The lead member of Dune Hunter, performing this Saturday, July 24, at Nova Arts in Keene, developed the band’s sound so that it both looks to the future while nodding to the past.
Hannah Blair, a northern New Hampshire native based in Brattleboro for the past decade, first performed solo at only 14—she wrote her first song at 12 (she’s now in her late 20s).
“I was doing more of a folk singer-songwriter thing,” said Blair, “I was inspired by Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos and Kate Bush.”
Realizing she needed to work a regular job to make a living, she put performing aside for a bit until she had time to concentrate on it again in a more serious manner.
She then played rock music on piano and performed with a drummer.
“We were like The White Stripes,” she said of the duo formed in 2017.
Blair then began experimenting with playing new genres.
“It was hard for me to pick one,” she said. “I like heavier, darker music—my soul is filled with the desire to make that music,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why am I limiting myself?’”
She took the plunge and tried something completely different: she switched out her piano for a synthesizer and began making “synth pop meets dark wave,” inspired by such 80s bands as The Cure and Cocteau Twins.
Her love of 80s music comes from her parents: her mother played flute and sang in several bands during that decade, opening for such acts as Pat Benatar and Blue Oyster Cult; and her guitarist/songwriter father also played in bands.
“It became this inevitable thing,” she said.
An ex-band mate, inspired by the series of “Dune” science fiction books, came up with the name Dune Hunter for the new project, a trio that includes Bruce Black on drums and Jenny Mac on bass. It is Blair’s fourth musical incarnation.
“It sounds organic,” said Blair of the band name, who lives on a farm. “I have a big connection to nature.”
Mac is connected to a member of Blair’s boyfriend’s band, and Black she met three years ago at a show he played at the Stone Church in Brattleboro.
“I’d been hearing about him for years,” she said. The band helped curate a music festival called GRRRLS TO THE FRONT from Vermont and were set to go on their first mini tour before the pandemic hit.
Blair appreciates being in an ongoing musical growth period.
“It’s inspired me in new ways as I’ve incorporated different people into the fold,” she said. “Before (the band) was a little more delicate-sounding and a lot more pop-influenced. It has become a lot more dark, hard and moody. It’s more emotive and a lot more primal.”
The Nova Arts show marks the first time Dune Hunter has performed with this lineup.
“There’s a real potential for experimenting,” she said.
The band released a single, “Doomed to the Pyre,” in May, which Blair wrote three years ago. A music video of the song is also out, and the band will record its debut album this fall in Nashville.
“We feel compelled to put this music onto a record,” said Blair.
Show openers The Tines are a new band led by S.G. Carlson of New Haven, Conn. The band was formed as a recording project in late 2019 featuring members of Ports of Spain, Laundry Day, Quiet Giant, and Ryxno.
The show is this Saturday, July 24, at 8 p.m. at Nova Arts (Brewbakers Café) on Emerald Street in Keene. Tickets are $15 and can be ordered at https://www.novaarts.org/events/dunehunter