‘Behind the Scenes’ | Interview with Hunter Ellis

Multi-instrumentalist Hunter Ellis delivers a beautifully composed, moody album filled with emotion.  A concept work you need to listen to from start to finish. Read our discussion with the artist below!

Describe your sound in 3 words

Behind the Scenes

Tell us a few things about your latest full album titled Princess Daddy. What is the story behind it?

It was born out of necessity–the need to process feelings, explore myself, work with friends, connect with other musicians. Thematically it began to take shape as I borrowed mroe and more phrases my 2 (and then 3) year old daughter would say while we hung out. The title is hers, as are many of the lyrics that I wrote on the album. The project gelled once I booked out Prairie Sun and recorded drums through Pete Townsend’s old Neve Board–that’s when I knew it was going to see the light of day.
I come from a background of experimental instrumental post rock. It may not sound like it, but this album is me veering towards more “familiarly” structured songs with lyrics and vocals. To that end, I enlisted the help of many more profiecient vocalists.
There were also originally 12 songs, but only 8 fit on the vinyl. I chose the most cohesive group, but there are 4 more that will come out as an EP probably early next year.

You are the definition of a multi-instrumentalist. If you had to choose just one musical instrument though, which one would it be?

I would choose an instrument I can’t currently play–the pedal slide guitar.

Favourite album of the past decade?

Wow that’s a tough question. My musical taste has changed alot over the last 10 years, so I might choose an album that only became my “favorite” recently, although perhaps it came out earlier.
However, if I had to choose one album from the past 10 years to bring with me and leave the rest behind, it would probably be Syro by Aphex Twin. Honorable mention to Disheveled Cuss (eponymous), Freeman (also eponymous),
Dot Hacker (no. 3), and Warpaint (Radiate Like This)– I just saw Warpaint live and it was easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, so I’m perhaps a little biased right now.

How has your sound developed over these years compared to your previous albums but also the numerous projects you were involved in?

As I mentioned before, I’m much more interested in writing accesible music that’s a little easier to digest these days–although I’m not sure that comes across. I’ve turned a corner and plan on writing vocal parts to each song (for the foreseeable future)
I am less concerned with staying away from anything that remotely reminds me of anything else, but instead am trying harder to focus on “that sounds good, let’s go with that”. I’ve acepted that a “formulaic” song structure still gives plenty of room for experimentation.
And I’m still trying to impose artifical limitations on myself in order to tweak the creativity a little bit–although I’m slow to learn that lesson. Excess is fun and easy 🙂

How do you relate to the music scene of California? Also what do you love/hate about Santa Rosa?

The “California” music scene is a pretty broad term, so I’m going to focus on the local one. I think my perspective is somewhat unique. In high school I was lucky enough to be a part of a relatively successful instrumental rock band that had a great local draw and toured a lot, doing two cross country international tours. After we broke up, I moved away, went to college, got some jobs, moved back and got a real job, and it wasn’t until last month that I finally started playing “serious” shows in Sonoma County again.
It’s been really fun to come back into the scene, even if it makes me feel old (my high school band broke up almost 15 years ago). There’s a ton of great younger bands that all seem connected to each other that I’ve been exposed to via my practice space, and they’re making really unique and interesting music. I’ve also been lucky enough to enlist some local music scene vets in my live band, which has been so fun. The scene seems to contain musicians from all walks of life with a huge age range, which I think is partially due to the county’s small size but is a cool phenomenon. As far as what I hate about Santa Rosa…I mean I could write a novel. The greatest detriment to the music scene is a lack of smaller venues that are comfortable places to see and hear music.

If the music of Hunter Ellis was a book, which book would that be?

Harold and the Purple Crayon, the pages of which I have pasted along the top walls of my studio

What is the first album you remember hearing as a child?

The first album I remember putting on for myself was stealing my dad’s tape of Nevermind (which I was sure I wasn’t supposed to listen to because it had a guy flipping off the camera on the liner notes) and listening to it in the alcove of this house I grew up in–which I now live in again with my wife and daughter. I remember being almost scared of the energy, but loving the melodic heavy riffs and the drumming.

Thank you!

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