Highland Park, CA. can now be called a metal landmark thanks to its magical metal harbingers, Huntress, and their profound smack down in the heavy metal scene. Emerging from the mystical concoction of one Pagan’s dreams, a lot of perseverance, a refusal to settle, and a little magick, Huntress has laid waste to the metal scene proving once again that sometimes the bark comes after the bite. Melting faces and capturing ears with their debut album Spell Eater, Huntress now follows up with their more thoughtful and other-worldly side with their sophomore album Starbound Beast which was released on July 2 on Napalm Records. The band is currently on tour with Rockstar Energy Drink’s Mayhem Festival criss-crossing the country to bring metal to the masses. The enchanting and engaging Jill Janus, vocalist for Huntress, took a few minutes to talk to usedview.com about the tour, Starbound Beast, and life in Huntress.
So, the past year has really been “the year of Huntress.” You guys have really garnered a lot of attention. How has the past year affected you as an artist? From Spell Eater to Starbound Beast how have you evolved?
JJ: It’s been so magical. It’s been a very magical journey and what’s been the best for me is getting to spend this time with my four best friends, my band. Just watching them develop as musicians and watching myself become more confident and a better performer, that’s really been rewarding for us. When we recorded Spell Eater in 2012 we were still such a new band, we were still developing our sound and we were still trying things out. And we put it out with a fury and we love that record. This time around with Starbound Beast we were a little more thoughtful with it, my lyrical content is a little bit more advanced, as well as an overall new confidence in the band. Like I said the musicianship is better, the songwriting is better, and it’s the evolution of Huntress. That’s what’s going on here, it’s naturally evolving and that’s really cool to see.
What has been the reception of Starbound Beast? It came out earlier this month, so how have people responded so far?
JJ: From talking with interviewers everybody has been really, really excited about this record and especially the ones who are delving into the lyrical content know that a lot of the lyrics are inspired by extraterrestrials, by the Annunaki and the cosmos and the galaxies and this longing to return to the stars. So, people that want to seek the secrets within Starbound Beast you can, they are in there and they are woven within all the lyrics and all the music. So that is also rewarding for me when someone actually understands what I’m trying to portray in the lyrics and they kind of figure it out and they talk to me about it. That’s always really neat.
You can really tell the maturity and development. I could definitely tell it (Starbound Beast) was more in depth and well developed, and that was one thing I really appreciated about the album.
JJ: Well, thank you! I appreciate that. I make it a point now not to read reviews, positive or negative, they don’t access my path and I really keep my writing and creative formation very private and very, um, safe. So, when it comes down to anything with that type of outside influence is involved, I really kind of shelter myself from it just to stay true to the form of writing. I do know that we’re charting already and that’s really exciting and any feedback I hear from the boys or our management has all been really super positive.
What was it like working with Lemmy? What was that process?
JJ: The process was simply me having drinks with Lemmy; he’s a friend of mine. I asked him to write a song for the next Huntress album. He said sure. A few weeks later, he brought me into the studio with Motörhead and handed me two pieces of notebook paper with the lyrics to “I Wanna F*ck You To Death.” And I brought those lyrics back to the band and we immediately thought, this is gonna be a genius song. I made it very clear to the boys that it kept almost like a twisted love song vibe. You know what I mean? I didn’t want it to be a rager. I didn’t just want to go the easy route. I didn’t want it to be a speed metal song. I wanted it to be a love song. So it’s a heavy metal love song, and you know, that’s how I feel. I mean who wouldn’t want to die being f*cked to death? When I wrote the chorus I wanted it to be very melodic and also really catchy and I think it worked.
Definitely. You can completely hear that in the way you sing it.
JJ: Yeah, there are a few Lemmy hat tips that I do, a few vocal inflections that are reminiscent of a “Lemmy” vocal. I also love Cher. LOVE Cher. So I kind of put a little bit of Cher bravado in the chorus just for fun. And I haven’t told anybody, so you’re the first to hear that. (chuckles) So, yeah, I’m kind of obsessed with Cher.
What has the vibe been like on Mayhem Fest so far?
