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In Conversation with The Hunna @ Reading Festival

The Hunna self-describes their music as Pretty Boy Grunge or PBG for short. This joking way of describing their music helps to show The Hunna’s incredibly personable sense of humour. As I spoke more with the band, I felt that I really got to know them both as people and artists. After almost two years of Covid lockdowns, this Main Stage Reading Festival performance was the first time The Hunna’s members had played live together in front of an audience in quite some time. Coming straight off of an incredibly energetic and fun set, the band was clearly high on the rush of performance. This led to my favourite moment of our interview when Ryan—the band’s lead singer and frontman—laughed about how The Hunna is, ‘a rock’n’roll sandwich,’ because PBG sounds so similar to PBJ. Frankly, though I’m not exactly sure what a rock’n’roll sandwich exactly implies, I think it might be an apt descriptor for the band. During our interview, they exuded rock energy. Drawing from a wide range of musical influences, it was easy to tell that the band members knew their craft and knew their musical history. Citing Nirvana as a huge influence, we discussed their historical 1992 Reading Festival set and what it was like for The Hunna to now play in the same spot that Nirvana once played. The Hunna also dresses like rockstars, claiming fashion to be a big non-musical, artistic force in their lives. Ryan, who enjoys riding motocross bikes, wore colourful motocross trousers during our interview. Having overheard him talking about these trousers with his bandmates, I broke the ice by asking about them, and he happily replied: ‘I thought… I’m going to bring a bit of motocross to Reading this year.’ However, The Hunna’s fame and rockstar status did not go to their head, and, like an overwhelming number of the artists I had the pleasure to interview during the festival, they were surprisingly down to earth and just happy to be living their dream. The Hunna was honestly a pleasure to hang out with during our interview, and (with their performance taking place on Reading Festival’s last day) a great final interview to end the weekend with.

Who are your biggest musical influences, and how did you first start making music?

Ryan: There are so many. We listen to a lot of different music, but, just rattling them off: Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Deftones, Queen, AC/DC, My Chemical Romance, Limp Bizkit, Taking Back Sunday, Blink-182, Fall Out Boy back in the day, Lana Del Ray, The Neighbourhood, Slipknot, Kings of Leon. As a vocalist, I love Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, and Aretha Franklin.

Jack: A lot of hip-hop as well. Travis Scott, Rae Sremmurd, Wiz Khalifa, The Weekend, Drizzy, Yung Lean, Post Malone.

Jack: Old-school Nirvana, bro. That definitely got me on the kit.

Ryan: And let’s not forget Tenacious D.

What is your favourite Reading set of all time?

Daniel: We were talking earlier about the Nirvana set where Kurt was wearing the doctor’s coat. 100% that’s got to be up there—obviously, we’ve only watched it on YouTube. Foo Fighters as well. When we were here last in 2019, Post Malone was amazing. We were really lucky to go on the side of the stage, and he blew us away. All-around: his voice, the rapping, the singing, the stage presence. He's up there for sure with the new wave of artists.

What’s it like to play on the same stage as Nirvana?

Ryan: It’s crazy to think that. It’s literally a dream come true. You know, when we were young boys growing up we had a dream of being in a band and being like Nirvana. Yeah, it’s literally a dream come true. You have to pinch yourself. When a crowd is singing every word back. We used to watch shows and go to shows, and we wanted that feeling. Now we’re doing it. It’s overwhelming for sure, but an amazing feeling.

How do you prepare before a show?

Ryan: We have a good warm-up, do stretches, and listen to some of our favourite acts to pump ourselves up. I go quite quiet.

How did you spend lockdown, and were you working on any new music during it?

Ryan: Yeah, we spent lockdown like everyone else, just locked in our homes. Feeling like the world disappeared. But yeah, we kept super busy recording from home, and on webcam with each other. Just sending stuff back and forth. So, yeah, we’ve got so many songs in the locker for the next album and EP. After this, we have a tour and then we want to try and get an EP out before the end of the year and talk about the next year. So yeah, there’s gonna be a lot coming from us.

After lockdown, what’s it like to play such a large festival?

Daniel: A trip.

Jack: We did one show last year in New Castle, and it was socially distanced. That was weird in itself. That was the first gig in just over a year we’ve done. We’ve played no shows this year, so we went in cold but we had a great week of rehearsing. Yeah, we just had to come and go for it.

Daniel: It is crazy that our first show back is on the main stage at a festival.

Jack: I couldn’t believe it really.

Ryan: Yeah, it was emotional. At Leeds as well, I welled up. Especially, it was so nice to play the new songs to actual people. We played them on live streams and stuff. So yeah, that was nice as well. But overwhelming, for sure. The sound of the crowd overtakes everything. Obviously, we've got the years in and you feed off the crowd. Especially when you see the crowd jumping up and down. A sea of people singing your songs so loud back to you. And then you're playing guitar, and you're ripping it. You just get lost in it. It's almost like you're not even there. You're just in this state.

