I asked singer/guitarist Indigo Street some questions about the band, their song “Echoes,” what she thinks of our awesome neighborhood, and more.
The nucleus of Shy Hunters is Indigo Street and Sam Levin, who plays drums and keyboards. I first saw them at Greenpointers’ CMJ showcase this year at Matchless and was really struck by how they fuse Indigo’s dynamic guitar playing with Sam’s atmospheric and rhythmic backdrops. It’s by turns haunting, aggressive, catchy, and beautiful. They’ve released a few singles in advance of their debut album, O That I Had Wings. It comes out February 18th. I’m looking forward to hearing it and was glad to have a chance to learn more about this excellent local band.
GP: Tell us a little more about Shy Hunters and your background. Your band bio mentions that you and Sam played in other bands before striking out on your own. Was there a precipitating incident that crystallized this desire?
Indigo: Sam and I met playing in a – very typically Brooklyn – free improv/noise band with a rotating cast of musicians. And yes, we’ve both played with loads of other bands. I play with a little known but really wonderful songwriter, Ed Pastorini, in his band 101 Crustaceans, and I’ve gotten to work with various other fantastic musicians of all stripes, including Jolie Holland, Yoko Ono and Jeffery Lewis. Sam has another band called Smother Party, that plays microtonal instrumental rock.
The crystallizing event for us in deciding to do our own band was a three month tour with R. Stevie Moore. Three months of down and dirty DIY touring for no money pretty much left us broken inside, but in a good inspiring way. It felt really clear that if we were going to be living like dogs and eating obscene quantities of carrots and hummus (seems to be the universal vegetarian option nearly every venue provides), then we should at least be living that way in support of our own project.
GP: After seeing you live and listening to some songs, I’m really impressed and intrigued your guitar playing, Indigo. How did you develop your style? Are there any non-guitar influences that shaped it?
Indigo: Thank you. Like most guitarists I know, I just REALLY like guitar and guitars. 90% of the time when I see live music involving electric guitar, I think, “turn up the guitar!”
I never studied music formally, and mostly learned by imitation and playing along to records. All the New Orleans funk stuff was great to play along to, also Howlin’ Wolf, Kraftwerk, The Talking Heads, Duke Ellington. A lot of stuff that wasn’t necessarily guitar oriented. At one point I learned all the horn solos on the early Ray Charles records. Zoot Horn Rolo was a big influence early on, too.
GP: We have just begun the New Year. Do you have any personal or band goals for 2014?
Indigo: Personal goals for 2014: move to a beautiful place and become a biodynamic farmer, magically come into possession of a mid-sixties telecaster (they sound great and weigh nearly half what the 70’s tele I currently play does), marry a masseuse.
Band goals for 2014— find the perfect synth player, get offered a sweet opening spot on a long tour, get a booker, start demoing material for the next record.
Clearly personal goals and band goals are not often compatible.
GP: “Echoes” is a song to me that evokes how the past weighs on us. Some of it is natural, even good, but it can also be unhealthy and unhelpful. I like how it feels ambiguous enough here that it’s unclear whether the person is stuck, or fond, or both. Or neither. I struggle with finding the right balance of this sometimes and wondered how you characterize yourself on this issue? Are you overly prone to looking back and getting mired? Do you move on quickly? It is cyclical, too, so maybe periods of each?
Indigo: That’s something I’ve certainly thought a lot about. It can be difficult to engage with the past in a meaningful way without getting bogged down by it. I definitely tend toward introspection, but that doesn’t have to be an overly heavy thing. Sometimes really examining the past is the fastest way through it. Songwriting is a great tool for processing your life and moving energy forward and outward.
GP: Musically, the song is a good fusion of interesting guitar work, pop melodies, rhythmic beats, and electronic atmospherics. I know a band’s sound is often organic and not always easy to explain how it evolves, but I’m curious if there are certain elements each member might have contributed or been responsible for?
Indigo: Thank you. The band sound is definitely something that evolved gradually over a long period of time. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily call it organic, because it definitely came about through a fair amount of pushing, pulling and general trial and error on our parts. We generally write by improvising— me with a guitar and mic and Sam on drums. Sam tends to contribute a lot of keyboard and bass parts and I mostly handle guitars, vocals and arrangements.
GP: Finally, this is the Greenpointers blog and I heard you live in Greenpoint. What do you love about the neighborhood? Any favorite spots?
Indigo: Yes, I live in Greenpoint! I love McGolrick park, Grumpy, Christina’s, and all the little Polish shops selling mysterious Polish items.
Go see Shy Hunters tonight and look for their new album next month!