Watch Out Boys…and Girls!
Promoting their harder-edged, mellower remake of Hall & Oates “Maneater,” included on amfAR’s benefit album The Time Is Now, a new collection of 1980s covers (available since early October via Republic Records/Mass Appeal on major music platforms), Lower Dens’ front person Jana Hunter talks to A&U’s Sean Black about why that era’s music to her is “like candy” and why she’s sweet on revamping HIV awareness among our younger generations.

Sean Black: Your band’s vibe and lyrics are coated in moody drama; however your messaging is deeply empowering. From where does this uplift well?
Jana Hunter: I was raised Catholic, and tend naturally toward melancholy, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. I’ve always felt like an outcast, and maybe that’s why I feel compelled to cast my lot with the less empowered.

Your sound, especially on your third and most recent studio album Escape from Evil (Ribbon Music, 2015), which I am obsessed with, culls classic 80s synth-pop beats. Could it be said that Lower Dens is sort of the quintessential band on The Time Is Now?
I grew up with that music. It’s like candy to me, so pleasing and compelling. It seems like the perfect vehicle for good lyrics, which is what I aspire to. I don’t know that we’re any kind of quintessential anything, but that’s not really for me to decide.

Jana Hunter of Lower Dens
Jana Hunter of Lower Dens

You’ve gained a reputation for being progressive and outspoken about social issues that you find important and how they emanate outwardly through your lyrics and performances. Why have you and your band chosen HIV/AIDS as a platform in your philanthropy?
I think people have the misconception that HIV/AIDS isn’t something we need to worry about any more. I think they’re not thinking of a broad enough “we,” to be honest. Maintenance just isn’t something that’s manageable for everybody—as wanting as our healthcare is, it could be much worse. Also, I was too young to really be aware of what was happening during the peak of the crisis, but I can’t even count on both hands the number of artists I’ve admired who’ve died long before their time.

Has HIV/AIDS impacted your life, or that of any of your band members, personally, directly?
I have a relative who’s managed their illness for a long time, and when I think about them, it’s honestly not something that even occurs to me. I wish I were more present and grateful in that. As far as my band members, not that I know of. And they don’t know about my relative. We’re so fortunate to live in a time and a part of the world and in a certain strata where it’s not something we worry about so much. How many are able to say that?

Still from Lower Dens' "Real Things" video
Still from Lower Dens’ “Real Things” video

A&U believes that music and all other expressions and mediums of art can be powerful vehicles in reaching audiences at-risk. It is part of our mission. What outcome do you hope for in joining forces with amfAR, the compilation’s seasoned producers and many other generous, contemporary artists participating in this benefit and messaging effort?
To be of some service. Lower Dens are very honored and happy to be working with amfAR. I’m grateful that they gave us this opportunity, because I know they do good work. It’s important to us not to waste the platform we’ve worked for, to put it to good use.

amfar-cover-2The full track listing for The Time Is Now is below—check it out:
“Take Me Home” (Phil Collins), Performer: Phantogram
“Bizarre Love Triangle” (New Order), Performer: Sugar for Sugar
“Under The Milky Way” (The Church), Performer: Metric
“Whip It” (Devo), Performer: Brazilian Girls
“Rio” (Duran Duran), Performer: Bebel Gilberto
“What’s Love Got to Do With It” (Tina Turner), Performer: DNCE
“Billie Jean”(Michael Jackson), Performer: Aloe Blacc
“Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” (Culture Club), Performer: Dita Von Teese and Sebastien Tellier
“Maneater” (Hall & Oates), Performer: Lower Dens
“Genius of Love” (Tom Tom Club), Performer: Chaos Chaos and Slow Magic
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (Whitney Houston), Performer: Marian Hill
“Pride (In the Name of Love)” (U2), Performer: LP
“Lovesong” (The Cure), Performer: Yuna
“Dance Hall Days” (Wang Chung); Performer: Theophilus London

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