Sitting in what I can only imagine is called “ the white room” – I kid you not, it was a floor to ceiling white washed room made all the more incandescent by the white furniture and questionably off-white fur pillows – in Shopify, it seemed a fittingly odd place for my interview with the eclectic band members of Hunter.
After a chance encounter last summer at a mutual friends birthday party, Mikhail Yuzicapi (Mick) approached two former Mudplots band members, bassist Tetsuro Takara (Tets) and singer-songwriter guitarist Kevin Ochal (Kev), with a proposal they just couldn’t refuse.
“Basically, I very loudly and belligerently told them that I was going to be their drummer,” said Mick after hearing a rumour that the pair might be looking to fill that position.
And just like that, Hunter was born.
In his adolescence, Mick was first introduced to the keyboard and guitar when he and a friend tried a start a band. The one thing they could not find was a drummer and that’s when Mick found his true calling – with a little help from Weezers “Say It Ain’t So”.
When he approached Kev and Tets, neither one had a clear direction set out for their next musical project.
With several years of choir under his belt and the dexterity that only comes with 15 years of self-taught guitar, music became second nature for Kev as he dabbled in a couple of bands since college.
After years of taking trumpet in the school band, Tets took his rhythmic artistry to a whole other level and picked up the bass. But he hasn’t stopped there: outside of his run-of-the-mill day, he’s always working to better himself and takes jazz lessons to further his own instrumental knowledge.
Right before Christmas, the thriving three piece band welcomed local solo artist, Tyler Roy (Ty), into their inner circle as their newest member.
“We wanted a fourth member because we felt like something was missing,” explained Mick.
After listening to his upbeat live acoustic sessions, it’s obvious that Ty’s guitar savvy skills will be a lively addition to Hunter’s sound.
But if you ask Hunter what kind of sound they have – and trust me, I tried – they wouldn’t be able to narrow it down. The best answer I could get out of them was somewhere along the lines of a blues-rock-psychedelic vibe.
“We all have different backgrounds,” reasoned Tets, whose jazzy education is really the unexpected wild card for a band like Hunter. After having talked to them about their biggest musical influences, I quickly realized that was a bit of an understatement.
It ranges from hip hop, to blues, to indie rock… and, oddly enough, Christmas Carols were mentioned more than I’d like to admit (Ty and Kev may or may not have recorded a remixed Christmas EP that is hiding somewhere).
If you’re as fascinated by the origins of the name “Hunter” like I was, well hold on tight because I guarantee it isn’t anything you’d be expecting.
(As told to me by the guys) On one fateful night, out for a smoke break from one of their jam sessions, the boys were trying to cook up a catchy name for themselves without any luck. Just at that moment, as if by divine intervention, an owl flew overhead and perched nearby. Their new name was staring them the face.
From this moment on, the owl became Kev’s “spirit animal” but as for how that got them to Hunter, we just might never know.
They definitely aren’t without their quirks, but it’s where they differ in musical taste and experience that makes Hunter so unique. However, there’s no denying there are some things they all have in common, namely their motivation to sticking it through and their commitment to making their own kind of music.
“I just want it to work this time around because real life has to start after this,” said Mick. “Now is the time to make it.”
Like their straightforward beginning, Hunter has stayed true to their organic way of functioning and implemented it into their band practice.
“Sometimes it’s constructed and other times someone will bring something interesting to the table, like a cool riff,” said Kev, and they just expand on it or drop it all together. One thing’s for certain during their open jam sessions: “when it’s fruitful, it’s fruitful.”
For now, the newly formed Ottawa-based band has hit the ground running with the release of their first EP, but that’s just the beginning.
“We’re going to spend some time pulling our resources together. Our website is up and looking good and we’re planning to have some merch come out before the end of winter,” said Mick. “Now the focus is on getting Ty up to speed and working out how he can make us even better.”
Hunter released their first EP, a compilation of five original songs, in November. Within no time, the band has already gained recognition as their track, “Time”, was featured in a recent Tattoo Hero promo video.
Singles like “Time”, “Lines” and “Truth” seem to open with a mellow instrumental sound before slowly kicking it up a notch into choruses that are infused with pop-folk strains.
After having met the band members and listened to their own criticisms on the soundtrack, I can understand where it differs from the appeal of a live performance. The EP captures that strangely unique, psychedelic sound but whether it portrays their intensity and what they’re capable of remains an unanswered question.
Like every local band, Hunter’s challenge is to produce something that stands out from the steady flow of Ottawa talent taking the stage around them and I think their bluesy riffs and catchy choruses might just do the trick.
Luckily, their appeal doesn’t lie only in their lyrical prowess but in their witty and humorous demeanor that I can only imagine is equally portrayed on stage.
Hunter’s debuted an EP that is confident, but it doesn’t quite grasp the real heart and soul the boys put into their performance. That just means you’ll have to catch them at a live show to see for yourself.