A slightly breathless and hurried voice answers the phone stating, “Hey Jonathan, I’m in a van right now, hold on.” With no A/C/ and the windows shut, singer Jill Janus of Los Angeles, California thrash metal band Huntress is currently on the road with guitarist Blake Meahl to a final band practice before the band leaves for Sweden the next morning. “We’re going at neck breaking speed yet again this year.” However, this frantic pace doesn’t diminish her sense of humor one bit. After ensuring me she is not driving, she casually quips, “I’m a woman. I sometimes have difficulty operating large machinery.”
Over the course of our interview, Jill and I talked about several topics, including the upcoming Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, social media, IndieGoGo, their new album Starbound Beast (out July 2nd via Napalm Records), and their upcoming music video for “Zenith”, which is directed by Phil Mucci (Stone Sour, Pig Destroyer, High On Fire).
We began diving into the meat and potatoes of the interview by discussing their upcoming “Zenith” music video. Drawn to Mucci’s work by their love for the High On Fire “Fertile Green” music video, the band tentatively reached out only to be shocked to hear that he was a fan of their music. Talking further, Janus states that she knew it, “… was not going to be difficult working with Phil.” Instantly, a connection was made and a deal struck.
When I spoke with Janus, the band had recently finished a weekend of shooting with Mucci. “Huntress plus Phil Mucci equals axis of awesome!”, she exclaimed with infectious energy. She stated that the reason “Zenith” was chosen as the first music video for Starbound Beast was because it seemed to fit so well with Mucci’s style.
“Essentially it’s about smoking weed with aliens, the galactic beauty that the cosmos holds, and staying alive by going into the zenith. It’s really far out there. And he’s [Mucci] such a visionary. When I was discussing concepts with him and the overall imagery, he instantly understood that we didn’t want to have to compromise the vision, which, at the core, is very vital to the existence of Huntress. We don’t compromise our integrity. We won’t compromise our vision. So when Phil came on board, we knew that we a had a true artist that would support that.”
Her enthusiasm for this music video could barely be contained, as well as her passion for the whole package that this album is going to offer. “What he did, I believe, was get inspired by our album and our songs. He took some reference from other songs on the album. For example, in the video I play two different characters, one is the Starbound Beast, which is the name of the album and of the title track. Another reference is to the Virgin Oracle, which is referencing the song “Oracle”
“For me, it was the easiest project I had to work on because he was so involved, so prepared and had such a strong sense of vision. He really blew our minds.”
Still, all this energy and opportunity is not something that neither Janus nor the group takes for granted. When I brought up the band’s current IndieGoGo campaign, which they have opened to raise funds for their upcoming run on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, I was curious if Janus thought that it changed the dynamic between the band and the fans.
“You know, Huntress is such a new band. We’ve just started our journey. This is our second album and we are very new to this entire world of metal. Not because we haven’t been slaving away for years but because to be at this level of visibility and to have fans that are supportive, whether through merch or the IndieGoGo campaign, I can’t really tell you if there is a difference. I think we have many years ahead of us before we can grasp that dynamic.
“What I can tell you is that we have a very supportive team around us. Our record label, which is an indie label out of Austria, simply can’t afford the costs that go along with a monster production like the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival. So we desperately appreciate the support and are very, very grateful.”
When it comes to promotion, the band uses all of the social media platforms that others utilize. They have a strong following on both Twitter and Facebook, which can often be a place where bands share potentially more than they should. However, Janus is adamant that this is not a trap she will fall into.
“I would never want to lose my mystery. There will always be a veil and I won’t ever lift that veil entirely when it comes to fans.”
When pressed further to see how she can ensure that this is not the case, she simply responded, “It’s easy for me because I don’t participate. I have a strict rule of limited time online. I have one purpose and one focus and that is Huntress.”
This aversion to exposing herself to the detractors of the internet comes partly from Janus’ own beliefs.
“I grew up on a farm with three brothers and three sisters in humble surroundings. My parents were divorced by the time I was five. But from a very young age, we were all encouraged to be one with nature and respect animals. I was free to embrace the pagan ways. And when I was 13, I met with kindred souls and we formed our own coven, one that follows a path of light.
“When I was older, I was moving around from apartment to apartment and I learned very quickly to have a strong work ethic.”
Janus is under no misconceptions and under no delusions. She is “…not here to change the world and not here to teach. Those who seek the secrets will find them.”
However, when it comes to showing people that the metal world can be a place of positivity, Janus dives right in.
“On stage and while I’m touring, in a somewhat difficult lifestyle, there can be a lot of negativity. I try to maintain a very positive and peaceful outlook on life because I can be very capable of unleashing a lot of darkness and negativity and, as the old adage says, “What goes around, comes around.””
Laughing, Janus talks about how the heavier the musician, the nicer the people.
“My own band, my brothers, Blake, Ian, Carl, and Ant, there is a perception that they are badasses and get into all sorts of trouble. In reality, they are the sweetest, most loving, caring people on the planet.
“We all know that we’re fighting to be successful and to continue doing what we love. That’s why I think we all are nice people, because we get over that ego. If we don’t, we perish.”
When it comes to horror, Janus states, “I love portraying and dressing like horror characters. A lot of my imagery is derived from spooky shit.”
“I love The Howling!”, she gushes. You can’t go wrong with that one! Also, The Hunger. I’m so enthralled by horror films, I just get very scared.”
As for the future, the band plans on pushing forward at full speed.
“We’re going to be touring throughout 2013. We have one tour planned after another, including some that I can’t talk about just yet but they are going to be awesome.”
As stated before, Huntress has only just begun their journey. And with the type of attitude that Janus possesses, it’s apparent that they will be around for a long time.