About the Artist
"I still [make music] for fun. Not for money, not for girls, simply because I enjoy making music, because I like putting stupid beats together with corny lyrics and dancing like a fool in front of groups of people. My music seems to make people happy, and I enjoy making people happy." -PlayRadioPlay!'s Daniel Hunter
Daniel Hunter is a nerd.
Hey, that's his self-description. Sure, the 18-year old Aledo, Texas native and mastermind behind the (formerly) one-person project PlayRadioPlay! does, admittedly, post pictures on the Internet of his girlfriend playing "World of Warcraft." He also may build things with Legos. And a typical song of his may reference Nintendo ("Mario vs. Mr. Freeze Round 9"), Jello ("Jello") or his undying love of both the Dallas Cowboys and Arcade Fire's Win Butler ("My Attendance is Bad").
So, maybe he's "quirky." But Daniel Hunter is also extraordinary talented. As PlayRadioPlay!, he's been the songwriter, singer, producer, musician and occasionally sole live performer of his group, which has won favorable comparisons to everyone from Conor Oberst to The Postal Service. Even though TEXAS, his debut full-length record for Island, accommodates other musicians and a producer, the project is first and foremost his unique vision.
Most bands start as a group of friends bashing out a few tunes in their parents garage, then playing whatever party or bar they can around town to build a "buzz." Hunter always knew he wanted none of that. "I was in a few local bands, and I was always the bassist, so I wasn't listened to," he says, laughing. "And I guess I'm sort of a control freak, so eventually doing my own thing was going to be a lot easier."
Thanks to a music tech class, Hunter was able to fulfill his dream of going at it solo. A high school student at the time, Hunter learned to program beats and work with various music-making programs, helping him create a catalog of lush electro-pop songs.
Lyrically, his first tunes took on surprisingly personal subjects. Hunter admits that his father's passing a few years back, along with the brief downward spiral that followed, eventually led him to adapt an expansive, and decidedly more positive outlook on life. "That's why PlayRadioPlay! is generally happy music," he says. "But it has deep, not-as-happy subject lines."
Hunter posted his early demos on MySpace, and then began a tour with a popular local band. As expected, the singers' one-man band approach initially led to some raised eyebrows. "It confused people to see me come out with a laptop, place it on an ironing board, and just start singing," he admits. "I mean, I have a full band now, but those early shows were interesting. But I got a good reception. It was something different, and it's not like it was extreme. In its own way, it was accessible."
Apparently so. Bigger tours (with and without full bands) commenced. Website traffic increased dramatically (today, Hunter's MySpace profile has 4 million views, 9.5 million plays and 100,000 friends). Labels started showing interest. "I think it's because of the tours I did. People saw that I was serious," says Hunter. Eventually, the teenager, before even receiving a diploma, signed with Stolen Transmission/Island and released a six-song EP, The Frequency, in early 2007.
Now, after a year of touring (with Gym Class Heroes, Fall Out Boy and Young Love, among others), Hunter was ready to unleash his first full-length opus, TEXAS. Says Hunter, a die-hard Cowboys fan: "I named it for the love of the state. I assumed somebody had named their album `Texas' before, but no one had. I had to do it before someone else did!"
The songs showcase a slightly heavier guitar sound, but maintain Hunter's quirky outlook and pop aesthetic. "I actually write my guitar stuff first," says the musician. "Then I compliment it with some beats or keyboards." But whatever the case, there's definitely diversity at work. The ballad "Pirate and Princess" features almost orchestral flourishes, while "Tooth Decay" is more acoustic-based. The album also marks the first time Hunter has worked with a producer (Garrett Lee) and live drums.
The song titles, meanwhile, continue to mine Hunter's off-beat humor... but the subject matter is far more serious than the names may suggest. "Madi Don't Leave," for example, was written for Hunter's girlfriend, who was moving away to college. Meanwhile, "Some Crap About Furniture" served as a bittersweet sequel, as Hunter himself had to leave to go record and be on tour. "It was tough on the relationship, but we're still together," he says.
Although the Postal Service and "poptronica" have been used to describe PlayRadioPlay!'s gentle beats and keyboard-centric songs, Hunter has created his own phrase to describe the sound. "It's Texas Straight-edge Softcore," he says, laughing. "I mean, I'm making fun of straight-edge hardcore... a genre that I am not. Why can't there be straight-edge softcore?"
PlayRadioPlay! will be on tour (with a full band) this spring and summer, promoting both TEXAS and Hunter's unique sound--however you want to describe it.