Circuit Sweet Interview, Circuit Sweet Introducing, Feature

Introducing Hunter Ellis- Album Release + Interview Special

March 10, 2014


Introducing Hunter Ellis.
An inspiring instrumental artist who we urge you all to support.

Hunter has been writing, performing and recording his creations with his friends since 2003. Known for his involvement with bands called More Creation, The Coma Lilies, The Silent Sex Orchestra, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, SHAT, Mean Girls, My Dads, and Horders. Now Hunter is making a name for his solo efforts. This year is already a triumphant milestone for Hunter, last month he released his 12 track debut album ‘The Healing Power of Laughter’ and what a remarkable release. A simply intricate release with calculating compositions. From start to finish the release engages the listener thoughout the flow of the record using a variety of influences. Alluring Orchestration, with a delicate and precise use of notes fused with absorbing genre defying samples and experimental electronic sound waves. Hunter has trapped this free form instrumental jazz rock into a corner and made his own captivating mark on this specific sound.

The Healing Power of Laughter Tracklisting

1. The Healing Power of Laughter
2. Fevertime
3. Eat Rotten Fruit
4. Fingerbib
5. Amelia Earhardt
6. Haiku
7. The Shit Hole is the Egg Hole
8. Train Town
9. Master of Your Domain
10. The Quesadilla Lady
11. NameSame
12. La Llama Se Llama Llama

You can listen to the album streaming in it’s entirety here and available to download now via bandcamp-

All songs written, recorded, produced, and performed by Hunter Ellis except Track 4, written by Richard D. James. All live drums played by Gabe Katz and recorded by Wainwright Hewlett and Marcelo Spina. Additional mixing by Jaime Wosk. Keyboards on tracks 1, 2, 8, 9 and 12 by Asher Katz.Trumpet on Tracks 7 and 8 by Don Malkemus. Additional trumpet on Track 8 by Gabe Steiner. Trombone on Track 8 by Zach Moran. Mastered by Patrick Moss. Artwork, design, and layout by Asher Katz.

We are thrilled to chat to Hunter and find out more about this release, the hard work he put into recording and the reception said release has created to date.

Firstly thank you for spending time with Circuit Sweet. Before we talk about your recent debut Album release The Healing Power of Laughter lets find out more on you. Firstly introduce yourself and how long have you been playing and performing live?

My Name is Hunter. I grew up in Northern California and have lived in Portland, New York, and Los Angeles as well, and this CD was recorded in all those places. I started playing guitar in 2000 and have been in bands since I first bought an instrument. Two friends and I learned to play together, basically trying to rip of and simplify Sublime songs without singing. It was not very good at all, but it was a great experience learning how to play your instrument alongside two others who are at the same place as you. I started performing in earnest in 2003 with The Coma Lilies, and continued playing and touring with them until we broke up in 2008. Afterwards most of us went on to form My Dads, a 6 piece instrumental rock band based in Portland Oregon. We went on numerous tours and recorded three albums, but eventually geographic challenges got in the way of continued performing. We are all still extremely close, however, both musically and personally.

What was it that first got you to pick up an instrument and direct your passion?

I started playing violin in the third grade because it sounded a lot more fun than playing recorder (I went to a Waldorf School), plus the teacher had cool red frizzy hair and I thought he would be nice. I loved the violin and continued to play in ensembles until I was in 11th grade, but the moment I decided I wanted to play guitar was more memorable. I was walking around my campus in middle school (the campus was home to grades 1-12) and I heard some people jamming “Get Up Stand Up” by Bob Marley in the High School. I thought it was so cool, to be able to make loud rock music with drums and bass like that—so different from what I was used to with the violin. They were playing it simple music but playing it well, making up their own fills, solos, etc, and having so much FUN. I decided that I wanted to play guitar then.

What outside influences trigger your creativity and create your unique sound?

The way an individual song ends up sounding has a lot to do with what is going on in my life while I’m writing and recording a piece. I think simple, personal events—relationships, achievements, confusion, satisfaction, happiness—contribute to the overall emotional bend of my music more than I perhaps recognize at first. But there are certainly a lot of conscious, creative choices that fuel my music. Bands and composers such as Secret Chiefs 3, Max Steiner, Plaid, Ween, The Books, Air, RX Bandits, and Ennio Morricone have all been extremely influential as I try to craft a song. In my own weird way I’ll set out to make parts or songs that “sound like” one or more of those artists, and in my mind I think I succeed sometimes, though I’m aware that the end product sounds nothing like those guys. I’m also greatly influenced by the music that I’ve played with and learned form my friends over the years. Everything that they write is complex and beautiful and challenging, and I try to incorporate as much of that as possible.

How would you personally describe your own sound in one word


p.s. I’ve never been successfully able to answer that question. So…euphonic is greek for good sound, and I hope it sounds good. Sorry !

With regards to your February album release we would love to know the ins and outs on this release. Describe your writing/recording process and how you’ve managed to get to the point of your sensational release.

And I thought my answers were too long already! There are twoways in which I’ve made the music on this CD. One is what my friends and I call “diarrhealism.” This means that the drums are the first thing to get recorded, without an idea of what music is going to go over them. Gabe Katz (who plays all the live drums on this cd) will record a song, generally with some kind of “feel,” but not necessarily. I don’t know what is going on in his head at that point. Then I’ll get my hands on it, and basically press record, and do a note, or a section, or layers and layers of notes and sections, until I get something that sounds right. Generally I start with guitar. Then I’ll move on to the next section and do the same thing. On this CD, I tried to incorporate some kind of normal “structure” in those songs—a part that repeated, etc, so it didn’t sound so crazy. Once I’ve gotten the bones of the song on guitar and bass, I’ll go back through with strings, keyboards, vocals, mandolins…anything that I think might be nice somewhere in the song.

