Hunters and Collectors (Introduction)

Article introducing Hunters and Collectors in Canada during the Human Frailty era.

Author: Dave Watson, Georgia Straight.

Date: 24-31 October 1986.

Original URL: N/A.


Article Text

Many Australian bands are exceptional live performers, mainly because success Down Under depends on bands playing every bat on the continent until a record company discovers them. Hunters and Collectors are just such a band. In fact, they take their live presence so seriously that their sound engineer is given a full share in the band’s income and equal billing on their albums.

Quite popular in Australia, having released four albums and three EPs since forming in late 1980, they will play at Casey’s in Richmond next Wednesday (October 29) and at Club Soda the following night.

Singer/lyricist Mark Seymour explains that their music has changed “from being a large, funky ensemble with industrial percussion. We have stripped back to a six-piece, bass, drums, guitar and horns line-up.” As a result, most of their records were released by different companies. Originally on an Australian label, Hunters and Collectors became the first Aussie band on England’s Virgin Records. Seymour says Virgin didn’t like the band’s idea of self-promotion, which consisted mainly of touring small clubs, so that ended.

A 1983 European tour resulted in a contract with A&M Records. After the tour the band returned to Germany to record The Jaws of Life. According to Mark, A&M “freaked out” when they heard it. “It was arty crashing rhythm like Captain Beefheart, so they dropped us.”

The Jaws of Life was released on Slash/WEA Records in 1984. It was a very powerful and emotive record drawing from the Australian pub lifestyle, but hard to decipher because the lyrics are a poetic mix of obscure references in unfamiliar Australian slang. (There’s not a single G’Day on it.)

The sound of Hunters and Collectors is hard to describe. It is almost tribal in intensity. The bass guitar is the most prominent instrument, a thickly undulating hypnotic rhythm. The drums play behind the beat, while the horns and keyboards lightly echo and emphasize the beat. The vocals convey a huge range of human emotional states.

“The musical power of our sound lies in its heavy bass and drum sound,” says Seymour. “John [bass player John Archer] constructs unusual arrangements. We explore each others idiosyncrasies to exploit the individual approach. Our music is raw and elemental and expresses emotion in its most basic forms.”

Human Frailty is their new album, on IRS Records. It delves into the realm of the range of human relationships better than any album since Roxy Music’s Siren. The new record isn’t as raw as The Jaws of Life, but it is no less basic and it grabs you. They are presently touring small clubs (200 to 500 seats), as is their style. They firmly believe that their show will create a following that will grow when they return on future tours, and they aren’t being arrogant. You can decide for yourself if they’re right when they pass through town, but they should win over almost any crowd.