Quit Your Day Job

Quit Your Day Job: Jana Hunter

When I wrote a review of Golden Apples Of The Sun, the 2004 scene-sealing compilation ably curated by Devendra Banhart, Jana Hunter’s mysterious, lonesome “Farm, Ca” legitimately haunted me — after repeat listens, it was my favorite song of the bunch. The brief a.m. transmission also appeared on her 2005 debut full length, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, an excellent (and still underrated) collagist collection of soulful, downcast material recorded over a decade or so. It was the first release on Banhart and Andy Cabic (a/k/a Vetiver)’s Gnomonsong label.

Continuing her quiet, steady release schedule, There’s No Home, the fleshed-out follow-up to Black Unstaring Heirs Of Doom appeared without much to-do at the end of March. The album, recorded at one studio in Houston rather than over 10 years on various formats, is more cohesive than its predecessor without losing the sonic gradations and emotional variety of the earlier album — look no further than the feedback, flamenco-style guitar, and soulful siren drone on “Movies” or the pair of gray instrumental fragments both named “(Guitar).”

Outside of the current solo work, movie buffs might also recognize Hunter from her older, Fleece-records crew Matty & Mossy, whose songs appeared in two Andrew Bujalski films, Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. Or if crunk-folk’s more your thing, perhaps her contributions to Castanets grabbed you, or her playful, deep-well, drum-machined other band Jracula, with members of the Octopus Project, Woozyhelmet, and Butterknife. In conjunction with There’s No Home, she has a number of tour dates set. For now, though, please find her at Star Pizza in Houston. And, down below our discussion, find a link to “Babies,” a sunny, multi-tracked folk-pop wanderer from the new record.

STEREOGUM: Has pizza worked its way into any of your songs?

JANA HUNTER: Some friends and I have tried for a while to get together a dance troupe, and its theme song was to go along the lines of: “Ride that pizza pony / Ride that pizza pony / Ride that pizza pony,” etc.

STEREOGUM: How long have you worked at the pizza place?

JH: I got the job at Star Pizza in Houston just after my last West Coast tour, so sometime in December, before the holidays.

STEREOGUM: What was your job before that?

JH: Briefly, I helped diaper and break up fights between small children at a school in Austin. Prior to that, I pretended to know how to tend bar in Brooklyn; waited on moms, girls, and their dolls in NYC; and ran a copy machine in Houston. I tried to set up shop in Austin at one point “teaching” kids to write songs, but the only respondent I ever got to my Craigslist ad found my Myspace page and promptly backed out.

STEREOGUM: How’d you decide to work at Star?

JH: My friend Domokos (A Pink Cloud) and I drove around Houston with my fake resumes. The pizza place was the first we hit, ’cause I figured if I didn’t find anything else, they probably wouldn’t turn me down. They hired me on the spot, and since Dom and I felt more like drinking margaritas than continuing with the job search, I took it.

STEREOGUM: What are your duties?

JH: I answer the phones and do my best to entertain. I take orders, sanitize things, leave messages for the higher ups, etc.

STEREOGUM: Any interesting pizza tales?

JH: We do the crossword. We fuck with each other via Snapple facts. We call up co-workers who happen to be off when their most despised songs are on the system and put them on hold. There’s a ridiculous amount of ass grabbing. One manager is a martial-arts/ultimate championship fanatic and enjoys nothing more than putting his employees in headlocks. So, no. Well, yes, but nothing that can be told.

STEREOGUM: What are some of these Snapple facts? How are they used to fuck with coworkers?

JH: No one really likes Snapple facts. One coworker in particular launches into a tirade at the mere mention of a giraffe’s vocal chords. Maybe some people are interested in the content, but the context makes it annoying, especially in the middle of a busy shift. “Flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp,” “the only food that does not spoil is honey,” and “fish cough” are favorites. There are also mock-Snapple depressing facts on the Internet, along the lines of, “you are probably obese” and “your parents are disappointed in the person you turned out to be.”

STEREOGUM: People often say you can’t get good pizza (or bagels) outside of the Northeast. Agree/disagree?

JH: It’s an altogether different world of pizza. As far as I know, you can’t get Northeast pizza on the third coast. It is good though. It’s best not to have expectations. Same with the bagels

STEREOGUM: Do you plan to quit the job now that the new album’s out?

JH: I wouldn’t if I weren’t moving. They’ve been more considerate than I would’ve considered possible about giving me time off to tour. They’re even proud, which is a little embarrassing. I think it’s done more bad than good for my work rep.

STEREOGUM: Where are you moving? Any jobs lined up, or will you go the traveling resume route again?

JH: I’m moving to Baltimore. I’ve wanted to live there for a while now, and I just met somebody there, so the process of getting to town has sped up considerably. I’m sure I’ll find something. If you’re a business owner in Baltimore and need an honest someone with little to no actual skills…

STEREOGUM: Have you ever existed without a day job?

JH: Never when I’ve also had rent to pay. For a long while prior to this respite in Houston, I toured constantly, with the exception of a few months in Austin and the occasional couple of weeks here or there, and so didn’t have an apartment or house. I can’t tolerate that as well as I have, and I don’t think this (touring, putting out records) will ever pay enough to make the bills, so I’ll probably always have something, even if it is pizza slinging.

STEREOGUM: I saw you’re touring with your brother on guitar. Have you done that before? What’s it like?

JH: I love it. On our first time out doing my songs (we played in a band together a while back [Matty & Mossy]) we had a difficult time: He was nervous and I was critical. I felt shitty about it for a long time afterward. This last tour we had nothing but fun. We’re very close and have a kind of Nell-ish communication with each other. I wish I could have him with all the time, but he has his own life and projects that he’s heavily involved with. Maybe he’ll let me tour with him at some point.

STEREOGUM: What’s your favorite kind of pizza? I used to pick blueberries as a kid and eventually couldn’t eat them anymore. Have you had that sort of reaction to pizza?

JH: For a while it was beef, feta, and fresh jalapenos. I quit beef recently and I’m working on getting rid of cheese. I had a cheese-less tuna, egg, and tomato pizza in Tolouse once that was pretty fine, but I don’t think it’d sustain as a favorite. So I don’t know where I’ll turn next. After three or four months at this place, I still haven’t grown sick of it. Work friends claim that you either tire of it very quickly, or never at all. I think I’m with the latter group.

Jana Hunter – “Babies” (MP3)

There’s No Home is available via Gnomonsong.

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