The Hunches Were One Wild Rock and Roll Band

With the release of the Portland band's early demos we chat to guitarist Chris Gunn about their early days, youthful ambition and Jon Spencer.

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Sep 30 2015, 2:13am

From the early 2000s until they disbanded in 2009, the Hunches delivered a wild and cacophonous garage sound.

The Portland four piece; bass player Sarah Epstein, singer Hart Geldhill, guitarist Chris Gunn, and drummer Ben Spencer played hard, toured hard and partied hard. Live they were frantic and their recorded work was released on number of labels most notably LA’s In the Red.

New York label Almost Ready recently released “You’ll Never Get Away With My Heart” 7’ the bands earliest recordings, two demos from 2001 that capture the band at their rawest and sweatiest.

We had a chat to Chris Gunn about the Hunches early days.

Noisey: What do you remember about the recording of these songs?
Chris Gunn: We recorded with our friend Dan Mohr somewhere in the wild suburbs of Seattle. Whenever we played Seattle we would stay with him and have a killer time until the next morning. Without fail our mornings in Seattle were hungover as fuck and we always ended up at the same breakfast place. I didn't mind the place but Hart hated it so much that he would always stage a strange protest. He can't stand eggs. He hates them even more than he hated that Seattle breakfast place but he’d order this dish called ‘The Great Wall of Egg’ and he would eat the whole thing, hating every minute of it. Kind of metaphoric. Anyways maybe he did it to torture us with gas on the way home or just to be some sort of martyr. Maybe I got this story all wrong and of course Hart will tell me all about it.

What do you think of the songs?
I was so excited to record those songs. We were all excited. At this point we were playing lots of shows and the possibilities seemed endless. We didn't have a record label or anything but I think we mailed it to Rip Off, Estrus, Flying Bomb, Crypt records and In the Red. We were a real straight garage rock and roll band. We were playing some real cheesy shit. Lots of songs about imaginary girls and I think I still really liked Jon Spencer Blues Explosion so I would still kind of sing like him some times when I would do back up vocals. Luckily I was also listening to Exile on Main Street and Big Star a shitload. I think "Like I Could Die" has a little Big Star in it. At least the guitar part. At least I wanted it to sound like that. Or maybe it was the Dovers or Dream Syndicate.

The recording went really well and I was really happy with it. When we got back from Seattle we played it for lots of people and they all loved it and then I played it for my friend Adam Stonehouse and he immediately told me that we had fucked up. He was like "what were you thinking" this doesn't sound like you guys at all. He thought it was way too clean and polished and in a way he was right. That moment had a big influence on me but I also think these early recordings are kind of nice. I definitely wouldn't have said that 6 or 7 years ago. I wouldn't have let you listen to these back then because I wanted to pretend that they didn't exist. It's cool that we get over these anxieties as we get older or maybe its not a good thing and I was right in trying to sweep them under the rug.

Do you miss the excitement and ambition of those very early days?
I miss believing in something so fully. I had no doubts about our band or what I wanted to do. I worked endlessly on music. I had limitless energy. I thought about songs all day. I was excited about shows. I had never been in a band that was having success like that. We were finally realising our dream of playing music and then Larry [Hardy, In the Red records] said that he would put out an album with us and that just catapulted me into space. It’s like organised religion. I had no doubts. I was taken care of by my belief in playing music.

How accurate is Lars Finberg's description of you in the introduction to his Termbo interview?
It seems pretty accurate. I think I remember that night or maybe it's a few nights rolled into one. We definitely partied pretty hard. Although Hart can be a real nice guy depending on who he is talking to and I doubt I put on a Roy Orbison record to dance to. I love Roy but I probably would have put on Leonard Cohen or Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands if it was the end of the night because when the going gets rough I have a real weird need to make it worse with real depressing music.

Speaking of that interview I still laugh at the thought of Hart crouched on all fours blocking the Blues Explosion’s tour van as they tried to leave a venue in Europe and because of his meager performance payment yelling “Why don’t you rape me again JON SPENCER!” Have you heard any recent JSBX music?
I haven't. I read that he is now copying no wave music or something. The last thing I listened to was Heavy Trash. If I start doing shit like that I hope someone tells me to stop. But you know in Jon Spencer's defense I like that one song "Kill Yourself" by Pussy Galore and he was like a gateway for me in middle school. The bridge between Nirvana and the Oblivians. Ben Wallers told me that he got the name Country Teasers from the Pussy Galore song "Cunt Tease" so it can't be all bad if it led to the Country Teasers. Of course Ben might have been lying. The dude has to make a living and he chose music as a way to do that. He might have to compromise some musical integrity but at least he doesn't work in a shitty warehouse like I do or have to use interviews about his older more popular bands to promote the new shit that he is trying to do without any direct questions relating to that new shit.

It’s cool that there are some people excited about these songs recorded fifteen years ago but I'm also in a new band called the Lavender Flu. We have a double LP called Heavy Air coming out on MEDS. It's all analog and home recorded and I am super excited about it. I hope someone someday wants to ask me some questions about this much more relevant shit or at least tell me that it is time to stop playing music because it is starting to sound like Heavy Trash.

‘You'll Never Get Away With My Heart / Like I Could Die’ is available now on Almost Ready.