HUNG is a five-piece metal band from New York City name after its world-renowned violinist Lyris Hung who is previously known for her work with Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Bryan Adams. For years she had known that she had wanted to start a heavy metal band so in early 2005 she finally decided to make her wish a reality and put out a Craigslist ad looking for similarly-minded musicians. John Clark and Sam Roon had been playing together for many years, searching for other artists to play the unique style of progressive music that they were envisioning. Soon they teamed up with Lyris and then less than a year later, Dmitry Kostitsyn from Russia became the group’s frontman. HUNG recently released its debut self-titled record and they are looking to tour behind it as much as possible. In this interview with HUNG’s bassist Sam Roon, we talk a lot about the release of HUNG’s first album, its search for a drummer that has taken five tries now and how the band writes music in a rather unconventional way.
You must be very proud of the recent release of HUNG’s debut self-titled record. How are you feeling about the record now that it’s been out a few weeks?
Sam: I’m really proud of this record. HUNG has worked really hard over the years to perfect these songs, and trust me, that was no easy task! The best part about it now that we’re a few weeks in is how many people still give a shit. In this day and age of music where the musical world is inundated with bands, shitty and awesome alike, it’s easy to lose interest quickly. We’re still getting press and awesome reviews and our album is doing really well at radio, so that’s really a tell-tale sign that we must have done something right. Maybe it’s because we’re new to this, but for me it feels like the years of hard work haven’t gone to waste because people are actually paying attention.
I understand that the band went through several drummers before landing some chemistry with Kenny Grohowski. What was it particularly about Kenny that made you realize that he was the right fit to be the drummer for this band?
Sam: Kenny is the fifth drummer for HUNG and not only is he the best we’ve ever had, but he’s the only one who truly added a flavour to the music. His extensive musical background allows for him to incorporate some styles that I’ve never even heard in heavy music. We love doing things a little differently and this truly added something to the music. It also helps that he’s genuinely a good person. You don’t want to be on the road with someone who doesn’t fit! Trust me, we’ve done it!
Classifying HUNG under a particular genre or style of music is difficult when listening to your music. How would you describe your sound to someone just discovering the band?
Sam: We made this flyer a few years back that read something like, “Progressive Melodic Black Death Metal With Electric Violin.” It’s funny how inaccurate our own depiction was of ourselves. HUNG is a progressive metal band. I think people assume vibrato vocals with that and so we always had to add the “death” and “black” parts to it so you could visualize it before hearing the music. Really we’re just a progressive metal band that loves melody and screaming singers.
You worked with Andy Abel on the making of this record. How did Andy come to be involved in this project?
Sam: He was the only one who would do it on a budget? [laughs] Working with Andy seemed natural because he’s a guy who we could argue with who wouldn’t hate us the next day. This band takes a lot of pride in the fact that everything you hear on our record is PLAYED. There’s no bullshit studio magic on anything we do, and Andy really had a lot of patience with us when it came to playing the shit till it sounded the way we wanted. Plus he likes decent liquor and so do we… it’s like a match made in heaven!
You write songs in a very different way from the average band, creating them in layers with each member contributing their parts one at a time before bringing it to the studio. Why do you think this song writing style is effective for HUNG in particular?
Sam: Honestly I don’t know how you could make music like this without a process similar to what we do! Jon is really great at coming up with a core guitar part, solos and all. He’ll work his fingers to the bone on creating this piece and then he’ll deliver it to me to destroy it. [laughs] I like to experience the work he creates without outside influence so I don’t ask for frame of reference or what he’d like to hear where and I feel like this gives the song a lot of personality. I add what I feel will enhance the song. Once I’m done with my portion I again hand it off and so on until the song is complete, everyone adding their mark to it without others interfering. At the end we’ll get together and work things out and a few things might adjust, but overall we try not to infringe on anyone else’s work. It’s actually really cool the way these songs evolve because of it.
Another truly interesting aspect of HUNG as a group is that you put a great deal of effort into researching certain religious or historical materials before creating a story out of it and putting it into song form. Does this, at least at times, make the song and album writing process take longer than you would like it to?
Sam: Yeah, this makes the lyrics take considerably longer… there’s no ‘riffing’ involved here. It’s really important to us that what we talk about is true and real if it’s based on something that happened in history. So it’s important to not fuck that up! For the religious stuff I think there’s an underlying oppression that we can all relate to and while it’s all a fucking story anyway, we try to stay as accurate to the tale as possible. We also have some story telling that has no historical background. Those songs come together lyrically much quicker. [laughs] Like every other layer, the lyrics need to be perfect and leave their mark. I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Check out the song: “Progeny”
The artwork for your debut album is incredibly cool, featuring a statue with a skull face holding an object that is on fire. Who can we thank for this fascinating album cover? Did you have input into what you wanted the artwork to look like?
Sam: Summer Lacy is an absolute badass and she did the artwork front to back. She conceived the visual based on the lyrics alone. We had only a few slight adjustments to her original drawings. Everyone in HUNG has a lot of respect for art of all kinds and so much like how you would pick a tattoo artist because you like their style of tattooing, we picked Summer because we liked her style of art. I think the only instructions we gave her would have sounded something like, “make it awesome.” We recently won a cover art contest so I would say she did a nice job!
You performed quite a few shows through the early Spring in the north-east area of the U.S. Did you feel like more and more people knew the songs and were more familiar with the band than before?
Sam: No, not really, but they sure will now! We played New England Metal & Hardcore Festival again this year and this time got the main stage as well as later in the day. We played to a packed house and a ridiculous amount of people bought the CD. Following that we did a few shows locally before doing a 9-show run down the east coast. HUNG is truly a live band. We’re very proud of our CD, but I feel like people should really experience this group live. You get the whole package… the show and the music. I can only hope that touring around and making as much noise as we do will turn some heads!
How long would you say you typically rehearse together as a band? Is it as often as it used to be?
Sam: We rehearse twice a week mostly. It used to be three days, but those are really reserved for either keeping our chops up or finalizing new music. Most of the work we do is at home, making ourselves better musicians and focusing on the new material before hacking away in the studio.
What’s next for Hung in terms of new music and touring?
Sam: HUNG is ready for battle. We just need to land ourselves a booking agent and some nice tours so we can take this thing to a wider audience. Radio is doing really well, everywhere we play people are picking up the album and we know that if we can put this project in front of more people the outcome will be positive. Right now this is our main focus and we hope the cards are stacked in our favour for the future. This business works in ways that have no rhyme or reason. I feel the only way to succeed is to ignore the biz completely and hope that everyone we play in front of gets it. That’s really it.
Additionally, I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks to all the readers who frequent this site! It’s so important that sites like PureGrainAudio are around, supporting heavy music and bringing news to the world. It’s destinations like this that help keep heavy music relevant and we’re very thankful to the site and the readers for taking the time to read about HUNG.
Check out the song: “Maria”