Daniel: The wildest thing is you're enjoying it. We just love to play, even if it’s just the three of us in a room. But with that many people, the concentration levels are so extreme because you want to be on the money for every song. It's so weird to be locked in doing your job, making sure you killed it, but also having a good time. It's weird to mix the two. And then before you know it, it’s over.

Ryan: I mean we didn’t even want to go off stage. We could have gone and gone and gone.

Daniel, this is more of a question for you. What pedals are you using?

Daniel: Shit, man. I’ve got a lot of pedals. I’ve got a Big Sky, then I’ve got a Behringer, then I have a multi-overtone pedal.

What’s the Behringer doing?

The Behringer is actually Ryan’s dad’s pedal, and it’s like a really weird pedal which I use in ‘Dare’ for the breakdown part. Ryan brought it to the studio, and we needed a sound and we went through loads of pedals and it was the perfect sound for it. It’s almost like a phaser, but it’s not… it’s trippy. It’s really trippy.

Ryan: It almost sounds like Star Wars.

Daniel: It’s a really cheap pedal. That’s the thing though, sometimes you find hidden gems in really cheap pedals. And then I use double distortion a lot, so I have an Ibanez Tube Screamer and I double that with a Rattler pedal I found in Paris. We went into a music shop, and this guy was like, ‘This is an antique, there’s only 50 of them,’ and I was like, ‘I want it!’ A boost pedal and a tuner. The classic Boss DD-7—it’s nice to manually get those delays in time to a BPM. Oh! I forgot my favourite pedal, the Tera Echo!

Who are you personally most excited to get to see at Reading?

Ryan: We saw Biffy at Leeds, which was for me the main band I wanted to see. I’ve never seen them before and they’re such a big influence of ours. I saw Wolf Alice as well, which was amazing. I really wanted to see Baby Queen. Catch a bit of Liam.

Daniel: We were looking forward to seeing Machine Gun Kelly, so that was a shame that he didn’t make it. It’s a shame that Covid’s getting in the way of a lot of the American artists. I really want to see Yungblud. He’s such a nice guy. He’s been really down to earth—kind of like us, just a normal lad. So it will be good to catch his set, see what he’s about. We went to see him at Kentish Town Forum, but obviously, festival sets and your own tour sets are very different so it will be good to go check that out and see what he does.

Jack: A lot of bands though. It’s a very guitary, band day which is cool.

Daniel: Yeah, we’re on a good day.

So how does being a UK artist affect your sound?

Jack: I think it affects it in a good way. We’ve always said that we love American bands and artists, but we’re never gonna sound American because of Ryan’s voice. The way it comes out, you can hear it’s English. Guitar-wise and drums we look up to so many American drummers and guitarists, but, having said that, we love our English bands as well. It’s a nice blend, which gives us that kind of unique sound. When we go to America, we slot in but we sound English, whereas when we’re over here we actually have an American sort of vibe. We’re heavier than a lot of UK bands technically, but we also have a softer side. So for us, it’s just a mixing pot of our sounds as musicians. These guys met at college and hit it off and then I jumped on board. I think that ever since that, everyone’s complemented each other.

Daniel: We describe ourselves as pretty boy grunge—PBG. It just kind of stuck around.

Ryan: It’s like PBJ. It’s a rock’n’roll sandwich!

Other than music, what art influences the band?

Jack: Fashion has to be up there for us. We all love so many different types of fashion and think it’s just fun. You make music. You dress in cool clothes. You’re expressing yourself. We look up to a lot of rappers like ASAP Rocky, Post Malone, and Travis Scott. They’ve got their own individual styles, and it’s the same with us. I think we all just like to do our own thing, but it just fits.

Ryan: We love thrifting.

Jack: What other arts do we love? We love movies.

Daniel: You know, it sounds really stupid but I didn’t actually know we were film buffs until after lockdown when I was like, ‘Shit, we really like movies, bro. We talk about movies all of the time.’

Who’s got the coolest tattoos in the band?

Daniel: Probably Jack. Jack’s got so many.

Jack: It depends on what you describe as cool. We’ve all got our own styles as well.

Ryan: I love my back tatt.

Jack: We’ve collected.

What’s the best memory you have through music?

Ryan: I would say that this weekend is definitely up there for me. It’s just been so emotional to be back and around this energy. It’s definitely up there for me. Selling out Brixton Academy three times was amazing. I mean there are so many. Going to Australia for the first time and having every show sold out. It was just insane. It was so far away from home.

Jack: Playing with Jimmy Eat World together. One of our dream bands growing up. To support them on tour in America was unbelievable. They were so good every night, so to play was incredible, and then to sit down and watch them was amazing.

If there was one question you wished people would ask you, what would that question be?

Daniel: How are you?

How are you?

Ryan: Today we’re f*cking great.

Jack: Today we are.

Ryan: The last two years, not so much.

Photo by Ana Oancea

To keep up with The Hunna, check out their website, Instagram, and YouTube.


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