Fri, 21 Mar 2008 08:23:43
PlayRadioPlay! sounds like impending sonic evolution. On Texas, PRP's debut, swirling electronics cascade into pop-punk melodies that are nothing short alternative music gold. The songs are catchy, witty and just plain engaging. Texas paints pictures of pirates and high school love over a dance-y electro beat. Dan Hunter, the sole multimedia-master behind PRP, is the kind of young quirky, enigmatic musician that could actually speak to Facebook Nation and get them dancing at the same time. Dan sat down with ARTISTdirect to discuss writing about pirates, composing music and much more.
Given that you’re the sole songwriter on Texas, where do you usually start writing—on a keyboard, guitar or piano? Where does it begin?
It varies every time. There isn't really a formula. Sometimes I'll be programming, and I'll get an idea and add vocals to it. Sometimes I'll have a guitar part that I'll add vocals to. In general, it's easy to start with programming or guitar, and then write a vocal melody over it. After that, I add lyrics halfway through.
The lyrics are striking, because they're catchy and very vivid.
A lot of people don't really like them, because they think they're childish. But, whatev.
Honestly, they're fun. You're exploring different relationship themes in a light-hearted, but intelligent manner.
I'd like to think it's intelligent, talking about pirates and stuff [laughs].
With all of the electronic flourishes and textures, do you come from a big electronic music background?
I started PlayRadioPlay! three years ago, as a result of getting into electronic programming in a music tech class in high school. I just found it interesting, because I've always been a technology person. I always liked computers and building sounds electronically. I was really interested in doing more with music than just guitars, bass and drums. I felt like that was a worn-out formula. I really do it because electronic music gives you a way to explore sounds and vibes. It also offers a much broader spectrum beyond having a few elements to work with.
Electronic music breaks down boundaries and borders, because you can do so much. You blend that avant-garde sensibility with the classic hook structures too.
It's really not something that I ever think about too much. The guy that mixed Texas has hundreds of records. He told me where all the influences were coming from in my music, and I was like, "Oh I've never heard of any of them" [laughs]. It's really just what sounds natural to me and what goes on in the back of my head.
When did you start composing music?
I started writing music four or five years ago when I first started playing bass. I played in punk bands in high school. I wrote and sang. I kind of wanted to sound like Tom Delonge, I guess. I didn't really find my true voice until the last three years.
Did you always compose alone?
No, I always wrote with a guitarist—a friend of mine. He and I always wrote together. Once I wanted to continue doing something, I looked for bands. I had the gear to record stuff and started recording stuff myself, and I dissolved this interest into doing everything myself. Now I wouldn’t do it any other way.
Live, are you going to have a band?
Yeah, I have a live band. It's been everywhere from a six-piece to a three-piece. I'm just playing with a drummer and a synth player now. And I'm playing guitar and singing.
Is it hard to translate the more electronic sounds to the live setting?
Yeah, sometimes. My synth player has to have three keyboards that all have patches on them to kind of lacerate sounds. My drummer plays the kick drum and stuff. It's not the typical drummer and keyboardist gig. I had to have people who were pretty patient in learning what I wanted them to do. It's definitely not easy.
So, what's the music scene like where you're from?
When I first started playing music, Dallas had so many kids in bands. This place I played a lot had shows Fridays and Saturdays, and pretty much, if you could draw kids there, you could headline there. It's really a cool system for people who are playing out. You just get lots of kids from your high school to go, and you start developing a fan base. These days after a few bands from the area had started getting signed, it seems like a big priority for a lot of bands in the area to get signed rather than play music. It kind of sucks on that level, but there are still cool bands around.
Was there a certain significance for you with naming the record Texas?
That probably would've always been something I wanted to name a record. I had always assumed that it had been done before, and when I found out it hadn’t, that's when I chose the name of the record. There's no other name for it. I mean, yeah, it speaks for itself as a title for an album that comes from a Texan.
You had the superhero thing going on in your video for "Madi, Don't Leave." What's that all about?
The video's about the director of this homemade movie who's aspiring to greatness. He has a fling with the main actress in the movie, and she is dressed as a superhero. In the end, he's so busy working on the film that she falls into the hands of the main superhero, who is a better looking dude, I guess. The director gave me a few concepts for a video idea, and that's what I picked.
You've had a lot of attention and success from MySpace. What do you think of that, as a medium for getting your music across?
As far as for kids who are just starting out and looking for people to hear their music, that's like the perfect forum. You can just ask people to listen. That's pretty much what I did. I just posted things for free and made them downloadable. Even though it sucked, there are a lot of kids on MySpace, and a few of them liked it. But I mean, you hear a lot of the bad things on there. I think it's better for the kids that are in the garage, rather than the band trying to get signed. The hardest little area of evolving as an artist is right at the beginning. When you first try to start something, you don't really see any reward in writing your first few songs, because you're not playing shows or anything. I think, for a lot of kids, the internet is the best place to begin.