As a result of the influences of both the UK rave and American jam rock, Silvermouse was born.
The fusion is intense. As musicians and friends, Jo Hunt and Justin Handley collaborate on music.
The couple’s farm and food forest are where they dream, create dreams and nurture their family of mythical creatures, wild children, many medicinal plants, and a plethora of tropical fruit trees.
Bringing these two worlds together created the joyful and energising soundscapes that are the duo’s trademark.
Read on to learn more about the band and their most recent release as we have a talk with them.
What is your real name?
Joanne Hunt & Justin Handley
What’s your ofﬁcial Showbiz name?
How did you get into music?
Justin: My parents started me in Suzuki violin lessons when I was two or three years old. I went through the school band thing – played the trumpet, and drums for a minute. Wanted to play ﬂute but they told me my ‘lips were wrong’.
When I was 12 I got an electric guitar for Christmas, and that is what really moved me from a music lesson kid to a real lover of the craft.
Jo: I played the recorder half-arsedly and sang in the choir at school, but I came alive in about 1993 when I stood next to a speaker playing house music for the ﬁrst time. I got into making music later in my life, in my late 20s. Before that I was out there enjoying it, dancing and partying. I raved pretty hard for several years.
What ﬁeld or genre are you into and how would you describe it?
We play Psychedelic Livetronica. Live-produced electronic beats and basslines with ﬂowing and far-out instrumentals on guitar, violin, ﬂute, ukulele, mandolin, and occasionally other things like a recorder, box guitar, and ball jar. Like if techno and jam rock had a baby.
What was your ﬁrst project, who were the people you worked with, and what year was it?
We have never ofﬁcially collaborated with any other artists, and we have always self-recorded, mastered, and produced our own work. We started playing together in 2007 – largely playing art gallery openings in Santa Fe. We released our ﬁrst, self-titled album, ‘Silvermouse’, in 2009.
Who or what inspires you or motivates you? And why?
Justin: My kids are really my driving motivation. Not only because I want to keep them fed, although that comes in pretty important on the need-to-do scale, but also because I want them to see that they can pursue their dreams. That with the right attitude and a bit of elbow grease anything is possible.
Jo: Inspiration: Mother Nature, and all that she encompasses – Justin, our children, our farm and animals… the plants and trees I tend and work with to make medicines and lotions… my circle of women, my community, my parents, my ancestors, the Earth herself and her regenerative capabilities, the thrust of life. Motivation: hmmm… knowing that when I step into that which is meant for me, life feels right. I engage with this because it feels right. So that’s my motivation – knowing I am compelled, that I ﬁnd myself exactly where I am meant to be in life.
Any models you look up to? With reason(s) why?
Justin: Trey Anastasio has always been my gold standard of ‘I’d love to be where that guy is. A fantastic artist, humble about his work, and who smiles a genuine smile so you can tell he really loves what he’s doing. And he made a big success independently, which we also aspire to do.
Jo: Vandana Shiva because she speaks the truth for Mother Earth. Ram Dass because he speaks/spoke the truth about being a soul in a body with a mind.
What do you look out for in this line of business?
Justin: The biggest thing for us these days is making sure we are in the right place, with the right people.
Jo: Yeah – so that we are really connecting with an audience, sharing an experience. Justin: When we were younger we would take on any gig we could get – but now we play for a pretty small niche of turned-on music lovers. Making sure that the shows we do these days are a great match for who we are is critical.
Jo: Yes, especially with the signals work, we are seeing this wonderful community step forward and it’s a really beautiful thing.
What are some of the challenges you face in your career path?
One of the biggest challenges for us is that we are in relatively new territory, and while we know that our music is our true voice, we don’t really ﬁt into any of the boxes. We are more electronic than most jam bands, and more acoustic than most electronic artists. We are in many ways ‘psychedelic trance’ music, but we aren’t ‘psytrance’, which as a genre has dominated that concept and word.
So again, it comes back to ﬁnding the right people who understand our music and our vision so that we end up in places we belong. Playing clubs has sometimes been tricky because often the space is limited to a DJ booth and we have a bigger footprint than that. One of the biggest club gigs we’ve played was at Public Works in San Francisco. We had our full band setup stuffed in an eight-foot square booth. It was tight!
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
Justin: The ability to spread music so far and wide and so rapidly is pretty amazing. On the ﬂip side, you have to sort through so much more to ﬁnd the real gems. I think the saddest part of today’s streaming culture is the death of the album and long-form songs.
Everyone wants 3 minute Spotify fodder that ﬂows in an endless and undisturbing stream with other similar songs. This means you don’t get as much work like Yes’, ‘Close to the Edge’ or the Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’. The capability the internet has provided to musicians is huge. The impact it has had on the creative process is in my book a little depressing.
Jo: It’s so entirely different. I used to cue up a tape on a Sunday afternoon and listen to the entire Top 40 in order to record one song at number 3 that I just had to have. Everything is different now.
It’s wild and I love it – there’s so much music at our ﬁngertips, although people’s attention is more scattered and unfocused, for sure, and that isn’t great for us as a species. But that’s also why I believe our music to be important and necessary because it’s sort of an antidote to all that really.
We like to go on a journey. You’re an outside time when you’re on a true trip, and you’re deﬁnitely outside the three minutes Spotify standard. That said, we are working on condensing and sharpening our work into smaller frameworks for the purpose of streaming platforms. Dream Drum is 4.34 minutes, our shortest tune yet. And my favourite!
Do you have any advice for aspiring songwriters?
Craft something unique. Take risks. Be beautiful. Lay down your life on the altar of your art.
What is your current project about?
Our last couple of singles has been part of a new project called ‘Psychoactive’. In a collaboration with the Monroe Institute, we are looking into the use of consciousness-affecting audio signals in a live music environment, and have been weaving that magic into our releases as well.
We’re exploring the lands between Psychedelic Music – ‘let’s take some psychedelics and listen to this trippy music’, and Psychoactive Music – ‘that music took me somewhere wild and trippy all by itself.
What are your hobbies?
Justin: Surﬁng. Riding horses. Writing code.
Jo: Making potions, communing with trees, swimming beneath the waves.
What do you do aside from this profession?
Justin: I am the Director of Audio Engineering at the Monroe Institute.
Jo: I run a skincare company called Finca Maravilla. We make everything by hand using botanical ingredients that grow at the farm. I also teach an English and Drama class.
What is one message you would give to your fans?
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Let’s get together and see how far we can go.