Hunny Frontman Jason Yarger Spills on His Influences, Also Spills Paint

Hunny Frontman Jason Yarger Spills on His Influences, Also Spills Paint
It's windy in Los Angeles when Jason Yarger calls New Times. On the eve of his band's tour, he's just laid a fresh coat of yellow paint on the backdrop for the stage show, and he's letting it dry in the driveway of his apartment complex. After strategically placing rocks and cans of paint to weigh down the sheet, he's pretty sure it won't blow away, so he's free to talk.

Yarger, the frontman for the Los Angeles-based indie-rock band Hunny, handles the visual stuff — shirt designs, tour flyers, etc. He's also the singer, guitarist, and primary driver behind the band's emo-tinged sound. "I've got like three Brand New tattoos," he says of the rock band from Long Island, adding that his greatest inspiration as a singer is Brandon Flowers of the Killers. And he can't help coming across a little like the Cure's Robert Smith either — sometimes to his annoyance in the studio.

"I'll do a take and we'll listen back and be like, Uh, I sound a little too much like that," he says. "But, yeah, I can't really help it much, because those two dudes are probably my biggest vocal influences."

He and his fellow guitar players in Hunny — Jake Goldstein and Jake Munk — draw inspiration from the busy fretwork of the Strokes, Yarger says. In the same manner, they like to play guitar and bass lines that dance around an implied chord progression.

"It's much more fun and interesting if there's some weird stuff going, riffs going every which way and syncing together in strange parts," Yarger says. "The last full-length record by the Strokes, Comedown Machine, we look to that a lot. There are a lot of really cool examples on that record of guitars weaving in and out with weird shit. It's kind of like a North Star for us."

That sound is all over Hunny's latest record, Windows I. The last song, "Televised," has become a fan favorite over the past year or so. A magic moment happens when the chorus kicks in and leaves the disco vibe of the intro and verse in the dust for a driving rhythm and a tempo that speeds up by about 30 bpm. Perhaps the change is so abrupt because they lifted the chorus from a song they'd previously scrapped.

"That one gave us some trouble in the studio," Yarger says. "We tried a bunch of different transitions, but it worked and it's a really fun thing to play."

Being in a band is almost always fun, Yarger says, but the leadup to this tour, including a set at O'Malley's Sports Bar Saturday, March 31, has been hectic. Longtime bassist Greg Horne recently left the band, and the remaining members don't want to replace him, so keyboard player Kevin Geimmett switched to bass. Now, seeking to fill the hole in the band's live sound, they've been forced to consider "running track" — playing with programmed sounds. Yarger has never liked the idea.

"We've always played whatever the fuck we could ourselves, and if it doesn't sound as crazy as some other band running track, whatever," he says. "At least we tried to be more interesting live."

Having agreed that running track isn't cool, the band rigged an elaborate alternative solution. "We built this whole setup where modular synths are hooked up through MIDI to a keyboard running Logic [music software]... They send information to the synthesizers onstage that play it in real time," Yarger explains. "So, yeah, a lot of our friends have given us a lot of shit about how we're running track now, but technically we are not. We're triggering live MIDI now, which is something I think Depeche Mode used to do."

Another source of frustration: Hunny's next EP, Windows II, has been finished for months, but its release has been delayed because of an impending record deal. Yarger is impatient to see the record issued.

"It's hard to sit on shit when you just want to put it out," he says. "It's as annoying to us as I'm sure it is to people who are waiting to hear it — more annoying, if anything. You get done with something and just want it out, but we've had to wait on suits and label people. I mean, in the long run, it's a good thing because it comes out in a much bigger way."

But first, the tour. Painting the backdrop has been surprisingly difficult. "It's very large, and I'm in over my head on this one a bit," he admits. "Maybe I didn't plan very well." Then Yarger freaks out. "Oh, fuck!" he exclaims over and over as the wind picks up, spilling black and purple paint in the driveway and destroying the backdrop.

"Tonight I have a nice little project of scrubbing my driveway with paint stripper," he says, "so I don't get kicked out of my apartment complex."

Hunny. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at O'Malley's Sports Bar, 1388 N. State Rd. 7, Margate; 954-979-8540. Tickets cost $13 to $15 via
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Howard Hardee is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, he has a BA in journalism and writes stories about music, outdoor adventures, politics, and the environment for alt-weeklies across the country. He is an aficionado of fine noises and has a theremin in his living room.