Early article on the development of Hunters and Collectors as a band.
Author: Toby Creswell, Rolling Stone Australia.
Date: February 1982.
Original URL: N/A.
Hunters And Collectors are nothing short of a runaway hit. From their first shows in Melbourne the word went quickly out that this was the band to see, a veritable Next Big Thing. All manner of labels have been attached to them, none of which accurately describes the band beyond conveying the general information that yes, they are quite individual and, yes their music is eminently danceable.
The band claim a wide range of influences from Suicide, Pere Ubu and Beefheart, to black music, American and African. Their six-piece sound features Geoff Crosby on synthesizer, Mark Seymour and Ray Tosti-Guerra [sic] on guitars, John Archer on bass, Doug Falconer on drums and an extra percussionist, Greg Perano, who uses empty gas cylinders, hubcaps and wood as well as a snare and cymbal. From time to time a six-piece horn section adds further color to the simple rhythmic base. The problems usually associated with such a large organization have been somewhat relieved by the almost instant success of the band.
Delving into the band members’ backgrounds for explanations of this success is not encouraged by the group itself. However it is known that Archer and Seymour came from the Jetsonnes, a poppy electronic type band that developed a strong cult following around Melbourne a year or two ago. And beyond its musical qualifications, the band includes a doctor, an engineer, a psychologist and a teacher.
Whether Hunters And Collectors have been hyped or not is quite beside the point. In avoiding the usual grind of getting established, they’re financially better off than other fledgling bands. As a result, when the time came to consider recording contracts, they found themselves in a strong negotiating position which has landed them a deal on the White label, an offshoot of Mushroom Records. On the flip side, however, there’s an immense pressure for the band, still in its relatively early stages, to live up to its publicity. To pinch a phrase from Lou Reed, they’re going to have to grow up in public.
“There’s one thing about all the publicity we got when we first started,” says singer Mark Seymour. “The main point about us that was never stated was that the reason why we’re successful is that we’re a good rock band. We’re a rock act and no-one’s ever said that. There’s this incredible guff about how we’re saying something and being mysterious and we’re not. It’s different, up to a point, but we’re not being mysterious. We are traditional in a lot of ways.
“I think in the next few months we’ll start to be assessed a lot more honestly, because we’re here to stay.”
The band is a very determined unit. Its members set themselves standards and put a great deal of thought into each of their moves. For instance in choosing a record label they were looking for a purely Australasian deal, leaving open other options for international deals. They’ve restricted the number of gigs they play almost to a one-off basis; their recent three-week tour was more aberration than a direction.
“Playing five times a week and getting nothing out of it would just about break a band like us up,” says Perano, the percussionist. “There’s about eight people involved in this and there’s a lot more tension, a lot more tempers to flare.” Playing less gives the band more time to work on the songs and to make each gig more memorable and more exciting.
Hunters And Collectors on stage play very long songs which depend on give and take amongst the musicians; the songs themselves are continually evolving. This is perhaps the major difference between this band and their contemporaries.
“A lot of people are scared of falling back into that old trap of indulgence,” continues Perano, “where if you give a person free rein on an instrument they’ll masturbate with it. But it’s a totally different approach here where you have a full sound which is interesting because we’re all aware of each other.”
“When we started playing we were prepared to develop ideas,” adds Seymour, “which most bands don’t try to do. That’s not an indulgence – it’s six people working together.”
Co-operation is a strong principle within the band. Robert Miles who mixes them live is considered as a full-time member and arbiter. He participates and contributes his ideas of how each song works from a front-of-house perspective. Tony Cohen, who coproduced their EP and album also spent a long time in preproduction, getting ideas sorted out without the pressure of expensive studio time.
For such a large unit, Hunters And Collectors are very mobile. They started playing in May last year and have now moved decisively out of the Melbourne cult scene and into the national market. Charges that they’ve sold out have begun circulating, along with rumours that they’re about to split. As far as Seymour and Perano are concerned it’s all a matter of reaching as many people as possible.
Only time can tell whether the promise so many have seen in this band will be fulfilled. Certainly the EP and soon to be released album will be significant tests. Right now, Hunters And Collectors provides a strong and joyous alternative to standard new music fare, while their dance orientation gives them a good chance of making a significant impression.
Thankyou to Trevor for typing out this article for us all to enjoy!