“It’s the idea of looking forward with a clear idea of what’s happened in the past. It’s us feeling like a new band. It’s a fresh start for us even though we’ve been together for so long.”
Just days before Hunting Grounds’ riotous return to the city of Canberra at Transit Bar on Saturday night, I am joined by the humble Michael Belsar, lead vocalist and guitarist of the rowdy six-piece, on tour and living it up in the sunshine. “We’re at a beach house in Byron Bay literally ten metres away from the beach! Brisbane and Gold Coast were insane. The crowds were mental! We could hear them singing all the lyrics; it was an extremely flattering experience.”
For Hunting Grounds, the release of their debut album In Hindsight is a retrospective search for growth and identity amidst an industry of labels and typecasts. As Michael relates, “We decided that we didn’t want to be pigeonholed into that heavy rock/punk genre. Our EPs were really cocky, heavy and aggressive. We just didn’t want to be that band anymore.” For Hunting Grounds, the keyword is honesty. After writing a majority of the album and even releasing the album’s first single ‘In Colour’ early last year, “It just didn’t feel right. We pushed back the release date and rewrote the entire album. We wanted to play music that we would want to listen to. Finally we produced something that was really, really honest and really, really us.”
The band consists of six brilliantly talented musicians and songwriters. two guitars, a keyboard, drums, bass, and three vocalists on constant rotation. How on earth do they manage to put together all of that creative input? “It’s really easy! Someone will work out the base of a song and everyone just tweaks a part of their own. Like I said, it all fits together so easily.” For Hunting Grounds, the creative process seems effortless. According to Michael, the fluent artistry evident in each of their seamless, beautifully crafted songs has stemmed from the band’s childhood friendships. “I think a newer band with so many songwriters would struggle, but we’ve known each other for so long that it just works somehow. We’ve been playing together since we were in Year Eight so there’s a lot of chemistry between the six of us.”
Like all chemistry, theirs is volatile and dynamic, sparked by the beaming lights of the Transit Bar stage: guitarist and bassist leaping off the stage, thrashing and moshing with the convulsing, energetic crowd; lead singer snatching a balloon off the roof to suck up the helium in long drags, giving his screams a wailing, high-pitched edge; the drum-kit dismantled and hammered by every member of the band in an extended instrumental frenzy.
Some bands seem to purposefully avoid the tiny city of Canberra in their travels, but for Hunting Grounds, it’s an absolute treat. “We always love coming to Canberra! Being from Ballarat ourselves, we love playing small cities. They have such a genuine vibe. People just seem to be stoked to be seeing music.” And, if you happen to pass by an unruly group of young men crashed out on the streets of Civic in the wee hours of Sunday morning, do not be alarmed! For Hunting Grounds, it seems to come part and parcel with the whole Canberra experience. “After the first show we every played in Canberra we ended up sleeping in a strip club! It was possibly the wildest show and the wildest night ever. We had a phenomenal time.”