O That I Had Wings is a record about white-light-joy and black-hole-suffering, and the thin membrane that often separates them. It’s about struggling to get out from under the thumb of the past, and the loneliness of being haunted by demons that no one else seems to be able to see. “I guess it’s not really a party record, but it sounds like a party to me” says vocalist/guitarist Indigo Street. Drummer Sam Levin and Street met in 2009, performing together in a noise band, while primarily working as supporting musicians with the likes of Yoko Ono, Jolie Holland, Marc Ribot, Jeffrey Lewis, Jim White, Greg Saunier, and R. Stevie Moore to name a few. It wasn’t until a European tour with R. Stevie Moore, packed in like sardines, being forced to listen to the same PIL album over and over from Paris to Munich and back, that Levin and Street decided enough was enough. Tired of being hired guns, it was time to do their own thing.
Thus, Shy Hunters began to take shape, borne out of a shared aesthetic and desire to fuse the drifting pop song-memories of their youth with the music that they were consciously attentive to later; technically complex, atmospheric, and emotionally wrought. O That I Had Wings stands as a testament to this desire. The album covers a broad emotional and musical territory while always staying true to a singular musical vision, one that combines jagged rhythms and melodies with an aloof beauty that is somehow both melancholy and ecstatic. Stark beat-driven passages of quiet pop give way to explosive Frippian electric guitar riffs, and moments of Prince-like glitter drift into cold Badalamenti-influenced dystopia. Other influences like Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, and Talk Talk occasionally reveal themselves in the delicate tapestry of O That I Had Wings but Shy Hunters steadfastly remain in a musical realm of their own creation.
After releasing their first two singles, the band retreated to a cabin in upstate New York to finish writing the record. The songs were given life through improvisation, with Levin playing drums and synth bass (often at the same time), and Street on guitar and vocals. They recorded hundreds of hours of freeform material, then nipped and tucked until clear songs emerged. A year later, surrounded by unsatisfactory rough mixes and out of funds, they got a too-good-to-be-true email from Grammy nominated producer Alex Newport (Bloc Party, Melvins, Mars Volta, Death Cab for Cutie), which read something like, “Hey guys, I really love your music. Are you making a record? If so, maybe I can help.” Alex swept in, with a pair of scissors, a damp rag and a brilliantly fresh ear, and a month later O That I Had Wings was born.