demonstrates their personality. That wonky bass line, marriage between garage rock guitar and mellow keyboards and lyrics tell me that Huntronik is super talented, but not one of those pretentious Brooklyn indie bands. Listening to this song over and over again, it seems like the band has a lot of fun. A quick visit to their Facebook page verifies this–going through their photo stream quickly shows the humor and pop culture references that make sense with their sound. Immediately following “Baldy” is “Deeper Watts“, the first of the album’s melodic electronic mini-symphonies that definitely play homage to some of Huntronik’s influences, but are seamlessly strung together in a way that makes these songs completely original. The final song on the album, “Paradigm Shift“, follows suit. Rounding out the trifecta of middle-album-perfectness, there’s “Delivery Man“, which starts out harder and goes into a really catchy late Beatles-eque keyboard melody throughout the middle and end parts of the song.

Perhaps most of all, listening to Huntronik so much recently has made me remember that great music exists inside music of every genre. The band’s music isn’t something I would have thought I’d be so into even a month ago, but their music is catchy, fun and above all, done well. Take a listen and decide for yourself: Huntronik is available for free on Bandcamp. - Lip Magazine


New York’s Huntronik brings electronics together with various bits of krautrock, garage rock, lo-fi, and post-punk. It’s a pretty interesting amalgamation–mostly because the end result is so difficult to simply pen into one category. - The Needle Drop


Last month, I received a nondescript album submission from Huntronik, an electro-infused trio from Brooklyn. It was the type of email that typically gets buried in the siege of PR spam that floods our inbox on a daily basis. If I was a more intelligent man, I would spend my days designing an algorithm that filters e-mail based upon whether it was sent by a press agency or the band itself. Unfortunately, I only recently learned how to spell algorithm, so that venture will have to wait until a later day.

Within the submission was Huntronik’s debut, self-titled LP. The album features nine, concisely crafted, imminently danceable tracks that straddle the line between krautrock and more traditional, synth-heavy electronic fare. From the initial listen, it was apparent that Huntronik had more going on than the typical bedroom DJ and electronic dance output that has become so trite since multi-track home recording became the right of the everyman a decade or so ago.

The tracks combined textures and tones from a wide swath of influences. The lyrics were both cerebral and playful, growing in depth as each sonic layer was peeled back. I was immediately taken with the release, and wanted to know more. So I reached out Huntronik’s architect and lead vocalist Greg Hunt about doing an interview.

Below, you’ll find the culmination of two chats with Hunt. For readability’s sake, I’ve combined our two discussions. During the interview, we talked about Hunt’s recording process, his goals for the release, his influences – music and otherwise. We talked at length about Hunt’s fascination with the theories of scientist and designer of artificial intelligence, Hugo de Garis. De Garis is a mathematical physicist and leading researcher in the field of evolvable hardware, which uses genetic algorithms to evolve neural networks using three dimensional cellular automata inside field programmable gate arrays. You know, just your everyday music chat. Stream Huntronik’s debut LP, and read the bulk of our interview below.

Connect with Huntronik via Facebook | Twitter



Interview
How was your vacation?

I went to some, random. exploited Carribean island, and drank some girly drinks with big umbrellas on them. I went with my girlfriend and my family. It’s good to be back in our studio. I’m here now – in Greenpoint. I live in Brooklyn. Steve lives in Jersey, I think he’s moving to Brooklyn. John lives in Brooklyn. I’m originally from a town called Acton, right outside of Boston.

What brought you to New York originally?

I moved here four years ago. Just music. I had always played music my whole life, and I just really wanted to buckle down and grind it out in New York.

What kind of music were you into initially?

Initially, I was playing piano when I was about eight, and I played jazz music off and on. It would start and stop from eight to twelve, and in high school I started up again and kinda got into electronic music. I dunno. I listened to maybe like Chemical Brothers or something in high school and was kind of fascinated with two guys and these strange terminals and consoles that were actually kind of conducting this dance music, which I wasn’t at all familiar with. But I started getting into a combination of rock and electronic.

What made you make Huntronik a full band project, as opposed to something you’re just trying to accomplish on your own?

I really wanted to play everything as instruments. Even the electronic sounds. When we play live, we play those with our hands. There is actually only a few loops. Like two drum loops. I’m not a fan of loops or looping anything. It’s like 70s rock. I like that. But I do really like electronics that are kind of grimy and old and kind of feel like they grew out of something. I don’t like clean sounds. My favorite synth is EMS 50 from 1970. It’s like the greatest thing ever. It’s one of the first synthesizers ever made.

