Qulture Shock: Rae Spoon’s ‘Love is a Hunter’

Posted on January 16, 2011 by

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Rae Spoon is touring with his latest release, Love is a Hunter and is appearing at the Gallery Connexion in Fredericton on Saturday, January 29. Having started as a country singer, Rae’s latest album ventures into a broad pop territory with its mixture of acoustic and elektro sounds. “You Can Dance” and “dangerdangerdanger” are danceable tracks just waiting for a clever remix by the right DJ. “You Like All the Parties” is another sharp elektro-acoustic tune, while “Death by Elektro” seems to be an acoustic commentary on the elektro scene.

Rae’s “U-Bahn,” recorded with Berlin artist, Alexandre Decoupigny, is one of collection of songs from “Worauf wartest Du?” that were recorded and performed at a Berlin subway station. Alexandre’s own website discusses in depth his work with “sound in space,” sound as a form of both music and social interaction. The project was originally undertaken as one of eight projects that explored the Berlin Underground as a “real and imaginary world.” Alexandre describes the process thus: “Armed with a small audio recorder we went out regularly to meet random passengers and workers on the underground of Berlin with the question “What are you waiting for ?”. . . This way we collected numerous interesting stories and answers and developed these stories, made songs out of them. In a feverish rush we got into the material and recorded a substantial collection of songs between folk, electro and sound art.” The on-site recordings were mixed and then reintroduced to the Underground as a performance. Alexandre’s website features three of Rae’s performance’s with Alexandre in this project.

Rae’s “Love is a Hunter” is the stand-out single, stylistically paired with “We Can’t Be Lovers”, both of which feature fuzzed-out guitars and a full band. My favourite lyric is from “Love is a Hunter”: “I didn’t want to tell you but it burned me everyday; I didn’t want to risk my imaginary place.” There’s a sense of secrecy, of wanting both to express desire yet not fully reveal oneself. I followed up on these themes of hunting, secrets and spaces in an interview with Rae.

FQ: As a gender queer, do you find many barriers to producing your music, getting gigs, getting musicians to play with you?

Rae: I had a really supportive manager named Meegan Maultsaid when I first started touring who booked all of my tours for me. I came out as gender queer to the media when my first album came out. People still let me play venues and gave me reviews, but I had a sense that a lot the industry was not available to me because I didn’t fit into a gender role. Eight years later, I still get that sense.

FQ: You just recently did a tour of Europe. Did you find a more receptive audience in European countries, or in Canada?

Rae: The places where I usually tour in Western Europe are very receptive to music that they haven’t heard of before, which is different from Canada.(Germany/Netherlands/Austria/Switzerland). They also have strong leftist political scenes. I often end up playing in leftist squats or at queer parties. It’s been really great for me that gender politics are included in their platforms.

FQ: I noticed that you said that you’ve played at leftist squats and queer parties. It sounds like you’ve been playing at places other than the usual club venues. I also saw your video of you playing with another musician in a subway station. How do these places shape your music? Do you prefer them to large club venues? Do you write for these kinds of spaces? Do you connect with the audience in different ways?

Rae: I’ve played in a lot of places. I really like having diversity in venues as well as audience.  I always consider how my music comes across to different communities. Mostly the way I contextualize a song when introducing it is what I change. It’s hard to say how this has effected my music. I guess there are certain things that people react to in a live setting that ends up making me want to play into it. Like fast songs.

FQ: I also noticed that your last album features “dance” music, more electronica. How does that play in squats and parties?

Rae: My music has electronic elements, but it has yet to come across as dance music.  I’m working on that right now an hoping to release an EP of dance music in about a year.

FQ: In terms of performing these songs, do you feel that you’re letting the audience in on the hidden parts of yourself, your secrets? Or are you telling us “there’s more to me than I’m showing you here, parts you don’t see”?

Rae: I try to write songs that let the audience interpret meanings rather than being too specific about mine. I like the idea of people reflecting on their own secrets, if I mention them. On my album it was one of my main themes. I find the public/private dichotomy and the idea of truth and sincerity from public figures really interesting.

FQ: The hunting metaphor comes up several times in the songs. It seems to be taking place at night. Is this a kind of stealth hunting? Do you try to remain hidden while you hunt?

Rae: I like hunting as a metaphor. I have both felt hunted (in the way many queer people have), but have also been I was reading a lot of books about gay cruising in the 70’s while I wrote the album (more of the hunting part).

FQ: Bjork also used the image in her song “Hunter”: “If travel is searching, and home what’s been found, I’m not stopping, I’m going hunting.” What are you hunting for? What do you hope to find?

Rae: I’ve written a lot lately about looking for a community outside of family. It’s a very common theme for queer people. Right now I would say I am solidifying that for myself.

by Shaun Bartone, Editor, FQ

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Posted in: Qulture Shock