Sometimes when recording an album, things just don’t work out the way you envision them. That was the case for Bradley Ferguson, leader of the Vancouver band Hunting. The band’s debut, which was released five years ago, was a beautifully sombre collection of folk-rock songs, comprised mostly of acoustic instruments. When Ferguson first started on the follow-up not long after, something didn’t feel right. Whatever it was he couldn’t wrap his head around it. He needed a break.
“For some reason,” Ferguson says, “my focus and confidence was not solid and I couldn’t get behind it. Basically I decided to scrap the band.”
When he tells me this we’re seated at the Federal Store in Mount Pleasant. Ferguson sits with his wife, Jessicka, who also plays in Hunting (she also has a solo career under the name Jessicka). They got married six years ago, just before the first album came out. The two of them now live together just up the street. When I ask them if married life had an effect on the writing of this album, the answer is an obvious yes.
“That would be a big influence,” Ferguson says. “Being in a relationship and getting married and trying to do whatever you can to make that other person happy, actually changing the way you think and do things to try to make someone else’s life better, that’s the life we’ve been living.”
When they first met Ferguson was working the front desk at a drum and music store. Jessicka was there to take piano and voice lessons. Perhaps a bit against the rules, Ferguson looked her number up in the lesson book and cold-called her.
“Then we just kinda started hanging out,” he says. “We hung out for like five years. Went to some shows. I would have her over for dinner. But she didn’t really understand that I was pursuing her.”
They laugh about it now.
“It took him eight months before he started calling me his girlfriend,” Jessicka adds.
“Then we got married,” Ferguson says. “It was a crazy slow game. Like five years.”
When recording of the second Hunting album would eventually resume there was a noticeable change in the music they were creating. In the time between the two albums Ferguson released two electronic albums under the name Bradley. Those albums were beat-based and synth-heavy, the kind of albums where it was just him and a laptop on stage. Those experiences would seep into the new Hunting material. While the first Hunting album was intentionally slow and sad sounding, influenced heavily by Bon Iver and Beck’s album Sea Change, the new material was notably more uptempo. You can hear it from the very first track, “Scenes for TV Screens,” which opens with a classic rock beat, muted guitars, and a steady synth backdrop; a sound reminiscent of the Cars.
The album, which features performances by Ryan Guildemond (Mother Mother) and Paul Rigby (Neko Case), was recorded at Afterlife Studios with producer and musician John Raham. Once Ferguson felt like he had a handle on what direction the album was going he tried to book as much studio time as he could so he could put his head down and get it done. Within a year the album was finished. He says the sound of the ’80s, especially groups like the Cars and Depeche Mode, was a big influence for him. It’s definitely something you can hear in the songwriting.
The release show for Whatever You Need is at The Fox Cabaret on Tuesday, November 5th. They’ll be playing with Alex Little and the Suspicious Minds. Until then you can check out their video for the song Gold Day on YouTube. It’s a wonderful stop-motion production made by Jessicka.