Before Jana Hunter became the woman behind the Baltimore-based Lower Dens, she was a solo singer-songwriter from Houston, TX. After releasing her 2005 debut Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom and two follow-up albums through Devendra Banhart’s label, she started her current dreamy, psychedelic project. We talked to her about the band’s latest video, their upcoming album, and got some advice for shy musicians.
Escape From Evil, the band’s third release, comes out March 31.
AF: I read that you’ve coached at the Girls Rock camp in your hometown, Houston. Did teaching kids about music give you any creative insights?
JH: Definitely. That was one of the better experiences I’ve had as a musician, and as an adult. You want to teach them something about their instrument, but the most important thing to focus on is not being so afraid about impressing other people, or perfecting their craft, and to remember to have a good time. And kids, once they see that is a possibility, they’re quick to embrace it, and that is really refreshing to be around… kids can really throw themselves into something and lose their sense of self-awareness that prohibits them from enjoying and developing their creativity. That was really cool and I feel like I learned way more from them than they possibly could’ve learned from me.
AF: I think sometimes girls, especially, need that push of self-confidence from a mentor.
JH: Yeah, and they said as much. Throughout the week we were working with them on a little video documentary and they would say, ‘This environment helps me feel like it’s ok for me to do whatever I want.’ I imagine that had something to do with being around a lot of women, and people who were not… um… men (laughs). And not having to worry about impressing boys or anything like that.
AF: Did you take music lessons when you were young?
JH: Yeah, I started playing when I was eight or nine. My first instrument was the recorder, which I played in music class in elementary school. Then I switched to violin. I still play it, I just don’t take lessons or anything anymore. But yeah, I did a pretty rigorous study of music.
AF: The music video for “To Die In L.A.” was great, and the timing of its release- a week or so before the Oscars- seemed perfect. Was that intentional?
JH: No, I didn’t think about that at all, until I saw in our Twitter mentions a Spanish publication said something about that. That’s amazing, that we didn’t think about that at all. I wish we had. And obviously, everyone wants to know what Lower Dens thinks about the Oscars…(laughs) you know, here you go, burning social commentary.
AF: You make an appearance in that video. Is being on camera fun, or does it get tedious?
JH: I loved making that video, but there have been others that were decidedly more difficult, but this one was worth every minute of it. I think that crew was amazing, and