Debut album series: Hunting Grounds ‘In Hindsight’

Last year the six members of Hunting Grounds told us all about the first albums they bought revealing a youthful love of Michael Jackson, 5ive, Eminem, Backstreet Boys, Hanson and Smash Mouth. Many years on from those (mostly) unfortunate choices the band has released a debut album In Hindsight that owes far more to Radiohead, Slowdive, Stone Roses, post-punk and dream pop than any boy-band sounds.

Guitarist and vocalist Michael Belsar looked back to tell FL all about how the band that won triple j’s Unearthed back in 2009 as Howl, but changed their name early last year after being repeatedly mistaken for a doom metal band hailing from Rhode Island, developed and recorded their debut.

In the beginning

We started off in High School, as I guess most bands our age do. Daniel [Marie], Tim [Street] and I got asked to play a song at assembly, which was a huge deal for us back then, and I think we covered a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, or maybe even The Clash, I don’t know. Our singer for the song was basically just the first dude who put his hand up and said he’d do it, but we soon realised there was a guy in our year that could actually sing, which was of course Lachlan [Morrish]. Then eventually a year or so later we came across Galen [Strachan] and John [Crawford]. Galen was an amazing keys player in our year, and I met John when we worked at McDonalds together. He walked into orientation with a bass, so I immediately figured out we’d get along. The entire band was formed when we were around 15 I think.

Our sound

This is always the hardest question to answer, especially now that our sound as a band has changed so dramatically. I guess you’d call it post punk or something like that, dream pop has been thrown around which is kind of cool. It’s a very spacious and wide album, powered by a sort of aggressive back bone of drums and bass.

Our heroes

As a live band we’ve always taken influence from the acts we tour with, which happened especially when we started out touring with bands on the same level, you’d always drive each other to be greater live. However in the writing process we were listening to and inspired by a lot of Radiohead, Slowdive, Stone Roses type stuff, there’s a real 80’s/90’s post punk, spacey production element that runs through the album which I guess came from that. Personally my biggest influences were bands like Twin Shadow, Gonjasufi, Jeff Buckley among others.

Our debut album

It was actually a really cruisey process, which I guess surprised all of us. We went into the studio with a basic idea of how we wanted the record to sound, but I guess had a much more open mind to change than we usually would. We recorded the album to the classic, drums then bass then everything template which made the whole process really quick. It was a lot of fun working with our producer Woody as he had such strong ideas of how the record should sound, which we all loved.

The most interesting part of recording the album was re-doing Flaws. The song itself stayed the same, structure wise, however it was originally a sort of boring rock song, which we brought in as b-side. Woody saw something in it so we spent a day changing it from the mediocre track it was into this really tripped out pop song. It ended up becoming the main single from the album.

Our favourite track off the album

Probably one of Galen’s songs, maybe Clearly See. It’s such a different method of song writing to how I write so it’s so refreshing to listen to and Lachlan’s voice sounds crazy good on it. Plus I’ve heard it so much less than the songs I wrote on the album so I’m not sick of it yet haha.

Our artwork

Basically the artwork was a concept I’d had for a while where we give a selected few artists a song, the lyrics and three colours and they go away and paint the song. We used five different artists for this, Scott Leonard, Cat Hucker, Callum Noonan, Deon Robertson and Sean Leonard, who are all Ballarat artists we’ve known for a long time. Each page in the booklet is a different artwork, relevant to its song. While writing the album, lyrically I always liked the idea of people creating their own meaning behind a song, and identifying it with their own personal experience and we wanted that idea to reflect the artwork.

Our Producer

Woody [Annison] is essentially the seventh member of Hunting Grounds. We’ve worked with Woody before on an early EP and of course recording the first track from the album last year ( In Colour ) and it just always seemed to work. He’s got such a powerful influence over what he wants from us as a band however he still listens and takes ideas on board, plus we’re all really good friends so that made it easier. Being able to argue with someone is an important part of recording an album, if you’re too scared to, you’re basically fucked, but at the same time you have to be open to change. He just seemed to have the right ideas from the beginning.

Favourite debut album (by another band)

Probably Grace by Jeff Buckley or Lovers by Sleepy Jackson. Grace is definitely an album I’ve grown up in love with, I come back to it every couple of years and it continues to feel new. It’s gotten to a point where it’s become such an important part of my life, every lyric feels like it was written about my own experiences cause I guess I’ve somehow put the two together in my head. On the other hand Lovers was an album I was introduced to at the start of High School and was sort of a big turning point into the music I listen to today, it was like finding gold.

The one artist in the whole world you would secretly like to dig In Hindsight?

Thom Yorke.

In Hindsight is out now.