The worst experiences often result in the best songs.
Case in point is “I Get High to Forget,” the harrowing new single by The Hunna. As front man Ryan Potter disdainfully sings, “You sure know how to fuck up a good thing/I won’t pick up on the next time that you ring,” the music starts with a hip-hop rhythm before transitioning into blazing guitar territory. The song, a slight departure for the Watford, England alt-rock band, was produced by Olly Burden of The Prodigy and Carl Barat from The Libertines.
Although the lyrics could easily reference a nasty personal breakup, they actually stemmed from a dark period last year when the group severed ties with its record label and management and had to cancel a tour. According to Potter, the sentiments expressed a way to erase the memory of someone who had lied and cheated them as well as getting high to give their mental selves a break from being trapped.
“We’re definitely branching out,” drummer Jack Metcalfe confirms via phone recently while on a North American tour with Barnes Courtney. “We’ve always been big fans of hip-hop and electronic stuff. We also love our heavy music, so it’s blending all those things together in a new chapter. There’s obviously a lot more to talk about after what we’ve been through.”
“They both have their own style,” guitarist Dan Dorney adds about working with Barat and Burden. “It was perfect to bring that kind of song to them. We recorded it in the same studio as we did for our second record, and we broke a guitar in the process. There were lots of good times and a lot of laughs.”
Considering the song’s title, does The Hunna ever get high to relax or help facilitate the create process?
“Definitely! All the time,” Dorney says enthusiastically. “We can’t go to bed without weed. It’s nowhere near as good as in Canada or California, but we get what we’re given in the U.K. We love our weed. Jack likes the Jamaican shit.”
“If we’re just hanging out, smoking and having fun, we’ll accidentally get creative,” adds Metcalfe.
The guitarist says he is “a massive fan of sativa. I like the head high. In California, we definitely learned when to use which ones, like when to smoke one before bed. And before you go out, hit the sativa. With [Ryan], smoking isn’t exactly compatible with what he’s gonna do, [so] he is big on the gummies. Popping them everywhere, like before meals or anything. We love weed!”
Do the musicians think England will ever get to a point where cannabis becomes legal for recreational purposes as it is in California and other U.S. states?
“We hope so,” says Dorney.
“It’s hard to say because it’s so different out in the U.K. It’s very strict, so you smoke at home,” explains Metcalfe. “We used to smoke and drive a lot, but we got into quite a lot of trouble doing that. The laws have gotten even stricter. It’s a different ballgame. We still smoke and chill, but you just have to be a bit more subtle about it.”
All four members of The Hunna, which is rounded out by bassist Junate Angin, were born in the same Southeastern England hospital. A couple of guys were already friends, and the others met in college before forming the band in 2015. Their moniker was taken from hip-hop slang for “one hundred.”
Frequently driven by reverb-laden guitar work, melodic textures and wailing vocals, the engaging debut album 100 arrived in 2016. It reached the top 20 and spawned two hits at home: the rousing “Bonfire” and the smoldering “She’s Casual” which both claim cannabis-friendly music videos.
In the States, a propulsive “You and Me” went top 30 on alternative radio and received prominent airplay on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation. Then, The Hunna did the channel’s flagship Advanced Placement Tour and a U.S. jaunt with Jimmy Eat World.
Hitting the road alongside the stalwart Arizona emo group was “a massive eye opener for us,” recalls Dorney. “To still be playing after all those years is a massive inspiration. If you want to be one of the biggest bands in the world, which we do, then that’s how good you’ve got to be.”
Over the summer, The Hunna performed on the main stage at the Reading and Leeds festivals in England, a booking that Dorney calls “an incredible dream come true.”
How would the musicians describe an average Hunna gig?
“In a nutshell, we call it ‘turn up rock’ or ‘pretty boy grunge,’” says Metcalfe. “Away from the slogans, it is high energy. We go crazy on stage, but we’ve always been super conscious of being a tight rock band as well. You can sing along to our stuff and bang your head. It’s an all-around party time when the Hunna are playing, bro.”
The Hunna aspires to be a stadium headliner and has that goal in mind while writing big anthemic choruses, and 2018’s Dare contained more of them. The album topped the U.K. rock albums charts and kept the momentum high, thanks to standouts like the hard-hitting title track; the racing pop/rock of “One“; “Babe, Can I Call?” with clarion call guitar squalls and yearning vocals from Potter, whose lyrics name check The 1975 (The Hunna memorably covered the Manchester band’s “Give Yourself a Try” last year for a Spotify Session); and the powerful, vulnerable ballad “Mother,” triggered by the death of Potter’s parent.
Next month, The Hunna will start recording their third album in Calabasas, California with John Feldmann of Goldfinger, whose resume includes production work with 311, blink-182, The Used and others.
“We’re really excited to show people a different element of the band,” says Metcalfe.
George A. Paul is a Southern California-based writer. Follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeAPaul.