One-on-One with Hungry Family

Hungry Family//Photo: Michael Thomas
Hungry Family//Photo: Michael Thomas

by Michael Thomas

The musical world of brothers AJ and Jacob Wright is one full of band names.

“We’re up to four band names now,” Jacob says later on in the interview. He’s not exaggerating the number.

Individually, both have a project to call their own. Jacob has been releasing music under the name Youngest Son; AJ has been releasing music as The Red Floor. They have a band together (along with a few others) called Denim Skeletons, and when the Wright brothers perform together they perform as Hungry Family.

“What my whole idea was, was that—we made music on our own and performed together so we performed under the banner of Hungry Family,” AJ says. “I have this long distance dream where if I could ever start a record label, I would call it Hungry Family. It just feels right to call it that. So we’ll just put that over our music right now as a banner for something that doesn’t exist.”

AJ first got into music when he got a guitar at the age of 12 and learned some songs, but the real creative breakthrough for him came when his sister got a Mac and he learned to use Apple’s GarageBand program.

“It was essentially for both of us the act of recording,” AJ says. “Simply the creation of it. Naturally, once I started trying to make my own songs, that’s where my guitar skills just peaked. Because if I’m not learning from someone who’s better than me then I’m not gonna get any better, so I just kind of stopped there and just started making my own stuff. But it was purely because of having access to recording technology.”

“I guess me seeing you get into music made me want to get into music,” Jacob says to AJ. “Just to try and be part of that whole world. It looked so fun to do.”

“[Jacob] was a drummer first but he didn’t know how to play piano and all that stuff,” AJ continues. “So he had these intense, epic, clattering recordings that were just kind of half-knowledge of the piano. And all of a sudden, over a year, they just shaped into actual, incredible songs.”

Then came the act of naming their individual acts, a struggle that most acts seem to go through.

“My floor is actually red,” AJ says. “As much as I get joy out of making big band names and stuff, it’s the worst thing trying to name your own thing. Any kind of title is really frustrating.

“I painted my floor red in the summer of when I was 17 I think. It was my first ‘I did this for myself’ kind of thing. ‘This has symbolic meaning!’ It was silly.”

Jacob says the name Youngest Son also came from difficulty coming up with a moniker.

AJ and Jacob both have had different philosophies in the past when it comes to releasing recorded music. For Jacob, he prefers to release EPs or albums.

“Rather than trying to get out whatever I can, I try and get a collection first,” Jacob says. “People have a bunch of stuff to listen to once they have it all together.”

“I kind of worked in this delusion that there is some universe where someone’s like ‘Holy shit, this song is totally referencing this thing,’” AJ says. “That’s my dream. So I’ll release something that I think is totally cool and someone else will be like ‘Dude, that’s not…’ Beause I have some things up there that I’m proud of and are very accessible, I’m trying to harness those things and not share all that stuff and just put forth something that’s fully formed.”

Jacob and AJ are both working on albums for their respective acts.

“I haven’t put up anything in a year because I’ve just been collecting the songs I’ve been finishing rather than releasing them,” Jacob says. “So I’m going to have a big jumble of things to put out hopefully in a month or two, I guess.”

“Now I’m putting together a collection of songs that is kind of gypsy music-y, partly inspired by Arabic music in a weird way,” AJ says.

It’s hard to easily go into their music and pick out influences, but that seems to be the point.

“I feel like everything I listen to, especially my favourite bands like Sufjan Stevens and stuff, they all inspire me,” Jacob says. “But by the time I get to writing a song and I think it sounds kind of similar, it just doesn’t sound remotely similar to everything else.”

“For me, it was writing from a really abstract way where I had a mood in mind before I had the subject matter,” AJ says. “Lately it’s changed, it’s kind of morphed.” He’s now drawing some inspiration from reading works by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, mostly the particular vibe Murakami’s books have. He also cites electronic music, though he quickly adds that his music sounds nothing like electronic music.

AJ and Jacob’s taste in music should probably be no surprise in its variety. They mentioned such varied acts as Death Grips, Les Baxter, Flying Lotus, and “weird psychedelic Peru music.”

When AJ played his first show, he remembered being really nervous, and to calm himself down he chanted an “a cappella thing.” Since then, he’s been trying to come to grips with the fact that not every performance has to be perfect.

“I’m trying to demystify the whole performance aspect, because I feel I’ve given it too much sacredness in a sense,” AJ says. “Where it’s like ‘It has to be the be all and end all when I do this thing.’ I’m trying to make it more of a realistic thing, not so sacred and holy.”

Check out Hungry Family during Grayowl Point’s co-presentation with Crosswires at Handlebar on July 28. See the Facebook event for more details.

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