The second way is a pretty different creative process. I’ve been using computers to help me write music since 2008. I’ll sometimes come up with a guitar riff, or maybe I won’t, and I’ll put some midi notes into the computer. This way I can write five or six parts that go well with each other and I can tweak each note of each part until it sounds right. The danger with this is you can get music that sounds alien, or inhuman, or not meant for the instrument you are trying to play it on. Sometimes this is a good thing! But I have to be careful not to write all the songs for guitar on a computer without a guitar in my hand.

After I have a song written, it will sometimes take years until I get a chance to record it. I wrote The Shit Hole is the Egg Hole in 2009, and The Healing Power of Laughter in 2010. But Fevertime and Train Town I wrote in 2013, so they only took a year to get recorded. For some reason, I’m lucky enough to have Gabe learn some of my songs—he writes his drum parts to them. He then records them to the MIDI that I have prepared, and sends me the drum tracks. In this case I’ll generally start with the bass, then add the guitar bones. I’ve slowly learned over the years that it is much better to not get attached to the way you wrote it on the computer, so I will change all the parts if I can figure out a way to make them sound more musical than I had originally written them. Everything changes when its on real instruments. Some of the songs Gabe didn’t learn, but I wanted to record them anyway. Some of these are the songs with no drums, but others I sampled drums and programmed drums and these songs have a more electronic feel, to me. The recording process is slightly different in that I recorded most of the song first and then programmed the drums around the song.

Once I knew I was finally going to have a body of work that I could release, I contacted my friend Asher Katz, the one who played drums in my very first band, and asked him if would do the art for my CD. He had been doing these amazing silk paintings using, as far as I know, some kind of advanced tie-die crumpling process. I’m sure I am butchering whatever it is he actually does. But he runs a company that makes all these dyes and invents a bunch of cool ways for using them. And I love the art that he gave me—it’s the only part of the CD that I can be objective about, and I think its really awesome.

Are the songtitles all your work (as they are awesome)?

All the song titles are mine, I suppose. I chose The Healing Power of Laughter as a title for two reasons. One, there is some truth to it. But two, it is a catchphrase from one of my favorite TV shows, Children’s Hospital. The title sort of colored a lot of the titles I decided to use. Eat Rotten Fruit is shortened from Eat Rotten Fruit From a Shitty Tree, a Mr. Show sketch. Master of Your Domain is how they refer to masturbating in the Seinfeld episode The Contest. Amelia Earhardt was shortened from Amelia Earhardt’s Guide to the Pacific Ocean. But not all the titles are comedic. NameSame is actually pronounced Nah-may-sah-may, and it is dzong-ka (Bhutanese) for “beyond the sky and the earth.” The Shit Hole is the Egg Hole refers to chickens. La Llama Se Llama Llama is a Spanish proverb that I made up.

Almost a month on since you showcased your talents, how has the reception of the release been? 

I released my CD online before I made physical copies made, which may have been a mistake. I didn’t really start promoting my CD until a week ago when the discs came in the mail, because I wanted something to actually GIVE to people. My friends all like my CD, and I’ve heard very nice things from a few strangers who found it through my old bands. But I haven’t had a lot of actual “Press.” I think part of the problem is my music is too melodic for all the hardcore kids and too weird for all the indie kids. So I haven’t found my niche yet, which is my fault.

Do you perform live, and if so what do your live shows possess?

I haven’t been able to perform any of this live yet. I’ve been practicing a few songs with Ableton backing tracks and looping guitars, and I’m trying to get a very short set together, but the songs definitely have a very different feeling when heard that way. If I have the opportunity I’d love to perform them with Gabe on drums and any of my other friends that had the time—the problem is that we all live on different parts of the West Coast. But I think there is a strong possibility that some of these songs will be performed by a live band someday, and I’ll keep trying to figure out a way to interpret these songs on my own. If I’m ever satisfied with the result, I will do solo shows.

Enlighten us to what can we look forward to from you in the future?

I’m going to try to do my next album in a very different way. I’m planning on being gone for four months over the summer and I won’t have access to recording gear. But I am going to track to make some songs that have a more electronic backbone that I can polish up with guitars and other instruments when I get home. I’ll definitely listen to more FourTet, Plaid, and Air.

Before we finish all featured artists are asked this- What album or track has been stuck on your turntable, ipod, cd player for a while now?

Oh my god the new Bearcubbin.’ I know people on Circuit Sweet already know about them but seriously. Down Buttermilk Road is my jam. And X’ed out has been a staple since it came out. And I got some new Frank Black that I’m looking forward to getting familiar with, and I really like Blackbird Chain and Wave from Beck’s new CD, which is kind of surprising to me.

And Finally any last words from you?

I’m just proud of this CD that I worked on for so long and excited to share it with people of like-minded tastes. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me Naomi, this was really fun And I hope I have the opportunity to play live soon!

Hunter it was our pleasure!

Hunter Ellis has found his own gap in the market and it won’t be long before his album explodes through all music media outlets. With talent like this the support will soon double. Hunter should be exceptionally proud of his accomplishments and we are looking forward to see him reap the rewards. This is only the beginning and this won’t be the last you hear from Hunter on Circuit Sweet.

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