Talk about your writing process a little bit. Are these songs that you pretty much construct on your own and take them to the other two members?

Maybe half of the songs, I would just do on my own. Some of them were slower than others, as the process goes. When it was slower, we would tend to do a group thing. But that also worked really well. The song “Rabies” was definitely a really slow, group process that took a few months and the same is true for “Deeper Watts” which went through a number of different versions. It started out as something completely different, and then it just became this kind of groove-oriented song. But most of them, like say “No Deceiver” for example, I just did pretty much on my own and then we just framed it as a group.

Talk more about the various versions of “Deeper Watts” and how the band wound up settling on the end result.

Originally, the song had words and it was structured in a difficult way. In other words, I think we all agreed that it wasn’t enough of a song as it was when we started. And then we just decided to take the elements of the song that we enjoyed the most and re-work the song. So it ended up being kind of a more mellow. It worked as something to put in between songs with words. Cause we do like instrumentals. We like a lot of scapes.

A lot of people talk about music as math in language form, or something like that. And I’m not a musician, but music doesn’t register in that way for me. It’s more of a combination between creativity, technical skill and somebody’s ability to effectively communicate. You said that you don’t like loops, and prefer these dirty electronic sounds that feel like they grew out of something. Talk more about what you mean by that, and where that gets lost with most electronic music.

A great example is Conrad Schnitzler. He’s this guy who was one of the founding electronic composers back in the late 60s and 70s on up to his death a few years back. And, what he did was use these really obscure synthesizers to make music that sounded like some kind of alien communication or something. It’s very strange. It sounds completely organic. I think that there’s a certain sense of wonder that come from that kind of electronic music that you’ll never really get from that more mechanistic stuff. I also like German minimal house or something. But it’s almost like a different thing completely.

I mean, this term electronic to me is confusing, because there’s an argument that you could make that guitar music electronic. So it’s a confusing distinction to try to draw. But it just means more that I want to hear something that sounds like it’s alive I suppose.

What are some examples of stuff that you’re listening to these days?

Well for rock, I like bands like Iceage, The Men, and Cave. Cave actually came out of Indiana, I believe. It might’ve been Illinois. It’s either Indiana or Illinois. [They're currently based out of Chicago] For older rock, I like kraut bands like Can. For electronic stuff, I like this guy Pole, whose name I think is Stefan Betke. For older electronic stuff I like guys that were using really big, strange boxes. I have a bunch of really obscure records that are just crazy sounding today that people don’t really make. I guess Oneohtrix Points Never is like one example of contemporary electronics that I dig.

I remember when we were exchanging emails you mentioned Super Meat Boy, are you a gamer?

Yeah, a little bit. I played Super Meat Boy, X-Com. That was fun my friend has that. Yeah, you know. It’s fun.

On tracks like Deeper Watts, I get like subtle influences of video game sounds. Are those conscious influences at all or not so much?

I think so. I like 8-bit type sounds. I just like texture a lot. It’s odd, because I like melody a lot, but I also like texture. It’s one of those things I think people who are 30 or under grew up with. They were around video games and I think it permeated their brains or palate if you will.

Are there any other non-musical influences that informed this record at all?

Definitely. This guy who is a professor of computer science named Hugo de Garis. The song “We Can Build You” is basically just me trying to deal with a lot of his ideas and theories about computers. It’s hard really to articulate this, but I think today people do not associate rock music – at all – with computers. I guess if you say “computers and music,” most people are thinking of electronic music, and that definitely plays into it. But when you say computers, you don’t really think of rock music and I was trying to make a serious rock album that dealt with the future and what the future might be about for humans. I think Hugo de Garis has an interesting approach to rock.

I haven’t read his books, does he address something about music specifically. Or how did you apply what he was talking about to music?

That was the big challenge. It wasn’t all him. I don’t think he ever talks about music, but my big challenge was that if I want to approach taking this seriously. If I want to write a song like “We Can Build You,” for example. If I want to write a song about a higher intelligence and put it into the framework of rock music. Is that even doable? Will it still be interesting? I thought it turned out okay. I think, maybe it’s not something people will get all the way. Like, a lot of people will say, maybe this means something else. And that’s part of the fun. I don’t ever want to put something on a silver platter and say this is what this is. I like when people have their own interpretations.

I watched like two-thirds of that 21-part interview with de Garis. It’s fascinating stuff.

I remember when I watched that, I was pretty disturbed by it. I dunno. I work through a lot of ideas anxieties and problems through music. So, now I actually feel nothing about it. But yeah, I remember feeling really disturbed. But yeah, it’s interesting.

He’s most concerned with this issue of species dominance and its potential to inspire mass violence, but you said that you were less concerned with the pros and cons of what this technological evolution is causing. And that you were more interested in how it’s affecting our interactions with each other right now. I just wondered how you were able to push off that “threat” for lack of a better term.

That’s a great question. I think, for me, the way I see looking into the feature. I think the scientific community, generally the rule is, if you can view it, it can be done. So I just kind of internalized that, and said forget it. Whatever anxiety I have, there’s really not much to worry about, because whatever is going to happen will probably just happen. In other words, if I feel fear or anxiety about where technology is headed, there’s no point in me fighting something that can’t be stopped. I feel, not complacent, but I feel content that the direction technology is headed. But I don’t feel good about the way that people see themselves or see others, necessarily?

What do you mean by that?

For me, I know that there is a tendency now to be distracted and to lose focus on one thing, simply because there’s more distractions and there are more things coming at us. So, in that light, interacting with other people can become sitting in a room looking at a screen rather than being physically present. It’s that thing you’ve heard over and over: Oh, give a person a call and go hang out. But, I’m not necessarily sure that technology’s not good for socializing with people. It’s just something I wonder about.



You wrestle with some serious topics on the debut. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of people who hear the record, or see the band play live are not going to be digesting these songs on that level. So why do you think Huntronik’s music resonates beyond the heady stuff? What do you think allows it to reach listeners on other levels?

Mostly because it’s not a joke. The music is rhythmic, but the instrumentation that we use is a little strange. I use synths. I play a sampler like a keyboard. But I think fundamentally, it’s because the song structures and the grooves resonate on a musical level. I think you’re absolutely right. If you’re just casually listening to some band and you’re hearing these songs, I don’t think you would necessarily make the connection of what I had in mind. But it’s possible to come up with your own interpretations that will satisfy you as a listener.

How did the band come together initially?

Basically, it was me and this other guy playing bass originally. The other guy left, and John – the drummer – joined up, and then Steve joined up. Now, we have to swap out John because he can’t afford the band – he has to go and work. But there’s been a few different members. But it was originally just a duo, and now we’re a trio.

You said the other member has to go to work, does that mean you don’t have a day job?

Well, I vacillate between walking dogs and working at restaurants. Anything I can do to pay the rent.

Keep fightin’ the good fight. What are the plans for 2013?

For 2013, I’d like basically to get the album heard by as many people as we can, so that we can tour. I’ve got a lot of ideas about new music. I hope the other group members will be into it, and we can work on that. But pretty much, just playing shows and trying to get people to hear the record.

Are you planning to continue to explore this theme of technological evolution? What kind of ideas are you wrestling with?

I think I’m going to move away from the technology thing. Aesthetically, I think it will be similar. This is just guesswork at this point, but I think we might grow in a way, harsher. Not more abrasive, but I’d say more attacking or aggressive. I keep hearing these sounds, rhythms and stuff and I want to try to get to them. But I think lyrically, there are other things that I may want to try to approach. More along the lines of just being a person, and not framing it with science or theories or anything like that. - Thought On Tracks


There was a point in the late 1970s/early 1980s when the 'new wave' exited the modes of punk and entered a hybrid era of genre-bending rock/pop which embraced the possibilities of using synthesizers alongside 'traditional' rock instruments. So it was that everyone from New Order and The Pop Group to Squeeze and XTC used synths as an integrated instrument in their earlier work. They weren't strictly electronic acts, but their sound at the time wouldn't have been the same without the sonic possibilities of synths. Anyway, why mention this in relation to the new release by New York-based "power-psyche rock trio" Huntronik?
Because this is what I started thinking about when I heard the opening bars of 'Rabies'. This is a track which grooves jerkily, electric pulses bouncing along with vocals reminiscent of Chris Difford. Lyrical references to 'machines' and 'decimal places' overcoming 'instinctive' decision-making hint at the opposition between the objective and subjective, the mechanical and the organic…a theme which is reinforced by the music. Real drums played with precision, keyboards echoing the motorik beat, the musical passages switching like someone just pressed the next preset button on the musicians' heads. It's a worthy opener to the album Huntronik.
As the album progresses, the net of influences and styles spreads. Yes, there are elements of psychedelia, but the overriding vibe is of a sort of eclectic alt-pop. Melodic, mildly dirty-sounding and knowingly retro. I mentioned XTC, The Pop Group and Squeeze earlier on for a reason, as Huntronik's music bears comparisons to all three in different measures. The songs are occasionally playful and funky, the lyrics questioning the wisdom of technology, but there is never the feeling that this music has been made with irony at heart; a rarity, I think. It's serious stuff for these guys.
'We Can Build You', drones all deep, staccato vocals. 'Hair' comes over all spiky punk-funk and fuzz. Stand-out track 'No Deceiver' is epic; some very funky saw-wave bass, trebly organ and fuzzy rhythm guitar which gets a bit bluesy in the last few bars. Vocals are again to the fore, but there's a lot of cool instrumental going on here too.
How an album appears as a cohesive whole is often a measure of its critical success. What strikes me about this album is that it does hold together well despite, or maybe because of, some of its stylistic variety. It's quirkiness is not due to knock-about musical slapstick or ironic humour; it comes from its fairly serious presentation of social critique without being too po-faced and marrying it with a sound which is occasionally frivolous and exhilarating. - Echoes and Dust


