Three years after forming, Western Australian group The Hunting Birds have released their debut EP In Its Nature. With its neat 5 track list this genre-stretching introduction to the band’s sound is admirably ambitious.
The assembly of five comprises lead vocalists Kendra Fewster and Connor Minervini, supported by Chris Mackenzie (Guitar), Brad Forbes (Drums) and Gwyneth Gardiner (Bass), creating a folk-meets-modern-country jam session.
The album opens up with ‘Currents’, an Alpine/Ed Sheeran mashup taking over the Christian Rock genre. A much lighter beginning compared to the rest of the track list, ‘Currents’ comes off as modern gospel in a happily misleading way. Following this is the other upbeat number off the EP, ‘Here We Go’, with a piano intro reminiscent of ‘Lanterns’ by Birds of Tokyo. Kendra Fewster’s voice is genuine and full, but applied to the lyrics “Here we go oh oh oh oh ooooh” repeatedly, all sincerity is lost. ‘Here We Go’ inherently feels like a song made for a Telstra commercial, or a major bank’s ploy to show the public that they are the good guys (profit notwithstanding). But it’s also the perfect mainstream introduction for an up-and-coming band about to make it big.
With a very lighthearted and unremarkable start to the album, the listener begins to understand that the Hunting Birds are playing coy with their audience. They are just stretching their wings (pun not intended), warming up before their big reveal. ‘Naive Eyes’ then enters the ring showing the best example of the band’s wish to fuse darkness and light in an upbeat pop-folk song. With moody and sarcastic overtones, Connor Minervini belts out “We’re So Glad That You Came”, popping a cheeky wink that you can hear in the song’s vocals. The easy stand out of the EP, the song is aptly described by one Triple J Unearthed reviewer as ‘country noir’ – mixing easy sing-along vocals with sardonic lyrics.
Track 4, ‘Hidden in These Waters’ has a lot to live up to. Kendra embraces the folk undertones planted at the EP’s beginning, and then grows with notes aching in passion and sincerity that is to be admired. As the enthusiastic guitars strum and hectic tambourine rattles, the frenzied cooing of the backing vocals are moved to the sidelines in the lead singer’s wake. Toning down the pace of track 3, ‘Hidden in These Waters’ acts as the perfect palate cleanser before the record’s closing anthem.
Whereas ‘Naive Eyes’ is the easy choice for a commercially successful single, the sultry duet of ‘Burn This Down’ steals the show. Harmonising perfectly in this story of love gone awry, Chris, Brad and Gwyneth’s steadfast backing of guitar and piano presents this relationship, bringing the couple together and watching the events unfold. A personal favorite from the EP, it hopefully demonstrates the direction The Hunting Birds will take in the future.
Following repeated listening of The Hunting Birds debut EP, the initial assessment of ambitious stands. This isn’t meant to be a criticism, but an enthusiastic (albeit coquettish) nod of approval, as we wait to see what the first full-length album has in store.
This is a band where you’ll want to boastfully mention that you heard their music before they were famous. Give them a listen today on Spotify or triple j Unearthed. Bragging rights don’t earn themselves, after all…
Reviewed by Grace Kungel