Hungry Lucy: Synthesizers and Fairy Tales
"I've been involved in music since I was like, 10 years old," says War-N Harrison of the band Hungry Lucy. "Most of my family's musical, so that's where I picked it from. It's just in my blood, I guess."
Vocalist Christa Belle and Harrison met while he was performing as the solo act Fishtank No. 9, and soon, Harrison was begging Christa to perform with him. "I just heard her sing, and I was like, uh-oh," he laughs. "She was just singing around the house, and it was kind of a shock when I heard her voice for the first time, because it was like, wow, this is excellent!"
"It was pretty difficult in the beginning," admits Christa. "Warren just kept asking me to sing, and I kept saying no, and Ifinally did. Once I did, it seemed kind of fun.The first album was probably the toughest, just because I didn't know what I was doing. I had a real problem with stagefright, too, she adds. At least, up until our third show, which was in front of over a thousand people! That kind of took it right out of me.
According to legend, silent film star Jean Harlow's house was haunted by a ghost dubbed Hungry Lucy, called so because she made a huge racket each night while looking for food she was incapable of eating. The spectral remnant of a Civil War woman, Hungry Lucy had died of scarlet fever waiting for her lover, Alfred, to come home after the war, and in her delirium, she didn't realize she had died.
"There was just something about Lucy's story that struck a chord in me," says Christa. "Something about her waiting for her one true love to come back to her, even after death - I could kind of identify with it."
The melancholy back-story of Hungry Lucy the ghost works well to explain what one can expect from the music of Hungry Lucy the band. Over the course of nearly six years, the team of keyboardist War-N Harrison and singer Christa Belle have released three bittersweet and dark albums, the most recent being 2004's "To Kill a King."
"This album is about a bad relationship. I won't go into too much detail," Christa adds quickly, laughing. "It's about being stuck in a bad relationship when the other person is not a very nice person, but you feel compelled to stay." From track to track, the listener gets pulled through the details of this relationship, from the first track, where the narrator decides that she wants to end it, to the end - of both the album and the relationship.
Through this journey, we're treated to some truly exceptional musical numbers. In "Can You Hear Me?", a dreamy minimal synth-pop beat plays behind Christa's soft yet strong voice and War-N's barely-whispered, almost-menacing soliloquy of a person determined to be understood and heard, ending with the words, "No more." In "Fool," a stark voice opens up with the grim, "In this bloody pool, I see such a fool in me - how could I let myself believe in you?"
It's not all dark, though. Somewhere during the 10th track, "Stars" (directly after the telling instrumental interlude of "A Lifetime Remains"), the narrator makes a complete turnaround, reflecting on the hope she sees in the future of the children she sees crossing the street in front of her, no doubt making a connection with the purpose in her own life. She has determined to leave the "King" in her narrative, and to do it as bloodlessly as possible.
"After so long, you just can't take it anymore, and you kind of have to dig and find your own personal strength and get the hell out of there," explains Christa of this section of the album. "I kind of wanted to convey the message that you kill the power and not the actual person, because that kind of makes them more miserable if they have to live with the bad things they did when it's all over." She adds, "We didn't really intend to do this as a concept album, and I know a lot of people think that we did, but it's just the lyrics I wrote seem to tell their own story."
The strength in this album lies in both the construction of the lyrics--and the fairy-tale construction of the way the songs are set against each other--and the complimentary instrumentation. Throughout the album, Harrison's unique combination of natural-sounding instrument samples and chilly electronics creates an almost otherworldly feel to these songs, part industrial culture and part Renaissance Fair. There's little wonder that this band has been receiving such glowing reviews from international media outlets, despite the fact that they released and promoted all three of their albums on their own.
"I'd been in a number of bands over the years, and they all had done releases through various independent label channels," explains Harrison. "Frankly, I got a little frustrated with it - I mean, on a smaller label, there's not that much money there, understandably, but then when it's spread among several bands, then the share of each band is even less. And I got to thinking that there's nothing that they're doing that I couldn't do myself, basically. So that's how we set out about doing it. No stone is left unturned with us, whereas with a label, they're somewhat reliant on what they can afford to do and what they're willing to do for one of the bands on their label. So unless there's a ton of money there, like with a major label, but my experience has been, if you want it done right, you've got to do it yourself."