JJ: The overall vibe has been that this is a family production. Not saying that it’s rate “G” it’s definitely rated “X” because of all the bands and all the cursing that goes on and the content and the people that you see there. It’s a family affair because it’s run like a family. Everybody knows each other. Everybody’s helpful with each other. There’s not this feeling of competition between the bands. We all want to help each other. We share a bus with Battlecross, who also play the Jägermeister Stage, and we just instantly bonded. We instantly knew that we were gonna be on this tour together this Summer and that we were gonna be helpful and kind to each other, and it’s really been working out. And Mayhem is also boot camp for Huntress. You know, we’re still in the infant stages of our career, we’re learning so much about these massive touring productions that just slip, close down and move on like a circus to the next venue. And to see it occurring right in front of you is really mind-blowing and we’re learning a lot and we’re meeting a bunch of new fans. Some people just came to Mayhem Fest and said “I’d never heard of you guys, but I saw you and now you have a life-long fan.” So, we’re really making a big impression on this tour.
What is “down time” for Huntress?
JJ: First of all, I’m the one who typically doesn’t go out after a show at all because I’m on vocal rest. So, I’m usually on the bus alone, fulfilling merch orders or selling. We don’t get too crazy on this tour in particular because it could potentially jus murder our health. So, we’ve got to be very careful about getting too wasted, etcetera. But generally what we do when we’re all hanging out together is get stoned, turn on some Scorpions, and sit in the back of the bus for a couple of hours listening to music together and talk about ways that this is inspiring us for the third record. The boys constantly have a guitar in their hands and constantly working on getting better.
So, to go back for a moment, I have to say I loved your outfit at the (Revolver Magazine) Golden Gods. It was inspiring!
JJ: Thank you! That was my first time at The Golden Gods and I thought that if I’m going to The Golden Gods, I’m going to be a golden goddess. I have a girl that I work on my costumes with, her name is Sorceress and I sent her several photos of Princess Aura from “Flash Gordon.” I’m a sucker for sci-fi and I love, love, love She-Ra: Princess of Power, so a lot of my costumes are really based after sci-fi villainesses and etcetera. So, She-Ra’s not a villain, by any means, she’s the Princess of Power, so you can’t beat that. And you can’t beat Swift Wind, her Pegasus, you know? So, to me it’s fantasy and I’ve definitely put a lot of fantasy into our presentation of metal. Even on stage, I really like transporting myself and fans to another realm for half an hour to an hour of the set, you know? And I think costumes really play into that, and once we start making more money they’ll get even more elaborate. So, I’m really stoked to hear you like the golden goddess outfit, and I feel it’s interesting to try and top myself. (laughs)
I think doing a twist on Maleficent’s look would be really interesting for you. She’s a classic Disney villain (from “Sleeping Beauty”).
JJ: You know, you are so on the pulse! Get this, we’re releasing our music video for “Zenith” and the director had these crazy headpieces that he made for us that are very Maleficent. I’m wearing it in the video. And it almost has kind of a take on a cosmic nun because there’s like a little bit of a white strip in the front, because Phil Mucci has a little fetish with nuns, let me tell ya that right off the bat. First of all, he is a visionary, and the video is coming out this Summer and it is gonna blow minds, but that type of Maleficent headpiece is very prominent in the video.
Any last words?
JJ: Watch out for the “Zenith” video! It will blow your mind! It’s coming out this Summer. And to fans who have had faith in Huntress since the very beginning: Thank you. Remember to keep your souls away from trolls and stay metal
Janus also said that along with being on Mayhem with Amon Amarth, the opportunities on the horizon have been a dream come true for Huntress. After Mayhem Fest, Huntress will be hitting the road with Danzig and Doyle followed by a tour in Fall with Lamb Of God, Killswitch Engage, and Testament. She finds it “mind-blowing,” “humbling,” and “an honor” to be going out with such “legendary bands.” Who else would Huntress love to tour with? King Diamond and Judas Priest, according to Janus, who is ambitious and optimistic about the future of her band. And with good reason, Starbound Beast made it to #12 on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart, they’ve made some killer connections, and have the professionalism and dedication to succeed where many falter. So, keep your eyes to the skies and your ear to the ground, because Jill is the Huntress, and we are all mere prey…
“I’m kind of a nerd. When it comes down to it, bottom line, I’m a nerd.”- Janus on her love of sci-fi and fantasy.