The debut album by Brooklyn trio Huntronix starts off in a retrograde fashion. A wash of synths with a retro-futuristic posture and echo-heavy live drums carry its first lines in like the surf at the end of Planet of the Apes: “We’re gonna tell you how it’s gonna be.”
The opening is something of a backward looking gambit for two reasons: recent electronic-leaning bands mining the past have tend to stop at the 90s, fumbling together toward a few strange but recognizable nexuses: either a neon synthesis of new age and R&B, or a big beat’d and even bigger base’d electronic dance sound.
Oh, and for the second reason why Huntronik seems like an anomaly: it rarely seems like many rock bands are interested in telling you how anything’s going to be. (Telling you we’re going to have sex – yes; telling you how I feel about our impending or past sex – yes; general assessments of how life and society are right now – not as frequently.) The album seems to have a pretty stark, almost luddite message to convey, which is constantly at tension with the actual electronic sound of the music.
Huntronik deviates from many of the on-trend sound signifiers by hewing pretty closely to classic indie rock song structures. Intros and bridges abound. There are choruses. But every song also has a buzzy electric friction.
One of the album’s highlights, “Everyone Is A Website“, is like a seven-layer dip of sound, with a high-oscillating beam shining down upon fuzz bass, swarms of bumble bee synths, acoustic guitar, and way down at the bottom lead singer Greg Hunt’s vocals, which are unfortunately trapped in a crater here and throughout the album.
Still, it’s relatively easy to suss out the message of the album. There’s a sort of dialectic at work that brings up the proposition of joy then offers the rejoinder of dread. What’s at stake is how much humanity a person can retain when computers and technology constantly replace and replicate our vital functions. It sounds like Brian Wilson, in the throws of acid madness, going full electronic. Which isn’t meant to say anything grandiose; it’s just that there’s a palpable lack of pleasure in the songs’ point of view and tone, yet they set a sonic standard that’s intricate and entertaining.
The penultimate song is called “No Deceiver.” Is there no deceiver because the only words occur during a gentle middle eight, and they sound sort of vaguely about heaven? (“Language was invented so people could lie” is a line from an acoustic “El Scorcho” cover I remember Audio Galaxy’ing freshman year.) Or is the song honest and true because over its 3:52, it tells a completely valid teleological tale based on sound and tension.
Huntronik isn’t exactly a great party album, which is fine because at most of my parties, I end up getting too drunk and my girlfriend replaces my awesome playlist with Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac. But the thematic intent of Huntronik puts the album itself at risk. Throughout, there’s a palpable skepticism of technology, and a sort of wish to retain the human in modern life. The sound of the album is achieved through way-retro synthesizers and heavily distorted guitar, while the vocals are frequently way down in the mix, as if the human in the band is trying and failing to escape. The album takes a stand, but it also stands for ambivalence. - Passion of The Weiss


Discography

Huntronik, Protection (EP, 2010)
Huntronik, Huntronik (LP, 2013 January)

our LP is streaming at huntronik.com

Photos

Bio

We are interested in pulling the organic out of the synthetic and making thoughtful music with energy. I don't think we sound like most rock bands from Brooklyn. We play everything right there and live as much as possible, which I think also sets us apart from most electronic acts. This approach takes discipline and much rehearsal.

We take our live performances seriously, and we play regularly at all the Brooklyn venues. We're interesting to watch because of the focus required to play our set. It takes a lot of intense listening from our part, and it's a great listening experience for the fans because it's different and cool.

Greg started the act in 2010, was joined by John in 2011, and Steve joined on bass in 2012. We spent a year writing, recording, mixing, and mastering our debut LP in 2012, and it was released January of 2013. It's gotten a good deal of press so far, and our fanbase is growing. We are touring July 2013.