It’s hard to place Johnny Hunter, the four piece from Sydney’s Inner West. With a slew of singles already released, their sound changes from dirty and heavy, to anthemic and poetic; from unruly and messy to clean cut and hopeful.
One thing that is easier to work out is that Johnny Hunter are a band on the up, and you’d be stupid to miss the jump. With debut EP Early Trauma setting the scene for what the band are primed to deliver, Johnny Hunter draw the listener in with every engrossing guitar lick, relentless drum beat and the atmospheric and imposing vocals of front man Nick Hutt.
Having been kicking around the local Sydney scene for a couple years now, the band have managed to develop a strong and fierce following, impressing those in the know with a selection of supporting slots for The Saboteurs and City Calm Down. Here on Early Trauma the band embrace the sounds of their contemporaries, whilst also throwing it back in homage to those notable bands of the past that every young band knows and draws influence from. With nods to David Bowie, The Smiths and Joy Division, there’s a level of melancholic beauty in their sound that helps set them apart from everyone else, if they haven’t already been.
The opening riffs of “Hollow Man” sets the pace for the rest of the EP, as the vocals of Hutt immediately draw you in. Hutt’s near operatic delivery, when matched with the punch of the drums, helps create a presence in the band that will undoubtedly bid them well over the coming years. You can envisage the way Hutt will command the stage and demand your attention when he delivers “Hollow Man” in the future.
Next up is “Pain & Joy”, the first real taste the band gave us in the lead up to Early Trauma. It’s full throttle and angsty from the get-go, as the layering of the guitars build throughout the bridge. There’s a level of controlled chaos throughout “Pain & Joy” that draws you into a place of heartbreak and longing for connection, as the vocals of Hutt sing out ‘Hold me, break me, substantiate me/ let the pain & joy we share keep me alive’.
The stand out single on the EP is “Try As You May”. Fives stars all round, from front to back and side to side, “Try As You May” is quite possibly the best single to come out of Sydney this year. With its relentless hi-hats setting the tone, once more it is the delivery of the bridge that proves to be the true masterpiece of the track. Written from a perspective of heartbreak and loss, “Try As You May” best showcases the multi-faceted nature of Johnny Hunter.
The anthemic and hypnotic nature of “Innocence Interrupted” explores another depth of the band. Written in ode to the Winona Ryder movie Heathers, it is the band at their softest and most reserved. Meanwhile, “Beautiful Dreamer” goes hand-in-hand with “Innocence Interrupted” in the ballad stakes. While both being cut from the same cloth, “Beautiful Dreamer” borders on a more traditional glam rock sound. You definitely hear the influences of Morrissey and Bowie coming through once more.
While not a flawless EP, Early Trauma is as close to perfection as you could hope for a band releasing their first EP. Built on the back of a stellar live show, Johnny Hunter will do well if they continue to push the boundaries on their sound. Here’s hoping they maintain their inability to be pigeonholed.