Armed with a debut album that took influence from the likes of Kings Of Leon and The 1975, it took The Hunna just three years to go from brand new band to selling out two nights at London’s Brixton Academy.
Second album ‘Dare’ continued that speedy, upward trajectory as it crashed into the charts at Number 12 and saw the Watford four-piece playing at the iconic Alexandra Palace. However, six weeks before that tour was due to kick off, the band released a statement explaining that their label High Time Records and management had made “many decisions on our behalf which we were unhappy about and were not within our control” and that they’d be seeking legal advice about how to proceed. Amid money rows, arguments about social media campaigns and accusations of tour bus drivers threatening to leave the band stranded until they were paid, all gigs were postponed and the band were unsure when, if ever, they’d be able to release music again.
Now out the other side, that industry horror story is the fuel behind new album ‘I’d Rather Die Than Let You In’. It sees the band set out to right the wrongs of the past with a little help from super producer John Feldman and his pals Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy, Blink-182‘s Travis Barker and Twenty One Pilots‘ Josh Dun. “People misunderstood us before” vocalist Ryan Potter tells NME. “This record is going to show them what The Hunna are really about.”
We gave Potter a call to talk about label problems, revenge, dream collabs, and proving doubters wrong.
Hey Ryan. Were you ever worried that your problems with High Time could have been the death of the band?
Ryan: “I didn’t think it would be the end of The Hunna because we were all in it together. It was us versus them, but they did make things as difficult as possible for us to continue. We weren’t sure when we would be able to release new music again, which is obviously a huge worry. When your dream is to be in a band and instead you’re in an office with lawyers talking through what those dirty bastards are trying to do to you, it’s pretty grim.”
And that inspired the new album ‘I’d Rather Die Than Let You In’?
“It’s a coming of age album that deals in love and loss but it’s also about our label troubles and getting through the other side. There’s a lot of angst, a lot of revenge and it’s about overcoming adversity. We’ve been through a lot of shit but it’s really fuelled this album. Life is a crazy thing but you’ve just got to pick yourself up and make sure you stay true to yourself. For us, it’s been a huge catharsis for us to record the album and tackle a lot of what we were put through. Now we can move on with this new era of The Hunna.”
Musically, what were you pulling from?
“We’ve always wanted to experiment with different instrumentation, but on our previous records we were limited by what we could do because we were meant to be this straight-up indie rock band. That’s what we started out as organically – but as a musician you want to grow and play with your new influences. With this album, we finally started messing around with our hip-hop influences. The Weeknd is a huge influence for me as well and songs like ‘Horror’ are a nod to that. It’s fun to take what The Hunna is and mess around with that.”
You sing “the world’s so fucked right now” on ‘Dark Times’. How political is this album?
“We wrote these songs before everything happened this year, but tracks like that and ‘Young & Faded’ have gained more relevance with stuff like the Black Lives Matter movement happening. On this record, we talk about those big issues that are affecting us all. We’ve never done that before. Our first record was innocent but on this one, the innocence is gone. We just see things differently now and our mindset has changed. We’re frustrated. Why can’t we just get it together and have some humanity?”
Did you want it to be an empowering record?
“We wanted it to be impactful in terms of how awful things can be, but also how we can come together and fight for the right things. It’s a positive record and even though there are some darker moments, it’s about overcoming that and finding light. There’s a lot of powerful messages on this album and I hope people gain strength and feel united by it. That sense of unity is so important right now.”
You worked with John Feldman – what was that like?
“It was the best experience. To save the label money on our second album, we had to record it in two weeks. But for this one, it was a much more relaxed environment. We had more time to experiment and John just got us. One of the great things about working with Feldy is that he’s got so many talented friends. One day, Josh Dun just turned up without warning and we wrote ‘Dark Times’ together. We also wrote ‘One Second Left’ with Pete Wentz and ‘Cover You’ with Travis Barker.”
Did working with those legends make you up your game?
“When you go in to make a record and Travis, Josh and Pete are involved, you know it’s a huge deal. We had to make sure we were stepping up our game. It’s 100 percent why this album is our best one yet. Being around these icons that we grew up listening to just opens your mind. I started off playing bass in college because of Pete Wentz, I even had the same guitar as him, so working with him was trippy in the best way possible. When I was 15 and getting rejected by labels, I never thought I’d be making a third album in LA with the actual Travis Barker. It’s been a whirlwind.”
Did it feel like you had something to prove?
“Our old label told us we wouldn’t achieve anything if we stopped working with them. They said no one would give a shit, so it definitely feels like we’re going to prove them wrong. A lot of people misunderstood us before. Because of how the old label and management marketed us, there’s been a lot of mixed messages about The Hunna. There’s this blurred vision of what sort of band we are that goes against how we wanted to be perceived. This album is our strongest piece of work yet and it’s going to show people what The Hunna are really about. Anyone who wrote us off is going to be pleasantly surprised.”
The Hunna release ‘I’d Rather Die Than Let You In’ on October 2.