As an accurate reflection of his life, the music of Hunter Dragon remains both erratic and inspired. You never can tell what the backpacking one-man noise circus will be up to next. He could be settled down and employed with a residence one minute, then out on the road, playing endless house shows and bars and teaming up with strangers for ambitious adventures the next. And all the while, you can almost be certain he'll be recording an album.
Last January, Hunter Dragon released the final installment of his three-part EP series How the Crow Flows, a record he describes as "telling an epic, non-linear tale with twists and turns, heartache, self-reliance, joy and fear." The record is full of abrasive squeaks and pops and grinds, yet has a soft, melodic center -- not unlike the character of Hunter Dragon himself. "Today I took my futon mattress outside and beat the crap out of it," he notes. "I got a new cat and a new hat. I moved in with my best friend, Joe Wallace, who comes from the William Wallace [Braveheart] lineage. I've written a song or two about him. We're loitering around Lakewood buying houseplants."
Mr. Dragon has followed up his three-EP series with a collaboration with local favorite Mariposa (Madeline Johnston). Collectively known as Year of the Dragonfly, the band's debut release, Pupil, is an accessible, delicate counterpoint to Hunter Dragon's more aggressive sound. Mariposa's female vocals and precise guitar work lend structure to Hunter Dragon's ethereal shoegaze.
Never having been fans of cutting-edge digital technology, Hunter and Johnston decided to release Pupil on cassette tape. "I started compulsively buying cassette tapes from thrift stores last September," Hunter explains, laying out the process of recording over old cassettes for the new album. "They just seemed to call to me. The cathartic process of making tapes felt so mysterious and wonderful. It was like bringing something back to life."
Like so many things in the madcap world of Hunter Dragon, one project inspired another, leading him and Mariposa to continue their creative partnership in the form of a record company, Tiny Amp Records, which comes with suitably tiny ambitions to "take over the world," Hunter reveals, adding, "We wish to reach out to creative types to assemble and maintain a vast interconnected network or family. As a label, we will be working as a cooperative system, teaching and learning from each other."
As of now, musicians working with Tiny Amp include William James, Amphibian, Calliope of the Future, Force Publique, Bike Theft and Jason Cain (who plays in Port Au Prince with Hunter Dragon), as well as sound engineer Brian Gerhard of Audioloom, Growler record store owner Molly Zackary and Titwrench Festival organizer (and MasterMind recipient) Sarah Slater.
One of Tiny Amp Records' first projects is assembling a compilation of local underground musicians to be released on cassette. There is an open call for submissions to this Denver mixtape, though Hunter and Johnston have one stipulation: "We ask that submissions be made in person, preferably at one of our shows. There will be submission boxes at all Tiny Amp shows. This way we can exchange ideas and thoughts the old-fashioned way: face to face."
Potential contributors will have their chance to submit at Hunter Dragon and Mariposa's leap-day show on Wednesday, February 29, at Ironwood (14 South Broadway). Also on the bill are Amphibian and Calliope of the Future. "This will be the first Tiny Amp show, and we will probably take a 'love offering' at the end," Hunter explains. "It will be an open-donation show -- and instruments are accepted as donations."
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