Interview with Huntress: Staying Humble

2013 has been a remarkable year for up-and-coming metal act Huntress. After forming in 2009, the band released their sophomore effort, Starbound Beast, this June. Huntress have been touring relentlessly after wrapping up their tour with Danzig and participating in the Mayhem Festival. The group is set to hit the road with Lamb Of God on a U.S. tour, followed by a European leg as well. They have no intention of stopping as they continue to improve and grow as a band and as musicians.

With two albums in the past two years, Huntress place an emphasis on giving back to their fans. Their latest gift was the video for their song “Zenith,” directed by Phil Mucci. I had the chance to talk with the band’s lead singer, Jill Janus, about Huntress’ busy schedule and the relationship with their listeners. We discussed her performance of “Skulls” with Danzig, the band’s use of crowdfunding, and their plans for the future. Check out what she had to say below:

You guys have been around for a few years now. For those that don’t know much about the band, would you like to explain what Huntress are all about?

Huntress is true heavy metal. We draw influences from bands like Judas Priest and King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, all while still maintaining a very modern sensibility. One thing that sets us apart from others is that we don’t hide our sound, especially live. When you come and see a Huntress show, what you see is what you get, which is up-front, in-your-face heavy metal.

If I’m not mistaken, you got your start at a young age in opera, right?

That’s correct, yes. When I was 10 years old, my mother took me to my first audition. It developed into a young career, doing opera and musical theater. Of course, my true love was heavy metal, but I had to hide that from my mom for a little while (laughs). Our tour schedule is pretty insane and I’ll go 30 days without even getting a break. Fortunately, I started out with that classical training, which has really helped.

What was the transition like to the screaming technique?

My classical training really did lead the way. It’s interesting because I really did want to mold my voice into something that is unique and standalone, and maybe one day, legendary. I think big (laughs). Knowing that I wanted to do something big with my voice, I reached out to a woman named Melissa Cross. She has a DVD titled The Zen Of Screaming. With her video, I was able to sculpt my classical inflections into the high scream and also into a deeper growl. With the large range that I have, I am able to have more fun with the voice, create new voices, and jump several registers. It took a lot of training and I have to credit Melissa Cross for the screaming approach.

What drew you toward heavy metal and performing in a heavy metal band?

First of all, I firmly believe that this was my purpose. From a very young age, I knew I was going to be a singer. There was nothing else for me, ever. What really drew me to metal was the first time I heard Suicidal Tendencies; I was about 13 years old. Before that, I was always listening to the Misfits and everyone knows my deeps passion for Danzig (laughs). I started with punk rock and that brought me to thrash metal. I was singing opera and doing musical theater and even cabarets in New York City when I first started going to school there.

One thing that always disappointed me was the feeling that I was living for somebody else’s purpose. That’s when I decided it was time to start my own band and live for myself. Essentially, it is why I feel like I am on this planet.

The band has been on the road nonstop. Was there any one highlight that you could tell us about?

It’s been a whirlwind for us, and I speak on behalf of myself and my bandmates when I say that this has been surreal. We would stand on the side of the stage and watch the performance when we were on tour with Danzig. One show, he turned to me and asked if I wanted to sing “Skulls.” So I took the microphone and we sang it together with Doyle on guitar. It just happened so fast. It really feels like I am living a lot of my dreams right now and it’s so exciting, and with all the work put in to get here, it is very rewarding.

You guys seem to be gelling better and better. You’ve discussed earlier that it took you a very short time to record the new album. Was this writing process any easier?

After touring with each other relentlessly and getting to know our personalities better, we are growing as musicians and as performers. The songwriting process is becoming more effortless and that is due to the natural evolution of Huntress. What is occurring and what you’re hearing right now with the band is very organic.

From the very start, I wanted the first three albums that we would be writing and releasing to be a bit of a spiritual journey for myself. So I am putting each one into a phase, either the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. Spell Eater was the Maiden phase. Now we’re in the Mother phase with Starbound Beast. Our next album, which we are planning to write and release next year, that’ll be the Crone phase.

How did the Indiegogo campaign come about?

When we were offered the Rockstar Mayhem Festival, of course we were super excited about it. But we were also nervous about it because that type of festival requires a whole lot of funding that we just don’t have. We went to the fans even though we were nervous about it because of the stigma that surrounds crowdfunding. We wanted to approach it from a down-to-earth fundamental way.

We made a video that was funny to show that we are just a bunch of nerds. It was really well received and everyone seemed to really like it. We surpassed our goal of $15,000 and I think went up to $17,500. That just shows me that there are just plenty of people that really support what we do and really want to help get us to the next level. I have always respected our fans, but that Indiegogo campaign really showed me that that is the way of the future and I want to be closer to my fans.

You guys offered plenty of interesting perks. It seemed incredibly direct and brought the band/fan relationship to a whole new level.

That’s Huntress at the core. We are very unique. We have this uniqueness about us that we won’t let go of. We wanted to make everything really special for the fans and give them something that they won’t forget and will always remember.

One of my favorite ones was a “heshin’” hangout session, where you get to come to one of the shows and have a water balloon fight with us and hang out on the bus. Another special one was the sword from the “Eight Of Swords” video. The man that bought that is a very avid fan of Huntress and a very good friend of ours.

Along this path you start to meet fans and you have to learn the dynamics between artists and fans, and we are learning more about the process. We are still a young band with so much to learn and prove. It will definitely be a long journey.

You reached your goal. Did everything work out okay with the bus?

We did have some problems, which was the funny thing. Our bus broke down two days in, on the hottest days possible. We were thrown back into a few vans since we were with Battlecross that also did the campaign with us. It’s just a little reminder from the universe to stay humble. You’re not rock stars yet and it is about teamwork and getting along at the core. It’s never going to stop being that way. You never stop paying your dues. We know that and that is why we are touring relentlessly. The hard work doesn’t end.

What’s next after the Lamb Of God tour?

After the U.S. tour with Lamb Of God, Killswitch and Testament, we will have a month off in December before heading across the pond to Europe with Lamb Of God and Decapitated. We will also be playing a number of shows in the UK and Scotland, which I am really happy about because I’ve never been there. We also have a few unannounced festivals and it will be a big festival and nonstop touring. And we plan to release our third record, which will be our third in three years.

Huntress will play at Roseland Ballroom on Oct. 25. They will also play at Starland Ballroom on Nov. 22 and the Electric Factory on Nov. 24. Starbound Beast is available now. For more information, go to