Rusted roots

Winnipeg’s Haunter talks influences and a new album

  • Disintegration Records act Haunter is as pleased as punch to finally unveil its Rivers & Rust LP. – Marie-France Hollier

On a rainy Victoria Day afternoon, the Uniter sat down at the Toad with Matt Williams and Jory Hasselmann, the two founding members of local indie rock five piece Haunter. The band is about to release its debut LP, the disturbingly good Rivers and Rust, through local label Disintegration Records with national distribution from Outside Music.

Recorded in short spurts over the last two winters on a minimal budget, Haunter’s record is somehow both lush and dense; packed with layers of moody yet hopeful guitars (courtesy of Williams, Hasselmann and Cannon Bros’ Cole Woods), Marie-France “Mef” Hollier’s intricate bass lines and the gripping drumming of Ryan Coates. The album features appearances from Nathan’s Keri Latimer and Imaginary Cities’ Dana “Rusty” Matyas & Marti Sarbit, with Disintegration’s co-founder Cam Loeppky (Weakerthans, Novillero) handling the engineering.

“We didn’t have any money so Cam said he’d give us half the labour for free because he’s part of the record label,” Williams, 25, says. “He definitely has an attitude that makes you trust him. He’s a friend of ours, but in the studio it’s a tiny bit less friendly. He doesn’t really put up with any bullshit and that’s how we could get the record done in such a short time.”

“Cam is very forward,” Hasselmann, 24, adds. “He won’t entertain too many stupid ideas. He lets you do what you want and he helps you do that in the best way possible, but he’ll show you the best way possible.

“He’s a fuckin’ wizard at the end of the day.”

The band’s previous output includes a 2009 7” and 2008 EP, both of which featured solid yet unrefined vocal work from Williams. If you put these on a playlist that flows into Rivers and Rust, the biggest change you’ll notice is that Williams vocals sound like a very different entity.

“The worst but best part for me was doing the vocal takes,” Williams says. “When we had recorded our EP and our 7” I maybe did four vocal takes on a song. No matter how good my vocal take would be, Cam always made me do each song ten times in a row. Recording the vocals took longer than recording all the instruments for the album.”

“Between now and four years ago, you’re older, you smoke way more cigarettes and your voice has gotten better,” Hasselmann adds.

It’s easy to hear from any Haunter song that the band wears its early influences proudly, from My Bloody Valentine to Pavement.

“That early stuff got us a reputation as a shoegaze band,” Williams says.

“I don’t think we live up to that,” Hasselmann interjects. “I don’t think we’re any genre except rock, but that’s a really boring label. Very rarely now do I go back and listen to a Pavement record. Not that we’re trying to break away with that but we don’t use that as a starting point anymore.”

Whatever the genre, the band has realistic ambitions for its recorded output.

“I think that what would make this record a success for me is that it’s accurate,” Hasselmann states. “There’s a small group of people in Winnipeg that have been really good to us and as long as that group of people likes this record and maybe it reminds them of a fond past, then, aside from touring and people outside the city hearing it, that’s what I want.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 26 of The Uniter (May 29, 2013)

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