Hunger Anthem’s music is a heady mix of angular alternative rock and piercing guitar pop, taking cues from both of Bob Mould’s influential bands—Husker Du and Sugar—and heavy, noisy bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth.
The band, who is currently in the process of recording a new album, is set to play The Jinx on July 12 in the middle of a lengthy run of shows. We spoke to bandleader Brendan Vaganek ahead of the gig.
I’ve really enjoyed listening to the music so far—I definitely heard some Sonic Youth in the way you approach guitars on these recordings.
Vaganek: You’re pretty spot on. I’m also a huge fan of where Husker Du came from. Heavier, driving music but with a distinct sense of pop.
So like the Mould solo stuff or Sugar?
Vaganek: That band, too. And Sonic Youth for sure, with the noisy aspect. I use a lot of full, open chords so I like how some of that dissonance plays into rock songs. Bands like Superchunk, Guided By Voices, that sort of thing.
Has that always been your M.O. musically? How did you guys land on what you do?
Vaganek: Yeah, personally it kind of has been. I also started with a bit of a punk edge, leaning towards stuff like the Sex Pistols. When Cameron [Kelly, drummer] and I met some years ago here in Athens, the pop aspect really clicked right for us.
We kind of related through GBV and The Thermals. And having a similar approach, a real DIY approach to things. And all three of us also have a really good work ethic, which is essential these days for moving forward in any way [laughs].
Your first record came out in 2011?
Vaganek: Yeah! I started doing a lot of things lo-fi, and I did that record on a four-track.
In true Guided By Voices style!
Vaganek: Exactly. I played every instrument on it, too. You become pretty adept at using that technology when there’s only four tracks available. But I always wanted to get other people involved. Some years after that, we released the EP Cut The Chord, which is a full band thing. Recently we recorded a full-length, and that's what we're focusing on a lot now. We did it here in Athens with Mike Albanese at Espresso Machine Recordings. We're looking at the fall for release, and we recently did a video for a single called "Remedy."
There's a really rich history of alternative music in Athens, which makes it feel like you guys fit in very well there.
Vaganek: It's pretty fertile ground. There's a really good musical community here. Everyone's pretty connected.
Is there still a place for indie rock and stuff like that there?
Vaganek: Oh, definitely. There's a lot of bands who are active right now that are doing good stuff. For instance, at this Savannah show we're playing with our friends Mean Queen. They're really good. They just did a record with Mike as well at Espresso Machine. Our friends SHEHEHE have been around for a bunch of years, and they've been killing it.
Tell me more about the new record? Is there anything you can pinpoint that's evolved or different from past releases?
Vaganek: It's definitely an evolution of stuff we've previously done. It's still in that guitar-driven vein, but there's a lot more dual vocals on this. Margo [Fortune], our bass player, has been with us for a few years now. We've been focusing a lot more on dual voices in our songs. If I'm singing lead, Margo's great at doing harmonies and finding spaces to sing.
As far as the songwriting, too, we’re definitely keeping things tight and [focusing on] knowing what’s needed and what’s not needed [laughs]. When it comes to songwriting, I’m really about the least common denominator. I put something in a song because I feel it needs to be there. A couple of songs are a little pulled back, but it’s definitely a rock record.
And aside from being a great engineer, Mike is a friend. He’s really straightforward with us. If something’s slightly off, he’ll say, ‘Let’s try that again.’ It really pulls out you’re best performances. We’re really psyched about sharing this record.